Army veteran turned Mary Bridge Medical Director honored as 2018 Physician Hero


By McKenna Ownby

Before he was Dr. Irwin at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Robert Irwin, MD, was Lieutenant Colonel Irwin in the United States Army. He completed a fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Institute of Health, then led the pediatric oncology team at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It wasn’t until an opportunity opened up at Mary Bridge in 2005 that he separated from the Army and joined the Mary Bridge team.

Dr. Irwin4.jpgToday, Dr. Irwin leads the Mary Bridge pediatric hematology and oncology team as Medical Director. He’s been with MultiCare for 13 years, and has been giving back to support the greatest needs of our patients for even longer as a donor – since 1999. That’s one of the many reasons he was honored as the recipient of this year’s Physician Hero Award at the hospital’s annual Bridge Builders Luncheon.

When asked about his passion for helping kids going through cancer, Dr. Irwin says, “It’s simply a privilege.” Each and every hematology and oncology patient has left an imprint on him, and their stories are what inspire him and his Mary Bridge team to deliver the best care possible. Dr. Irwin’s wife, Karen, attests that he saves every picture and thank you card he’s ever received from patients. All of them (most of which have been written in crayon) are what he calls his “real paycheck.”

“I think what inspires me most about my work is seeing how strong and resilient kids and families can be,” Dr. Irwin says, “and I’m also inspired when I go to the long-term survivor clinic and I get to see what I consider my grandkids – the children of my survivors. Those are the things that really keep me going.”

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