What the heck are these guys doing?

Matthew, Weston and Nathan are first year medical students with a passion for community health and biking. Along with Daphne, a first year Veterinary student, the 4 companions will embark on a five-week trip through 1,000 miles of rural Oregon wonder. Along the way they will be working in conjunction with the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians to facilitate community discussions on improving local healthcare options. See our photo album

Friday, July 22, 2011

Eastward Ho! Over the Cascades We Go!

We last posted from the summit of the Cascade mountain range. It's all been downhill from there. We coasted from Willamette Pass onto the Cascade Lakes Highway where we spent a night at the beautiful but rugged Little Lava Lake. Wes burned us up some delicious burritos for dinner and we went for a twilight walk around the lake to spook up some deer. An added bonus was the view of South Sister, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor.

We woke the next morning to a nasty Central Oregon rain storm. It was only a 40 mile ride to Bend but it felt much longer fighting through the wet and the cold. By the time we got there, we were frozen through. Luckily, we had a place to stop and warm up. Wes' parents and younger brother live in Bend and were kind enough to put us up for a few days as we recovered. We spent our R&R time soaking in the hot tub, eating too many cookies, reading, and watching the new Harry Potter movie. Matt thought it was probably the scariest one yet. Once the weather improved we took advantage of Central Oregon's natural amenities - I went climbing with my good friend Mary out at Smith Rock State Park while Daphne, Matt and Wes tested the water by floating down the Little Deschutes.

Yesterday we thanked our hosts and reluctantly departed. It did not take long to enjoy being back on the bikes. We were on the road to Prineville to meet with a community health advocacy organization called the Rimrock Health Alliance. We have been hearing great things about what Rimrock has accomplished in Prineville so it was a welcome chance to see for ourselves. Sharon Vail is the Executive Director of the organization and had invited us to join her and local medical providers for a discussion over pizza and beer. We soon learned that Rimrock Health Alliance was making a big difference in Prineville. As a non-profit health care advocacy group, they have been able to recruit family physicians, mental health workers, dentists and other providers. They take an active role in retaining these providers and making sure they are a good fit for the community. Yet their mission expands far beyond recruiting providers. They are improving the health care of their community while decreasing overall cost. One of my favorite examples was what the emergency department at the local hospital was doing to address dental pain. Prineville emergency room doctors had noticed that the number one reason for a visit was because of untreated dental pain. Not only is a visit to the emergency room much more expensive than a visit to the dentists office, but patients receive more effective care at the dentist than they can in an urgent care office. The physicians took this problem to the Rimrock Health Alliance to see if they could help figure out a solution. Rimrock helped bring in another dentist to town and increase the access to primary dental care. The emergency department started referring more patients to local dentists and the number of E.R. visits for dental pain is going down. This saves the patient and hospital money and provides better care. A real win-win project that seems so simple in retrospect.

We're finding that small communities are able to be much more mobile than their larger counterparts. It is really inspiring to see what big changes can be made in rural communities. For more about Rimrock, check out their website at www.rimrockha.org.

We now depart for John Day. We're taking the back roads from Prineville through Post, Paulina and Izee. A real adventure awaits!

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