Healthcare in Action

Local Boards Serve Community

When your elderly mother slips in the shower or your child’s fever spikes to 104 degrees, your biggest concerns are likely to be how quickly you can get an appointment with a doctor and the quality of care you will receive.

You will probably not consider the quality of the hospital board, even though decisions made in the boardroom impact everything from wait times to access to primary care providers and specialists.

Mid-Columbia Medical Center and Mid-Columbia Health Foundation are governed by individual boards, which serve the community by facilitating high-quality, sustainable healthcare. Board members ensure the long-term financial success of the institutions they represent by supporting and evaluating the CEO; forming strategic alliances, such as MCMC’s relationship with Oregon Health & Science University; and working with auditors and hospital executives.

Board members help underserved groups gain access to high-quality healthcare — so MCMC can reach its goal of bringing patient-centered medical care to the entire community. As the voice of the Gorge, board members owe the hospital, and the patients it serves, their time, attention and talents.

Here is a closer look at a few of the board members who donate their time so MCMC can continue to promote wellness, health and healing.

Rob Carnahan: Retired Fire Chief Promotes Transparency, Accountability

As a fire chief of Clackamas County Fire District 54 Carnahan was actively involved in a number of civic organizations. After retiring and moving to Dufur, he planned to leave public life and concentrate on running his 300-acre ranch.

“When I retired from the fire service I moved east to get out of the drizzle and rain of western Oregon,” he said. “Now I have cattle and we’re growing some wheat.”

When he was asked to serve on the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation Board of Directors, Carnahan felt it was his duty to serve his new community. His honesty and quick thinking, developed through many years as a firefighter, have helped him make tough decisions.

“I’m not afraid of being fired as a board member,” Carnahan said. “When I see something going on, or something troublesome, I am unafraid to comment on it.”

Those strengths have benefited MCMC and the entire community.

“Rob tells it like it is,” said MCMC President & CEO Dennis Knox, who also serves on the Board of Trustees. “He is a longtime advocate of transparency between hospital executives, staff and the community, and he isn’t afraid to challenge me or the rest of the board.”

Carnahan has been a member of the Health Foundation Board since 2007 and the MCMC Board of Trustees since 2011.

Preferring to keep busy, he also serves as a board member for Camp Morrow, a Christian campground that provides approximately 900 children each year with bible camp and an affordable ranch program.

He also helps provide meals for the homeless, serves in a leadership capacity for his church, Calvary Baptist Church, and has been involved in the Dufur Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a way to give back a little bit to the community,” he said. “The older you get, you mellow a little bit. You also become more compassionate. That’s what has happened with me and my wife.”

MCMC is governed by its Board of Trustees. Members are volunteers who provide a necessary link between the community and hospital executive team and are responsible for the overall financial health of the institution and selecting senior leadership.

Carnahan was on a board in the Portland metropolitan area where he helped hold hospital leadership accountable. In small communities like The Dalles, that accountability is even more important, he said.

The board’s agenda for the coming year will include implementing the hospital’s first ever strategic plan, which is a blueprint for the future of MCMC, he said. Physician engagement and recruitment will also be a priority.

There is a nationwide shortage of primary care providers. Studies agree that the number of new primary care providers is not meeting the demands of a growing and aging population.

Although MCMC is competing for a limited pool of primary care providers, the board has a plan to improve recruitment. The best recruiter of one primary care provider is another, Carnahan said.

Over the course of his tenure, the board recognized a disconnect between providers and hospital leadership, Carnahan said. Bridging that gap should also help the hospital attract more primary care providers.

“We need more primary care providers and the board is putting together a plan that will help,” he said.

Dr. Wally Wolf: Retired Veterinarian Dedicated to MCMC, Community

Born and raised in rural Kansas, Dr. Wally Wolf spent nearly a year in Thailand with the U.S. Army when The Dalles Veterinarian Dr. Milton Skov asked him for help.

Skov had recently opened his own practice and needed another veterinarian immediately. Wolf, a graduate of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, quickly joined him.

“Been in The Dalles ever since,” he said.

From the deck in his backyard, Wolf can see Mid-Columbia Medical Center, where he is the longest sitting member of MCMC’s Board of Trustees. He was appointed to the Board of Trustees in 1991 and views it as a way to serve his community.

Though he retired as a veterinarian six years ago, Wolf has not slowed down.

He is a grandfather of eight and an active member of the Kiwanis Club of The Dalles and the Wasco County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, which assists the Sheriff’s Office in search and rescue, and promotes the Sheriff’s Office through drills, shows, and parades.

He is also the former president of The Dalles Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Dalles Rodeo Association, which still keeps him busy. The Rodeo Association is active in the community and hopes to reopen the rodeo one day.

As the longest sitting member of the MCMC Board of Trustees, Wolf has made an invaluable contribution to the hospital and the community it serves, said MCMC President and CEO Dennis Knox.

“Wally has been dedicated to serving the hospital and the entire community for nearly three decades, “Knox said. “His compassion, institutional knowledge and consistent support have benefited the board and the entire community. We’re lucky to have him.”

MCMC is governed by its Board of Trustees. Members are volunteers who provide a necessary link between the community and hospital executive team and are responsible for the overall financial health of the institution and selecting senior leadership.

The board’s main function is to provide direction to the hospital CEO, who also sits on the board, and provide financial oversight, Wolf said. It is an important job that has serious implications for Wasco County and the entire Gorge.

“Our hospital is one of the biggest employers in the Gorge and certainly in Wasco County,” he said.

The hospital has changed significantly over the last 26 years, Wolf said.

The hospital’s gross income is approximately 10 times what it was back then, and the board has championed many projects of which he is proud, including:

  • MCMC Pediatrics, which features three board-certified pediatric physicians.
  • Celilo Cancer Center, a significant financial risk that has been hugely successful.
  • The Spa at Water’s Edge, which blends ancient remedies with modern practices to treat the mind, body and spirit.

“You like to think you’re doing a little good for these folks around here,” Wolf said. “Most of our civic organizations are having a difficult time keeping the younger generations interested in keeping things going.”

Cynthia Kortge: Busy Mom, Wheat Farmer Advocates for Community Health

When Cynthia Kortge resigned from her job as a director at Mid-Columbia Medical Center to concentrate on raising her two children and helping run the family wheat farm, she expected to have more free time.

But today she is busier than ever, due to her position on the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation Board of Directors and volunteer work with a slew of community organizations.

A mother of two teenagers, Kortge is active in the Dufur School District, which her children attend, and a member of the Wasco County Fair & Rodeo Board of Directors, PEO International Chapter BF, and Fort Dalles Fourth committee, which helps bring fireworks to The Dalles.

“It’s enough to keep you busy chasing kids and doing a million other things,” she said. “The ranch keeps us busy full time. Sometimes we have a little bit of free time in the winter.”

Kortge joined the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation Board of Directors in 2011. Born in The Dalles and raised on a wheat farm near Dufur, Kortge is proud to support MCMC and the entire community through the Health Foundation.

“My family really believes in what the hospital is doing,” Kortge said. “The small-town hospital is a thing of the past. There are very few like it. Being part of the Health Foundation gives me a way to tell that story in a different way.”

The Health Foundation is governed by its Board of Directors. The board is responsible for policy, fundraising and fiscal oversight. Board members advocate on behalf of the community and communicate the Health Foundation’s mission, vision and programs to the community.

The Health Foundation and MCMC as a whole are always looking for ways to support healthy individuals before they have acute health problems that require long term healthcare, Kortge said. In addition to fundraising for the hospital, the Health Foundation supports a variety of programs including:

  • Area of Greatest Need Grant, which awards funds to nonprofits for programs that improve community health, such as WINGS, which offers housing, work, training, and continuing education for young men in the Gorge.
  • Tradition of Compassion, an annual awards ceremony that promotes the spirit of giving throughout the community by highlighting individuals and businesses who make a difference.
  • Breast Health for Strong Families, which provides free mammograms and screenings for local women, including homebound patients and women with cancer. In 2017, it provided over 100 free mammograms and diagnosed six women with breast cancer.

Programs like Breast Health for Strong Families are a priority for Kortge. Her mother is currently undergoing chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer, and her mother-in-law passed away from cervical cancer in 2010. Kortge hopes to raise awareness of cervical cancer and help ensure women have access to screenings and treatment.

“I’d love to do more of that,” she said. “We have a pretty amazing cancer care facility in this community. It’s certainly something we take for granted. We are very lucky to have access to that.”