Rick Wopat, MD, hung up his stethoscope at the end of 2018 after 40 years as a family practice physician. Samaritan will celebrate his service and achievements at a retirement celebration on Thursday, March 7 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital.
“I’ve deeply enjoyed the relationships I’ve built with so many families,” Wopat said. “To see the kids I delivered have kids of their own, and taking care of three or four generations of families has been so fulfilling.”
Wopat began his career in 1979. In the beginning, he did everything from delivering babies to placing casts and performing minor surgeries.
But medicine has been only part of Wopat’s work with Samaritan. He was involved in the integration between Lebanon-area physicians and the hospital in the 1990s, and then the Lebanon–Good Samaritan integration that was the beginning of Samaritan Health Services in 1997. He has served as a preceptor to more than 200 medical students throughout his career and held leadership positions within the organization.
“I love working with young people; it keeps me sharp and helps me stay up to date,” Wopat said.
He was involved in the development of the first patient-centered primary care medical home in the system, with that model now employed throughout Samaritan. In addition, he was involved in the formation of the Oregon Health Plan in the 1990s.
Originally from rural Wisconsin, Wopat earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He completed residency training at Oregon Health & Science University and decided he wanted to practice in a semi-rural setting. After considering locations in the Columbia River Gorge and elsewhere in the Willamette Valley, he came to Lebanon.
“We had a good hospital with young doctors,” he said. “We had full-time emergency department physicians, which was a huge benefit.”
For most of his career, Wopat and his family also raised sheep and goats outside town. “I stopped about 10 years ago because I wanted to start taking vacations,” he laughed.
In retirement, Wopat will continue to teach and mentor the next generation of clinicians, in an advisory capacity with Samaritan.