Doc Rinehart: A legacy of controversy, a legacy of taking care of the community one patient at a time

Dr. Harry Rinehart, fourth-generation doctor, fourth-generation Oregonian and third in the line of Rineharts who have been a presence in Wheeler, has been practicing medicine for 43 years, and he’s experienced many changes in the delivery of health care.

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By Laura Swanson

Doc Rinehart has always “gone his own way” to provide the best possible care for his patients, and over the years that has prompted investigations and raised questions, but with each issue, he was cleared each time.
As many that questions, there are hundreds of others that applaud Doc and the clinic for breaking new ground, for putting patients first and for the constant search for new means of pain management.  “There’s always more work to do,” commented Doc. “It just begins with seeing patients for eight to ten hours a day, then you have hours more work to do with records, another two to four hours.  It’s just time for a break.”  Dr. Harry Rinehart announced his retirement earlier this year, effective on August 31st.  The Rinehart Clinic Board of Directors invites the community to honor Dr. Harry Rinehart’s long and compassionate service to the community at a potluck picnic on Sunday August 30th  from 1 to 3 p.m. at Upper Wheeler Community Park.
That story begins in July 1913 when Harvey Rinehart arrived with wife Ella to be a mill physician. The young doctor developed a reputation for his arthritis treatments, drawing patients from all over the country, marked on a map that still hangs in the Clinic office.
Harry Rinehart was just 6 when he made up his mind to be – like his great grandfather and great grandmother, grandfather, father and mother – a doctor. He graduated from the University of Oregon, served in the Army and set up a private practice in Prineville. Then, in 1992, he came home to work at a Tillamook hospital operated by a large corporate medical company. Soon after, corporate called to let him know some patients hadn’t paid, and Rinehart should no longer see them. “I grew up here,” said Rinehart. “Many of the people we were seeing were people I’d gone to school with or their parents or their children. They didn’t have jobs. It’s not ethical to not see them.”   That’s when the idea to become a nonprofit developed.  On January 1, 1996, The Rinehart Clinic became one of the first not-for-profit medical clinics of its kind – and Rinehart’s reputation for pain management grew.  Rinehart also works with people with drug addictions, administering medication that helps fight opiate dependence. Such practices sometimes earned him trouble, but they’ve also earned him praise. (See attached letter …)
Dr. Rinehart’s legacy of treating the patients many won’t treat, establishing a nonprofit rural health clinic, then in 2005 Doc attended a training at Harvard University about community health centers, and came back convinced that the Rinehart Clinic needed that federal designation.  And, a couple years later, the Rinehart Clinic became a Federally Qualified Health Center with 100% approval.  Then there are the medical students, from OHSU and Pacific University that spend three or four months at the Rinehart Clinic, experiencing first-hand the needs of a rural clinic, literally hundreds of students over the last 20 years, many inspired to continue their careers and seeking out opportunities in rural areas that are always underserved by medical professionals.
Just as his grandfather, father and mother before him, Doc has pioneered innovative treatments for patients.  “The suboxone program has been very successful with a 90% success rate,” said Doc.  “That’s what I’m stoked about, it allows people to get their lives back together, to be positive, contributing members to our community.  Each patient is different, and most have other problems, mental health issues, ADD, anxiety.”
Dr. Rinehart’s plans for retirement include some fishing and enjoying the bounty of his community, “I’m not going anywhere,” he stated emphatically.  He is keeping his licenses and certifications and will consider a “semi-retirement”.  “Medicine is changing with a focus on preventative care, which we’ve been working on for years,” he added. “This will make a different to overall health and the focus on behavioral health care.”
Dr. Rinehart’s legacy will continue as the students that have shadowed him through the years embark on their practices, and the Clinic will continue to provide quality comprehensive health care to all in the community.  “I’m proud of the accomplishments and treatments I’ve championed, and overcoming the opposition,” said Doc.  “We work collaboratively and are moving forward every day to provide the best possible treatments for our patients.”
For more information about the Rinehart Clinic’s providers and programs, go to rinehartclinic.org.  Be sure to join Doc for a retirement picnic celebration on August 30th.

Editor’s Note: This is a letter written to Dr. Rinehart … we are not including the author’s name as they are a minor.  The message is clear and defines Dr. Rinehart’s legacy in the community.

To Doctor Rinehart,

My name is ….. I am 13 yr old, and my mother has been seeing you since Jan. 2nd. Before she got into see you, she sat on the edge of her bed for pretty much my whole life. We never went anywhere together, and she was always mad.  I always thought it was because of something I did, but as I got older I realized that it wasn’t. It was because she never had her mom around, and when she passed, it got worse.  Sooner or later, her dad passed away, too.  That just broke her.  I lost my mom at that point.  Now, that she has seen you, I have finally seen my mom.  She has done so much with me.  We have money now because she’s working, and this is the first time she’s worked since I was 8.  This would of never happened if it wasn’t for you.  So I wrote this thank you.  You have changed herlife and mine.  I couldn’t thank you enough, but you are leaving, and I feel like I will lose my mom once again.  I’m scare that she is going to go back to her bad habits.  Please if there is anything you can do, that would be great.  I feel that if she doesn’t keep up what she’s doing, I am going to lose my mom.
Sincerely,
(Please, if you could help her.  You have made her go this far and I don’t what her to stop.)






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