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Lincoln City Physician Named 2021 Rural Health Hero

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For almost five decades, Erling Oksenholt, DO, has practiced medicine in Lincoln City. His dedication to sharing medical knowledge and helping others have been recognized once again, with the recent announcement that the Oregon Office of Rural Health has named him as the 2021 Oregon Rural Health Hero.

View the video announcement created by the Office of Rural Health here.

Another recent honor came in September 2019 when the Oregon Health Authority named Dr. Oksenholt as Oregon’s EMS Medical Director of the Year for his service training paramedics and developing new protocols, especially for ocean rescues and treating hypothermia.

In a Samaritan Health Services’ Clinician News story from last year, Dr. Oksenholt talked about growing up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with his parents who worked for the government there. That is when he discovered the power of medicine to change lives.

“I went to school with missionary kids whose parents were doctors, so from a young age I would observe and assist at medical clinics for the poor. I knew at age 6 that I would be a doctor,” said Dr. Oksenholt. “When you see a lot of suffering like we did there, you want to be helpful, to make life better for people.”

In 1973, he built his private family medicine practice in Lincoln City and has been there ever since. Later, he began working for Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital when the local health district purchased his facility, now called Samaritan Lincoln City Medical Center.

Through the years, he served as medical director for the SNLH Emergency Department and the EMS system in Lincoln County, as well as medical director/partner in three coastal medical clinics. In Ethiopia, a program he started has grown into a teaching hospital, multiple clinics, an orphanage and high school.

He enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience with others. For 30 years he has led mission trips to Africa, South America and Asia, taking hundreds of medical students and other clinicians with him to some of the world’s poorest locations.

“I feel it’s important for students to get this kind of cultural experience. It’s training they couldn’t get anywhere else – we’ve worked in some really desolate places and they see medical problems they’d never see in the U.S.,” he said.