An amazing surgeon. A legend and a true friend. An icon of Everett. Quite a character. And “our crazy late-night ghost in the ICU.”
Those and other accolades were shared Friday night as longtime colleagues of Dr. Sanford Wright, an Everett neurosurgeon for nearly 40 years, celebrated his career.
Wright, 76, recently retired from his position as a surgeon with Providence Medical Group’s Cranial, Spine and Joint Clinic.
Yet Friday’s event at the Dorothy Jayne Studio in Everett wasn’t a retirement party, but rather a “Celebration of a Career Transition.”
While no longer doing surgery, Wright said Monday he’ll work as a neurosurgical consultant.
He has a new, part-time position with Western Washington Medical Group’s Orthopedic, Sports, Spine & Hand Center in Everett. He’ll work with spine surgeon Dr. Ali Annisipour, DO, and clinic manager Kathleen Sullivan.
Wright also is involved with BestCarePath, a software application developed to reduce workload and increase the efficiency of doctor-patient visits. It’s meant to allow for more face-to-face time with patients, Wright said. Among BestCarePath developers is Ovid Stavrica, an Everett High graduate Wright said was the 1984 recipient of a Sanford Wright Sr. Scholarship through the Rotary Club of Everett.
“I still remain on the staff of Providence hospital,” said Wright, who has returned to his original office space in Everett’s historic Hartley Mansion. Wright owns the 1910 house at 2320 Rucker Ave., once the home of mill owner Roland Hartley, Washington’s 10th governor.
“Retirement seems pretty unlikely for you,” Dr. Thomas Stonecipher, an Everett orthopedic surgeon, said in the introduction to a tribute video shown Friday. On the video, Wright’s friends and colleagues from Providence Regional Medical Center Everett offered their thoughts about his kindness, nonstop work ethic, humor and commitment to patients.
“Dr. Wright is leaving an incredible legacy, particularly in the neurosciences. Thank you, Sanford,” Kim Williams, CEO of Providence Health & Services Northwest Washington, said on the video.
With a deep love of the the arts, Wright said he’ll keep up with his efforts to bolster the community through charitable and performance events.
Since 2001, Wright has been the prime mover behind the Christmas Spectacular. Everett’s annual song-and-dance extravaganza supports local food banks, Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington, and other nonprofits.
Through the Dorothy Jayne Studio on Everett’s Bond Street, named in honor of Wright’s mother, his family has brought world-class dance to the community.
Wright’s wife, Olga Foraponova Wright, is a two-time U.S. Ballroom Champion and World Showdance finalist. A former gymnast from Chelyabinsk near Russia’s Ural Mountains, she established her Oly’s Dance school and venue at the Dorothy Jayne Studio in 2004. The Wrights’ daughters, 16-year-old Dascha and Mascha, 10, performed at Friday’s event.
Before Friday’s celebration, another doctor was honored by the Providence medical staff with a new Sanford Wright Legacy Award. “It was presented by the executive committee Jan. 24,” Wright said.
Dr. Matthew Beecroft, an emergency medicine physician, received the award.
Dr. Jay Cook, chief of surgery at Providence in Everett, spoke about physician burnout at that event, Wright said.
Burnout, Wright said, wasn’t a problem for him. “Never, through 40 years on staff and 12,000 operations,” said Wright — although he saw patients twice a day and hardly ever took vacations. He believes it was his work with people, particularly helping one girl with special needs and partial paralysis, that kept burnout at bay.
Why retire from surgery?
“For starters, I’m 76 years old and not spending enough time with my family,” he said.
A 1960 Everett High graduate, in 1964 Wright earned an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Washington. He graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1968 and served a residency at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.
In the military, he worked for Armed Forces Radio and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “I’ve been here since 1979,” Wright said.
Building contractor Sanford Wright Sr. was one of seven children who grew up — “very poor,” his son said — in the Jefferson County community of Center. Wright’s mother, born Dorothy Jayne and raised in Spokane, fostered his love of the arts. She taught dance lessons in the basement of their Everett home.
After medical school, Wright said his world opened up. He could have gone anywhere, but came home. “I felt I owed my mother and father — they did so much,” Wright said.
“For Sanford Wright, love is a verb,” Stonecipher said on the tribute video. “He loves his patients. He loves his family and friends. And he loves his community.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.