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Magic, Medicine and Nepalese Yaks: How One Harborview Doctor Found His Calling

courtesy of Judd Walson
Dr. Judd Walson shows off a flourish from his younger days of performing magic.


Students of Professor Judd Walson often ask him for advice on their career paths and how he became a global health specialist. But Walson didn’t always know he wanted to be a doctor and says his career path was anything but straightforward.

In fact, as a young boy he was a talented magician getting paid to perform around the country and even overseas in Sweden. When he graduated High School, he didn’t know what he wanted to do and so he left for Europe to become a street performer.


Later in college, he participated in a study abroad program doing research in a remote village in Nepal. He fell in love with the culture and people and ended up returning to continue that research after graduation.


It was there that he encountered a medical emergency that gave him a new perspective.


“A guy came running down the path who I knew, and he was sort of in a panic and he said that, ya know, his wife had been gored by a yak and she was eight months pregnant,” Walson said.


Despite having no official medical training, Walson was able to stabilize the bleeding but realized that if he really wanted to make a difference in the medical field, he needed to learn the required skills to do so.


He returned to the States, applied to medical school and became a doctor. While he still sees patients, much of what he does now surrounds designing programs and research to help improve people’s health on a broader scale. About once a month, he travels abroad to Africa or Asia and focuses on reducing the mortality of young children in those countries.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.