Avalanche Kills UW Medical Student

Angela Paez, a University of Washington medical-school student, had been looking forward to the first good snowfall to get in a little cross-country skiing near Anchorage, where she was three weeks into a two-month internship at a family medical clinic.

She had written her husband in Seattle last week that snow had started to fall and she was gearing up for her first weekend outing.

The outing ended in tragedy.

Paez, 33, died in an avalanche Sunday afternoon while hiking about 40 miles southeast of Anchorage. Her body was recovered yesterday afternoon, about an hour after search dogs pointed out an area near Crow Pass where it was buried.

"She was quite a mountain climber, and we had climbed all over North America and Latin America," said her husband of 11 years, Bob Anderson.

Paez had been in Alaska taking her required third-year clinical-training course in obstetrics and gynecology, said UW health-sciences spokeswoman Laurie McHale. She was a student in the M.D./Ph.D medical-scientist program.

"She was attempting to be a medical-research physician, and I think one of her big goals was to be a role model and mentor for women minority students," said Anderson.

Anderson said Paez was hiking along an old mining trail with a companion, Bill English of Anchorage, the brother of a medical-school classmate, when the avalanche swept her away.

Alaska troopers said English crossed first to a ridge, but Paez kicked loose the avalanche as she crossed an open area. She rode it 200 to 300 yards, then dropped 20 feet, and was buried.

Paez grew up in the South. She was a high-school dropout who earned her GED (General Educational Development) from Lake Washington Vocational Technical School, then attended Bellevue Community College before completing an undergraduate degree with honors in biology at the UW.

Anderson said his wife, who had worked as a land surveyor, was part of a technical team that had remeasured the summit of Mount Rainier in the late 1980s.

Paez also was an avid sailor, her husband said. She and her husband shared a houseboat on Lake Union.

Paez, who was of Hispanic heritage, mentored minority high-school and college students who were interested in medicine. "She donated her time to help with several of the (university's) multicultural-affairs programs that help minority and disadvantaged teenagers prepare for medical careers," said McHale.

Anderson said he hopes to establish a scholarship fund for minority and women students in medicine at the university in Paez's name.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her father, Manuel Paez of Metarie, La., and her mother, Susan Tarwater of Stanwood.

Charles E. Brown's phone message number is 206-464-2206. His e-mail address is: cbro-new@seatimes.com