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Community Health Centers SPOTLIGHT: Northcountry Prenatal Services Parent, Professional, Partner, Patient


isa Stromme Rine, an Open Door patient, is a civil engineer specializing

Open Door at Forty

Herrmann Spetzler, Ceo hen Cheyenne and I moved to the north coast in 1977, we thought it was a good place to spend a few years. I knew I was joining an organization scraping for every dollar and pinching every penny, but the committed people who began Humboldt Open Door Clinic in 1971 were convincing: there wasn’t enough access to health care on the North Coast and we could do something to change that. Forty years later, we still have that original clinic, and we’ve added nine more clinic sites. Under the banner of Open Door Community Health Centers, we serve folks from Garberville to Gasquet. Last year at least one out of every four residents of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties was served by Open Door. To visit one of our clinics is to see every segment of the population living on the north coast. We have matured and our patients


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in water resources, working at SHN Consulting Engineers & Geologists, Inc. in Eureka. When Lisa became pregnant with her first child in 2006, she sought her prenatal and obstetrics care from NorthCountry Clinic in Arcata. “NorthCountry has a history and a reputation as a clinic dedicated to excellence. I was glad that I could rely on the quality of a comprehensive program rather than trying to shop private practices.” As a busy professional Lisa appreciated that the clinic was efficient, her appointments prompt and when she required more than the routine, her providers spent the extra time to answer her questions and address her concerns. Lisa felt confident in the care she received. “I really appreciated the continued on page 5 ➤

Lisa Stromme Rine with sons Dorian and Becker (infant)

SPOTLIGHT: Humboldt Open Door Clinic The Door is Open hen Maile Cortez and her husband moved to Arcata ten years ago, they worried about how to manage their significant medical concerns. They saw Humboldt Open Door Clinic (HODC), walked through the front door and found the right place. The respect and care that the Cortez’ received convinced Maile that they had found their home. “The care here is tailored to meet our needs. The clinic staff has gone out of its way to be sure patient needs are met; we feel like we are a part of our own medical team.” Maile feels that there is a family-like relationship with their health care provider. When Maile’s husband, who has


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Patients Madilynn, Josh, and Lilah Durham in the waiting room at HODC OPEN DOOR COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS SPECIAL SECTION • THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 2011


Humboldt Open Door Clinic continued from page 1

multiple and complex medical conditions, found himself in an out-ofstate hospital, his medical provider at HODC immediately made sure that the hospital was aware of all of his needs. According to Maile, “We couldn’t have asked for better care and attention.” Bill Sullivan spent years as an EMT, firefighter, and construction worker. Now, walking with the aid of two canes, Bill doesn’t allow his physical limitations to isolate him. He volunteers and remains active in the community, recognizable for his warm smile, trademark cowboy hat and big heart. “I like being part of things, including my own health care.” He too found that HODC far surpassed his expectations. “I know hard work. I see it at HODC all the time. And when my provider takes the extra time to make follow-up calls and check in with me at the end of a long day, I feel re-

spected.” Bill says that this sense of respect is something unmatched in his previous health care experiences. “This isn’t a ‘free’ clinic, it’s a caring clinic.” When Maile Cortez saw an invitation for the HODC Patient Advisory Group, she jumped at a chance to give back to the clinic that had provided so much for her family. Bill Sullivan and five others joined Maile. “The Patient Advisory Group provides our perspective as patients. We comment on almost every aspect of the clinic. I know the staff listens. I’ve seen the changes,” says Maile. The Advisory

Most of the staff of HODC from the clinic’s rooftop in Arcata


Bill Sullivan, HODC Patient Advisory Group member

Group also works to help empower other patients. Bill is proud that their work at HODC “has spurred other Open Door clinics to follow our lead.” Bill believes that when the atmosphere is respectful and relaxed, there is a feeling of safety. Patients have a better understanding of their illness, wellness and how to better oneself. Whether in the examination room or the confer-

ence room, Bill knows his voice will be heard, “Providers here listen. They want to understand health care from the patients’ perspectives.” ❖

SETTING THE STAGE, LIVING THE MISSION orman Bell arrived on the North Coast in 1976. He was looking for a professional home; an organization with a community health model, a mission he could stand behind, and an infrastructure in place that held the promise for his future and his career. He found that combination in Arcata. It was kismet, not coincidence that brought the young doctor trained in community health to a clinic committed to its surroundings. Dr. Bell was the first full-time medical provider hired at HODC. He contin-


Norman Bell, MD with patient Jaxon Lewis and his mother Doreen

ues to work for the clinic today. Along with the rest of the dedicated staff, Dr. Bell knew “needs for health care extended far beyond Arcata and what our one clinic could do, so we set out to fill that need. The bottom line was that many people in this community needed access to health care and couldn’t get it. Maybe they didn’t have insurance. Maybe they couldn’t afford a private doctor. Maybe they couldn’t afford the gas. It didn’t matter to us. We made the decision not to turn people away even if they couldn’t pay. Our mission was to serve the whole community. We agreed to work as long as there were patients to be seen. There are still patients to be seen.” Dr. Bell’s passion and area of specialty training is in Pediatric medicine. After ten years of general medicine at HODC he began seeing pediatric patients exclu-

sively. He now treats the children of the children he treated when first starting out. Emphasizing patient-centered care, Dr. Bell strives to build connections with his patients’ schools and families and has become a local expert in childhood behavioral problems. “HODC has become a place for people with complex cases. The clinic is a bridge to other members of the medical community. This is a good way for the medical system to function.” ❖

QUALITY CARE, ACCESS FOR ALL Janae Zolna, MD, the newest member of HODC’s provider team, fell in love with the Pacific Northwest during medical school in Portland. When her husband’s job with the National Forest Service brought her family to Humboldt County last July, she felt she was in the right place. Even as the busy mother of a two-year old “who would rather be at the zoo or on the beach than just about anywhere else,” Dr. Zolna knew, without doubt, that she wanted to practice family medicine and make a contribution to the community. “My work with Open Door presents the opportunity for

me to remain dedicated to my beliefs and work for an organization that supports access to health care for all. All of us are entitled to quality care.” Dr. Zolna views her relationship with her patients as a partnership aimed at achieving the best possible health. “I’m deeply committed to preventive medicine. I’m motivated by the toll diabetes and other chronic conditions have had on my own family. I enjoy working with our patients and the scope of care I give at this clinic. Every day is different here. From simple medicine to complex diagnoses, I see everyone in my practice, from babies to geriatrics.” And the effort to ‘see everyone’ can be daunting. “I can get you in this afternoon,” is a phrase often used by Elaine Reynolds, RN Coordinator at HODC. “My job is to make sure that people who need care are seen quickly. I get calls from our established patients and from people who have never been to the clinic before.” Elaine juggles the schedule, cajoles the providers and calls other Open Door clinics. She won’t be happy unless the caller is taken care of. “We’re a team, a big team, and we

work to create that extra space. When people call, I know they are usually hurting and scared. They need help and reassurance.” There are 50 people working with Elaine at HODC, including 12 medical providers, but the demand can exceed supply. “Are we perfect? No. But I know this team will do everything it can to get people the care they need.” Another HODC provider is Ellen Weiss, MD., who, like Dr. Zolna, is committed to empowering people to take control of their lives and their health care. Dr. Weiss, a busy mother of two, oboist for the Eureka Symphony, Bayside resident, exercise enthusiast and Medical Director of HODC, believes that whether “a person is glowingly healthy or dealing with complex medical conditions, we can make healthy choices that allow us to make the most of our lives.” Dr. Weiss has lived and worked in our community for nearly twenty years, joining Open Door in 1992, first at the Eureka Community Health Center and later HODC. Dr. Weiss serves a diverse group of patients of all ages. “I feel supported to deliver the type of health continued on next page ➤



Humboldt Open Door Clinic continued from page 3

care that is needed. Open Door views the whole health and wellness of a patient, including social, economic and health issues. I feel fortunate to practice medicine in a community with so many agencies available to contribute to patient wellness.” She also enjoys working with whole families. “I currently see four generations of one family in our community, from the two year old to the great grandparent.” “There are many problems which cause patients to have poor health, and they aren’t all medical.” says Dr. Weiss. “Other factors often cause or exacerbate health conditions.” Patients who walk through the doors at HODC have in some cases been refused by other practices because they don’t have insurance or can’t afford the fees. Sometimes practices can’t cope with the range of medical, housing, financial, behavioral and social problems a patient presents. Dr. Weiss reflects, “The HODC doctors are trained in family medicine and that helps us to care for the variety of patients we have here. The whole staff works as a support team to assess and meet a patient’s needs from multiple angles. We need to be very flexible and very responsive.” In Dr. Weiss’ opinion, “my responsibility as a doctor includes serving as a teacher. I want my patients to make informed healthy decisions. Then we need to respect the choices patients make for themselves.” ❖

LEFT: HODC RN Clinic Coordinator, Elaine Reynolds RIGHT: Patient Nathan Waldenburg with HODC’s Medical Director, Ellen Weiss, MD

SEEING THE NEED, FILLING THE GAP Like many of Open Door’s healthcare providers, David Horwitz, PAC, views himself as a teacher who assists patients in taking charge of their own health care. “Before I became a Physician Assistant, I volunteered here as a welfare rights counselor. That was in the 70s. The commitment of Open Door to providing a full range of services in a sensitive and caring way remains today. We work to meet patients’ needs to our fullest ability.” His continued dedication has positioned David as something of a specialty provider, responding to unique health care needs


and providing areas of expertise to patients when there was no one else in the area to champion their concerns. David is credited with diagnosing the first HIV positive patient in Humboldt County more than 25 years ago. “We didn’t want to believe it could happen here, but it did, and still does.” says David, who along with Gail Hovorka, MD, and Sergio Codina, AIDS Certified RN, embodies HODC’s commitment to being a center of excellence for HIV care for the North Coast. David notes, “HODC will offer free HIV screening during all regular visits from June 20th to July 1st as part of National HIV Testing Month.” Like so many staff, David has

stayed because Open Door is an organization that provides access for all. “We’ve always taken a good look around and worked to fill in the gaps. That’s what we’ve done with Teen Clinic, with our HIV care, and now with our Transgender Clinic.” When approached by Project HEALTH to collaborate in better meeting the health needs of our transgender community members, HODC rose to the opportunity, with David Horwitz leading the way. With all of his patients David wants to know, “Will you work with us, learn with us, and join us in your health care – for yourself, your family and our community? That’s the basis of a healthy partnership.”

Northcountry Prenatal Services


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team approach. The knowledge of the staff far exceeded my expectations. The providers, the receptionists and everyone in between have specialized knowledge. They worked hard to meet my needs. I loved having a group of providers and feeling the support of a team who got to know my needs.” Lisa came to Humboldt County to study Environmental Engineering at HSU in 1995, not coincidentally the first year HSU’s women’s soccer team went intercollegiate. In 1996 she met, and in 2004 married her husband, Tim Rine. “He’s the surfer, I’m the runner,” explains Lisa, who even with her busy schedule, remains an avid soccer player. “I’m the team captain for a co-ed soccer team. There are four Open Door employees on my soccer

team. That’s just the way I think about my health care too, Open Door is part of my team.” When Lisa and Tim became pregnant with their second child in 2009, they “were happy to have a history with the OB providers and support staff at NorthCountry. I felt confident in the care I received with Dorian. Bonding with my health care providers during my prenatal care made me feel like I had options. I didn’t want to have a ‘medically driven’ birth experience if it wasn’t necessary. I felt like I had the best of both worlds. We had an agreement up front that we would let my body do what it was capable of doing and have as natural an experience as possible, and I knew the medical providers were there if necessary.” continued on next page ➤

I moved to Humboldt County after graduating colleg e in 2001. I received my teaching credential at HSU in 2006 and was fortunate to find a full time teaching job at Peninsula Union School. My husband, Colin, who moved here in 1996, is a graduate of HSU and has been a geologist with Pacific Watershed Associates for 10 years. We met while I was getting my credential and were married in Trinidad in 2008. After becoming pregnant with my son, I decided that I wanted to be a stay at home mom; however, I have recently joined the staff at Morris Elementary as a parttime Math Intervention Teacher and I have starte d an organic baby food company, Bountiful Baby, using local produce to provide Humboldt County babies with fresh, nutritious homemade meals . When my husband & I found out that I was pregn ant with our first child, we were overjoyed. I immediately made an appoi ntment with Open Door’s prenatal services. I wanted to have our birth at Mad River Hospital and had heard good things about NPS. From our first appointment through our birth, we had a wonderful experience with the nurses, doctors, and midwives at NPS. Individualized atten tion is the most important aspect of health care for me and at first I was concerned about meeting with several doctors and midwives instead of working with just one doctor throughout my pregnancy. I quickly realized that my worries were unfounded. At NPS, I was able to establish personal relationships with all of the staff, receptionists, lab techs, nurses, doctors, and midwives, many of which continue. Having a natural birth was important to me, and I felt completely supported by the NPS providers (and by the amazing nurses at Mad River). My labor began at 11pm on a Sunday. My husba nd and I walked around the hospital until it was time to get in our birth tub. Dr. Alston arrived at the hospital and was wonderful. As I labor ed, Dr. Alston was an unobtrusive presence in the room, offering guidance and support while letting my husband and me share in our private mome nt. When our son, Liam, was ready to be born, Dr. Alston was calm and assuring as he guided our baby into the world. Our family is thankful for the great health care we have received from Open Door. We had a great experience at NPS, and we love our son’s pediatrician at Open Door’s McKinleyville Comm unity Health Center. We are now expecting our second child this October, and again enjoying the care provided by NPS. - Sarah, Colin, & Liam Hughes

Northcountry Prenatal Services Staff (not pictured: Ellen Drury, CNM) OPEN DOOR COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS SPECIAL SECTION • THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 2011


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Lisa recalls, “I really liked knowing that I would not have to worry about the availability of having just one provider, and they all have a wonderful bedside manner. My care was individualized and personal. I loved the Mad River Community Hospital Birth Center and the flexibility to pursue the kind of birth experience I wanted to have, knowing that I had medical expertise standing by. The births of both my sons Dorian and Becker were excellent experiences even though neither birth was without some complication. Dr. Alston provided me with personal care throughout. I was continually impressed with his ability to remain calm. I am so thankful that both births turned out to be such positive experiences.” The whole family continues as patients of NorthCountry Clinic. And Lisa’s involvement with Open Door extends beyond her soccer and her health care. Her employer, SHN, is one of the firms helping to design Open Door’s new community health center in Eureka. “I’m so pleased to be part of a project that will undoubtedly have a positive impact. It’s so important that we can rely on each other here on the north coast to share the best of what we have to offer.” ❖

New Location, More Access

In December 2010, Northcountry Prenatal Services (NPS) became Open Door’s newest clinic, relocating the services from the NorthCountry Clinic

on 18th Street in Arcata to its own quarters in the Shaw Pavilion at Mad River Community Hospital. “The number of patients we served doubled over the past several years. We were out of space. We now assist in the delivery of over 400 babies a year. We want women to get involved in their prenatal care as soon as they know they are pregnant. Now we can offer much more access,” says Karen Severn, RN Coordinator of the new clinic. “And we’re right here at Mad River. Most of our women choose to deliver at the Birth Center, so the convenience is great for our mothers and our providers.” ❖

A Comprehensive Experience “We take a family practice approach to prenatal care,” says Jerry Alston, MD, Medical Director of the new Northcountry Prenatal Services. “Getting to know families makes our services special. We address the patient as a whole person and work to provide support for whatever the patient is facing. This can include medical elements, psychological adjustments and social and support needs; all the aspects of the patient’s life. Our services are truly a comprehensive experience.” That experience starts at the front desk where you are likely to be greeted by Bethany Taylor. “I first came to Northcountry Prenatal Services when I was pregnant. I thought, ‘I would love to work here.’ and when a position


opened up a few months after I delivered my daughter, I jumped at the chance.” Now Bethany uses her experiences as consumer and staff to assist patients every day. “I wear both hats. I understand where patients are coming from and can relate to their concerns.” NPS provides a place for patients to seek answers and support at a time of dynamic change. Karen Severn, RN Coordinator of the prenatal program, works to support patients through the change and challenge of new parenthood. Karen believes that NPS provides love and care to mothers so they have the energy to give back to their children. “It takes a caring team to do a caring job, and we have a great team.” One of the team members is Robin Fraser, Medical Assistant at NPS. As a certified EMT, Trinidad Fire Department volunteer, and former health educator for the Peace Corps, Robin’s interest in prenatal education led to her job at NPS. “I find real value in the interaction and open communication that is a part of our clinic. We are all part of the care team.” Fluent in Spanish, Robin is one of the clinic’s interpreters. “I’m committed to this kind of health care. I’m working on my prerequisites at CR to become a Physician Assistant. I want to be more involved in prenatal care and the birth-

ing experience.” Caroline Murphy is another Medical Assistant at NPS. Caroline was so impressed with the program that she and her family relocated from Oregon, in part so she could join the NPS team. “Medical care is an important part of birth, but it’s not the whole story. We acknowledge and honor a woman’s wishes and abilities in the birth process. I get to be a part of that.” Caroline and her husband have four children ages 6 through 14. Caroline says, “I love the ‘cool stuff per capita’ in Humboldt, the theater, the arts, the music, and we’re out and about all the time. There are so many happy interesting people.” The NPS team of providers includes Jerry Alston, MD, who joined Open Door in 1998. “I love what I do and I love where I do it,” says Dr. Alston, who in addition to his role at NPS

LEFT: NPS RN Coordinator, Karen Severn, discusses services at a new patient orientation appointment RIGHT: NPS Medical Director, Jerry Alston, MD

maintains a family practice at NorthCountry Clinic. “I like that we serve a diverse range of patients. It is a small enough community that I can be out on the soccer field or at home play-

ing guitar one minute, and be in the birthing center the next.” Dr. Alston is excited about the new NPS space. “It presents the opportunity for fresh momentum with the hospital. It is a beautiful space that we hope is welcoming and friendly for women during their pregnancy and birth experience. The new space will allow us to continue to grow our program.” Ellen Drury, CNM, has been practicing as a certified nurse midwife since 1976. “It is so fulfilling to serve women with such a wide range of needs. I have always believed in supporting women in the process from pregnancy to motherhood.” Humboldt County is Ellen’s home. “This is my community, I belong here, and I am proud to be present at the birth of babies in my community, not just my place of work.” Ellen finds importance in forg-

ing lasting relationships. She adds with modesty, “My involvement in the community is becoming multi-generational. Recently I was present as a woman was giving birth; I had been present when she was born. It has been a gift to see the generations develop in this community.” The newest member of the provider team, Eloi Hoopman, DO, loves working with women who want to direct their own care. “I view myself more as a consultant than a decision maker. Above all else, I work to support a woman’s vision of her birth experience. I believe in a woman’s ability to make decisions.” In addition to her NPS responsibilities, Dr. Hoopman maintains a family practice at NorthCountry Clinic. “I sought a community healthcare system that was dedicated to access for all. I found it at Open Door.” Eloi says, “My husband and I love exploring the area with our two

little ones. Arcata is an incredible town for young families, and I love making connections between the clinic and the community.” Karen Severn extends caring beyond the clinic as well. You are likely to see her husband John and their two sons at the Arcata Farmers’ Market at their organic produce booth. “We own and operate Little River Farm in Freshwater. I feel like I provide emotional nourishment while my husband provides physical nourishment. It’s a good balance for us.” Karen sees many families at the Market that she’s assisted at the clinic. “What a joy to see the babies grow and develop.” ❖

Go to for an expanded version of this article, including profiles of Carolyn Eldridge, licensed nurse midwife, and Tim Nicely, MD, OB/GYN.

LEFT: NPS Office Manager, Bethany Taylor greets a new patient RIGHT: Carolyn Eldridge, LM with patient Jenny Virasonh at NPS



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have become representative of all who live in our community. We have expanded services to be more responsive and comprehensive in our care. Our clinics offer primary medical, dental and behavioral health care for urgent, acute, routine and chronic needs. We have specialists in a variety of fields. We offer services for women’s health, teen health, prenatal care and deliveries, specialized services to prevent or treat HIV/AIDS and, through the use of technology we can connect our patients to specialists anywhere in the world. We focus on disease prevention and health improvement through nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, a community garden, chronic disease management and other wellness activities. In each month through December we will present these inserts to the NCJ to tell the stories of our clinics, staff and patients. Today we highlight our original site, Humboldt Open Door Clinic, and our newest site, Northcountry Prenatal Services at Mad River Community Hospital. Over the months, we hope you’ll enjoy getting to know some of our 50,000 patients and 400 employees. As we celebrate Open Door’s 40th Anniversary, let us recognize it as a celebration of a community and its commitment to itself. Open Door exists because of the trust and involvement of thousands of people. It exists because of amazing local talent and our collective ability to attract and keep bright and dedicated professionals. It exists because the community wants it to. For this, I say thank you and happy anniversary. While so much has changed, so much has remained the same. Open Door is bigger, better and provides much more health care than we ever imagined, yet I still work for an organization that scrapes for every dollar and pinches every penny. There still isn’t enough access to health care on the north coast, and Open Door can still do more to change that. We may be celebrating 40 years of service, but we are not resting. The north coast still seems like a good place to spend a few years. ❖


Administrative Offices: 670 Ninth Street, Suite 203 • Arcata, CA 95521 • 707-826-8633 Arcata HUMBOLDT OPEN DOOR CLINIC 770 Tenth Street, Arcata, CA 95521 707-826-8610

NORTHCOUNTRY CLINIC 785 18th Street, Arcata, CA 95521 707-822-2481

NORTHCOUNTRY PRENATAL SERVICES 3800 Janes Road, Suite 101, Arcata, CA 95521 (in the Shaw Pavilion of Mad River Community Hospital) 707-822-1385

Crescent City DEL NORTE COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER 550 East Washington Blvd, Crescent City, CA 95531 707-465-6925 - Medical 707-465-4636 - Dental Eureka BURRE DENTAL CENTER 959 Myrtle Avenue, Eureka, CA 95501 707-442-7078

EUREKA COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER 2412 Buhne Street, Eureka, CA 95501 707-441-1642

TELEHEALTH & VISITING SPECIALIST CENTER 2426 Buhne Street, Eureka, CA 95501 707-442-4038

McKinleyville McKINLEYVILLE COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER 1644 Central Avenue, McKinleyville, CA 95519 707-839-3068 - Medical 707-839-2677 - Pediatrics Willow Creek WILLOW CREEK COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER 38883 Route 299, Willow Creek, CA 95573 530-629-3111 - Medical 530-629-1941 - Dental All clinics will do their best to accommodate your immediate needs; however, there may be a waiting list at some clinics to establish care for new patients at this time. Open Door clinics offer either family practice/primary care medical services or dental services for children and adults. Several clinics offer both medical and dental services. While not available at all sites, other services provided to patients of Open Door Community Health Centers include: • • • • • • • • • • • •

Behavioral Health and Counseling Services Evening and Saturday Hours HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C Care Nutritional Counseling Opiate Dependency Treatment Pediatric Services Psychiatry Specialty Medical Care Teen Health Clinics Transgender Health Clinic Urgent Care (Walk-In Services) Wellness and Health Maintenance

Articles by Breanne Sorrells, Development Associate, Open Door Community Health Centers; editorial contributions by Julianne Barnum, Development Intern and Christopher Peters, Chief Advancement Officer, Open Door Community Health Centers All photography, pages 2-7, by Paul Swenson Photography, Layout and graphic design by Siobhan Calderwood, North Coast Journal Please visit to read expanded versions of these stories and discover more about Open Door. Comments may be addressed to:


This health center is a Health Center Program grantee under 42 U.S.C. 254(b), and a deemed Public Health Service employee under 42 U.S.C. 233(g)-(n)

Open Door Community Health Centers  
Open Door Community Health Centers  

Special Insert to the North Coast Journal. June 23, 2011