Original article July 27, 2010
FAIRBANKS — A longtime Fairbanks doctor passed away unexpectedly Sunday while working out at the gym, leaving family, friends, coworkers and patients shocked and saddened.
Dr. Missy Woodward was a pediatric physician at the Tanana Valley Clinic and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for 17 years. She was 59 years old and in good health, her husband, Kes Woodward, said.
Woodward was alone at the gym training on an eliptical machine when she clutched her chest and fell over, he said. The event was captured on gym security cameras. Woodward's body was found that afternoon by another gym member. Kes was at home with their niece and two nephews when Alaska State Troopers broke the news.
“We were all just short of shell-shocked,” he said. “We just celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. We thought, ‘We started early, we're going to hit 50 early.'”
The two wed in 1971 when they were attending Davidson College in North Carolina. Both artists, they moved to Alaska in 1977. Missy, a studio potter, decided to go to medical school.
“She hadn't taken a science course since the ninth grade,” said Kes. “That's why we moved back to Fairbanks. The needed to take organic chemistry.”
She started practicing medicine when she was 40, Kes said.
“That's just the way she was. Nothing ever stopped her,” he said.
Missy pursued a specialty in juvenile diabetes partly because she wanted to build long-term relationships with patients, he said.
“As a physician, she was seriously devoted to hundreds of children and families,” said Anna Atchison, spokesperson for the clinic.
The clinic, which employs more than 200, will allow its employees to take time off for the funeral.
“We're mourning the loss not only of an amazing pediatrician but really a member of our family,” Atchison said.
Mishelle Nace, pediatric director at the clinic, worked with Woodward for 14 years. Woodward, who had served as president and medical director at the clinic, had a fervent leadership style that will be sorely missed, she said.
“She was a real advocate for both her patients and what was right for the department of pediatrics. She kept us on our toes whether we wanted to be there or not,” Nace said.
In addition to medicine, Woodward also loved art, gardening and cooking, her husband said. The couple loved Alaska so much they lured their nieces and nephews up north for art camp as children, and two of them stayed. Their son, Eli, lives in Seattle.
“In Alaska, your friends become your family,” Kes said. “She died less than 24 hours ago, and every time I open my e-mail I have another 20 messages from people and the phone's ringing off the hook.”
A memorial service will be held for Woodward at 4 p.m. Thursday at Zion Lutheran Church.
Contact staff writer Molly Rettig at 459-7590.