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Think Out Loud

Rural Doctors Say Goodbye

Pete Springer/OPB

Many rural communities face great challenges keeping doctors from moving to bigger towns with more lucrative contracts and amenities. Madras is one such town.

For almost 15 years the married doctors, Dave Evans and Suzanne El-Attar, have served the community of Madras — in and out of the hospital. Evans is the president of the National Physicians Alliance, which has over 20,000 members, and won (PDF) OHSU’s 2011 Carpenter Award for his work mentoring medical students at the Madras Medical Group. And he was the lead organizer in bringing the Madras Aquatic Center to life.

El-Attar served as the race coordinator for the MAC Dash; is actively engaged with the United Methodist Church, singing in the choir and teaching; and recently finished both a 12-year term as chairwoman of the obstetrical committee, and a three-year term as the chief of staff for the Mountain View Hospital.

But come April, the two doctors are leaving. Evans is taking a new faculty position at the University of Washington. One of the main focuses of his new job will be teaching new medical students about the challenges and rewards in serving rural communities. El-Attar will continue to see patients until June, which is when she and their two children, ages 11 and 8, will leave Madras for good. 

It is a difficult goodbye for some residents who see the two doctors as pillars in the community. Tony Ahern, publisher of the Madras Pioneer reflected:

It’s tough to lose such great people as Dave and Suzy. But we should simply be happy for them, wish them well, and appreciate their personal investments and contributions into our community during these past 15 years.

The Madras Medical group will find replacements, and the town will move forward. A common goal, Evans sees between doctors and the rural community it serves is a belief in the town:

We all have the shared and common goal to make this town a better place. Because, in reality, rural communities do one of two things they become a ghost town or move forward and get better. We want to see the latter.

Do you live in a rural community? Do you need to live the rest of your life in the same town in order to enrich it? How do you measure the impact citizens make on their town?

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