Michelle Cowan, MD, FASCRS

Michelle Cowan, MD, FASCRS
Top Doctor icon

Michelle Cowan, MD, FASCRS

  • Physician, Fred Hutch
  • Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Washington School of Medicine


“I take my cue from my patients, basing treatment decisions on what the evidence says but also taking into account how they want to embrace life despite having an illness.”

— Dr. Cowan

How do you like to work with patients?

As a surgeon, I have spent years accumulating a foundation of medical knowledge, so I don’t expect you to understand everything about your illness in a one-hour clinic visit. I see myself as being your coach, walking you through every step of the treatment process and having in-depth discussions about your quality of life. I strive to demystify surgery and what it can accomplish. Patients seem to appreciate my candor, the time I spend with them and the way I tailor my explanations to the individual. While I bring technical expertise to the patient-physician relationship, my patients have taught me just as much about strength, compassion and bravery.

How has cancer affected you personally?

When I was 18, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. That experience opened my eyes to the rigors of treatment as well as the emotional and physical toll the disease takes on patients and families. Cancer is often referred to as a battle, and that’s what it felt like at the time. Looking back, I think what I’ve carried forward professionally from that experience is an acute interest in how my patients want to live their lives. Just because we can pursue surgery doesn’t necessarily mean we should. I take my cue from my patients, basing treatment decisions on what the evidence says but also taking into account how they want to embrace life despite having an illness.

Provider Background

Area of Clinical Practice
Colorectal cancers

Colon Cancer, Rectal Cancer, Gastrointestinal Diseases
I am a board-certified surgeon who treats patients with diseases of the colon and rectum, including cancer. I am dedicated to applying a minimally invasive approach to the management of these diseases — such as robotic, endoscopic or laparoscopic surgery — whenever possible. Delivering quality cancer care is dependent upon multidisciplinary collaboration, which is why I work closely with a variety of specialists.

My background includes providing care at the University of Colorado Hospital and the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. Now, my current clinical practice spans Fred Hutch, UW Medical Center - Montlake and UW Medical Center - Northwest. In addition to working with patients, I study quality-of-life issues and health care disparities as they relate to surgical cancer care.

Diseases Treated



Education, Experience and Certifications

Medical Degree
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

University of Chicago Hospitals, General Surgery

Washington University, St. Louis, Colon and Rectal Surgery

Board Certification
Colon & Rectal Surgery, 2016, American Board of Colon/Rectal Surgery; General Surgery, 2015, American Board of Surgery


Seattle Met's 2023 Top Doctors award
Dr. Cowan has received this peer-nominated award for exceptional patient care for multiple years.

Clinical Trials

We make promising new treatments available to you through studies called clinical trials led by Fred Hutch physicians. Many of these trials at Fred Hutch have led to FDA-approved treatments and have improved standards of care globally. Together, you and your physician can decide if a study is right for you. 

View Clinical Trials


Many of our Fred Hutch physicians conduct ongoing research to improve standards of patient care. Their work is evaluated by other physicians and selected for publication to the United States National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world. See scientific papers this Fred Hutch physician has written. 


View Dr. Cowan's Publications

Your Care Team

At Fred Hutch, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes physicians, a patient care coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like registered dietitians, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders. 


Fred Hutch accepts most national private health insurance plans as well as Medicare. We also accept Medicaid for people from Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. We are working to ensure that everyone, no matter what their financial situation, has access to the care they need.

For the Media

The Media Relations team at Fred Hutch is available to assist members of the news media who would like to arrange interviews with providers.

Email media@fredhutch.org or call 206.667.2210