Q & A With Chief Medical Officer Serene Perkins, M.D.

It’s been two years since Serene Perkins, M.D., joined MCMC as our chief medical officer. A surgical oncologist by training, Dr. Perkins brought with her extensive experience in patient care, surgical education and administrative leadership.

Prior to joining MCMC, Dr. Perkins served multiple roles at Legacy health in Portland, including medical director of hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgical oncology and director of surgical and clinical research at Legacy Research Institute.

At MCMC Dr. Perkins is a key member of our executive leadership team.

WellAware sat down with her recently to discuss the pandemic, health care and how MCMC continues to expand to serve our community.

Q: What has it been like being the chief medical officer of a hospital during this pandemic?

A: Our caregivers—doctors, nurses and all of the other practitioners who are taking care of patients—have had to confront an unprecedented level of complexity while dealing with such a severe illness. As chief medical officer at MCMC, it is an honor and a privilege to work with such exceptional and dedicated individuals and watch the incredible job they do every day.

At the same time, my heart goes out to the patients and families whose lives have been affected by the virus. While these are certainly unsettling times, I know that if we continue to stand together, we will overcome these challenges.

Q: While the pandemic is still very much with us, it is still important for people to continue to see their doctors and not neglect their care. How can you assure people that going to their doctor is safe?

A: Over the past eight months, we have learned much about COVID-19, how we can avoid its transmission, and its clinical course and recovery period. At MCMC we screen every employee as they come into work. We screen our patients before they enter their doctors’ offices, and exam rooms are thoroughly cleaned after every patient. In many ways, coming in for office visits and surgery is safer now than it has ever been. However, we do see patients who have postponed care for a number of reasons. It is very important that our patients do not postpone routine screenings or procedures to avoid the risk of their conditions getting worse.

Q: MCMC has introduced telemedicine as a way for patients to safely see their doctor. How has that gone, and what do you see as the future of telemedicine—both nationally and here in the Gorge?

A: We have been exploring the option of serving our community through telemedicine for some time. Over the past several months, we have tried multiple platforms, looking for the one that would be easiest for both patients and providers. Our goal is to ensure it is a positive experience and one that works well. If you have an internet connection, or even a phone if you are less tech savvy, telemedicine can be a wonderful option.

Q: What was the impetus behind the opening of the Immediate Care Center, and why is it so important having that care available here in the Gorge?

A: When an urgent health care need arises, Immediate Care is here for you. While taking care of your immediate need, we can also help you get established with a local primary care provider who you can see on a regular basis for routine care, annual checkups, health screenings and many other health care needs. For those patients who already have a primary care provider, Immediate Care is a great option for when you need after-hours care or if you have trouble getting a same-day appointment with your PCP.

Q: Mid-Columbia Medical Center has really become more of a local health system and not simply a stand-alone hospital. Can you talk about that a bit?

A: Yes, MCMC is much more than a hospital on a single campus. We have 15 outpatient service lines to provide comprehensive health care for our community—from pediatrics to cancer care, cardiology to sports medicine and everything in between. We have outpatient clinics in The Dalles and hood River and ancillary programs such as a medical fitness center and therapy services at Water’s Edge. MCMC has been the community’s center of health for more than 100 years, and we continue to evolve as our community’s needs change and grow. It is important that people can get the care they need when they need it, in ways that are most convenient for them and fit their lifestyle.

Q: Nobody can predict the future—especially not under the current conditions. But what would you like the community to know about MCMC as we turn into 2021? What does the future hold for the hospital and for care here in the Gorge?

A: It is our goal at MCMC to serve you, our community, not only in 2021 but for (at least) the next 100 years to come! We are so thankful for each and every one of our staff, providers and leaders who stand by this community through thick and thin. One day we will all look back upon this time in history with wonder. I am grateful to be a part of it.

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