Not many teenagers see their future path as clearly as then Great Falls High School student Stacy Kingsland. In just her sophomore year of high school, she felt herself being drawn to the field of medicine. She had a mind for the sciences and a passion for sport and she thought a career in orthopedic surgery would combine those two interests. So, with her sights set on that goal, she completed high school and left Great Falls.

First, she earned a degree in biology from Carroll College and then she went on to earn a M.D. from the University of Washington, where she continued on to complete her residency. Once in medical school, she realized that being an orthopedic surgeon was not her calling and instead she found herself intrigued by the complexities of internal medicine. 

“A lot of times [Internal Medicine] can be like solving a mystery,” Kingsland explained. “Not knowing what's wrong with somebody, and it's up to you to try to figure out what's going on. The other thing about internal medicine, especially, when you're going into residency is you have so many options to expand on your internal medicine training. In order to be a cardiologist, or a nephrologist, or a pulmonologist or an endocrinologist or a rheumatologist, you have to do internal medicine first. Once you are an Internal Medicine doctor, you always have the option to go back and do those fellowships at any time. So it gives you options, right after residency, but also down the road.”

In fact, it was one of those “down-the-road” fellowship opportunities that put Kingsland in her current position as a beloved doctor and practice owner here in Great Falls. 

From Seattle back to Montana

After living and practicing internal medicine as a fully trained doctor in Seattle, Kingsland and her husband felt Great Falls pulling them home. Kingland was quickly scooped by Northwest Physicians LLC, a practice co-owned by Dr. Martin. Some years later, when Martin decided to pursue his oncology fellowship, it was Kingsland who took over his internal medicine practice. 

Now, well into her career as a highly regarded internal medicine doctor, Kingsland actually finds herself doing a fair amount of teaching. Interestingly,  if she hadn’t “grown up” to be a doctor, Kingsland would have pursued a career in teaching. Now she finds herself doing both. 

Students from the University of Washington WWAMI Program make their way to Great Falls to learn the “internal medicine” ropes from Kingsland. WWAMI, which stands for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, is an innovative program that Kingsland herself completed. Medical students have the opportunity to study throughout the five states and gain experience in both rural and urban settings. 

It turns out, not only is she a great doctor, she’s quite good at teaching as well. In 2017 she was one of nine faculty members selected from more than 325 clinical sites across the five states as a WWAMI Excellence in Teaching honoree. Lauded for her teaching skill by the students themselves, she was recognized for “demonstrating true enthusiasm and dedication in providing outstanding teaching and service to medical students.” 

“Stacy Kingsland is an exceptional teacher,” said Dr. Paauw, Director of the University of Washington Medical Student Program. “She always makes sure her students are fully engaged, and trusts them with responsibility. She is right there to coach and support them in delivering the same spectacular level of care that she herself always delivers.”

And, those students get to learn from one of the best, right here in Great Falls. When third-year medical students land at Kingsland’s practice, she creates an environment that is both nurturing and challenging. 

“Their very first day I let them know that this is an environment where they can ask questions. I tell them, ‘Ask anything that you don't understand, or you don't know,’” Kingsland said. “But, I also let them know I'm going to ask hard questions as well. ‘There's no point in being here, if you aren’t learning.’ My job is to find out what they don't know and then teach that.”

Her students certainly don’t get off easy. Kingsland lives by a saying she learned in her own residency, “Nothing's ever easy before it’s hard.” With that sentiment in mind, she finds ways to build her students up by challenging them, both in their medical knowledge and in the human elements of patient care. But, it’s with the sole hope that they leave with more in-depth knowledge of internal medicine and a stronger interpersonal skill set than when they arrived. 

“Dr. Kingsland was one of the most actively invested people in my education that I have encountered within the WWAMI region,” said one of her former students, Anders Ledell. “Most doctors are focused on getting me in to see their patients. Dr. Kingsland was focused on giving me an education. I'd walk into her office and she'd have the charts printed for the patients she wanted me to see every day, and she’d often pull up additional cases that she’d seen in the past for teaching purposes. In a field like medicine, where people work long hours and have stressful, fast paced jobs, having that type of attention is rare and valuable.”

Now, she’s “grown up”

Looking back on the aspirations of a science-minded high school student (who was also pondering teaching), Kingsland didn’t land too far off her mark. She didn’t end up in orthopedics, but she still has a passion for sport. 

Now, she finds a lot of joy in cheering on her own daughter, who is a competitive swimmer at Great Falls High School. She also makes time for her own sport.

When she’s not taking care of her patients, or teaching clinical medicine to UW students, she’s likely training for her next half marathon. Running is a small, but precious gift she gives to herself. When she is running, she has the space to think, to breathe, and to leave her stress on the sidewalk or trail. 

She gives that time to herself, so she can give her very best to her patients and to her students. 

“She’s one of the people who I would like to be when I grow up,” Ledell said.  

She’s a doctor and a teacher, who couldn’t be happier to be helping others right here in Great Falls.