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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Jeff Heatherington, LHD (Hon.) - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Thursday, November 10, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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Over the years, the Oregon Osteopathic Association (OOA) has been fortunate in having a succession of executive directors who, in addition to administering the daily operations of the association, have been effective in representing the profession in the halls of the state legislature.  Despite being in full time practice they, and like-minded DOs, took the time to be in Salem looking out for the interests of the profession.  This has been a demanding and often thankless task that became more complex and time consuming.   In 1978 the OOA Executive Director, Frank Trostel, DO, was instrumental in hiring Jeff Heatherington, a young man uniquely qualified to become the association’s first non-DO executive director.


Jeff was born  in Des Moines, Iowa where his father Scott was attending Osteopathic Medical School.  Following his father’s graduation, the young family spent a year in Flint, Michigan where Scott did his internship.  At the urging of a fellow student Gerry Dierdorf,

the Heatheringtons moved to Medford, Oregon. 


At an early age Jeff recalls his father’s involvement in his practice, the politics of the hospital and in community affairs.    After a time, Dr. Heatherington relocated to Gladstone, Oregon.  The family resided in West Linn, Oregon where Jeff and his brothers attended high school.  Jeff was involved in music including voice and piano and in his senior year he became involved in almost every social activity possible at the school.


Upon graduation in 1961, Jeff was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a DO.  He enrolled at Willamette University in pre-med but soon discovered that his interest in the science topics was marginal at best.  In his sophomore year he changed his major to political science, his lifelong passion.  In addition to his studies he acted as a swim instructor for handicapped children and as a volunteer at the local YMCA.  In his junior year he joined the new chapter of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, and is still actively serving that organization. Other collegiate interests included being a Glee Club Leader and a volunteer in the chaplain’s office.


After graduation in 1965 Jeff served the YMCA as the Program Director in Pasco, Washington. In 1968, he returned to the Portland area as the Director of Admissions at Marylhurst College. During this time, he volunteered as a big brother for Catholic Charities, and eventually adopted one of his charges. Today, he proudly displays in his office photos of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.


In 1970, he was offered and accepted a challenging job as Business Administrator of Westminister Presbyterian Church in Northeast Portland.  To better equip himself to be a business director he took courses in accounting completing a two year curriculum in those topics at Portland State University. After 4 years, he left Westminster to take become the Finance Director of the Republican Party where he participated in money raising and became familiar with many politicians and the art of lobbying.


To relax, he began to take flying lessons and it was as a member to the flying club that he became acquainted with Frank Trostel, DO.  This was about the time that Dr. Trostel realized that his many responsibilities at Executive Director were interfering too much with his practice and personal life.  As luck would have it, Jeff got a bad case of bronchitis, saw Dr. Trostel for it and found that the Association was looking for a new Executive. He interviewed with the Board several days later and was offered the job, which he accepted in January 1978.  He hit the deck running and with all his energy and experience he began to tackle some of the issues that had plagued the DOs in the State of Oregon.


In the 1979 Legislative Session with the support of the OOA Board, Jeff introduced a bill that would require the Oregon Health Science University to become accredited as an Osteopathic training site for DO interns.  Fierce opposition by OHSU and the OMA prevented the Bill from becoming law, but it put DO’s and osteopathic medicine squarely in the public eye and the Legislature’s awareness. In 1981 with the OOA Board’s approval and support, Jeff introduced a bill requiring insurance companies involved in workman’s compensation coverage to accept and reimburse Osteopathic care in the office setting.  This one passed and Oregon became the first State to require payment of OMT along with an office visit.  It was not easy!


In 1987 a malpractice crisis with major implications occurred in Oregon.  Suddenly Osteopathic specialist and primary care physicians could not obtain malpractice insurance.  The OMA was happy to underwrite DO’s as long as they became members of the OMA.  This mandatory membership requirement did not set well with the DO community and so Jeff was instructed to introduce a bill nullifying this requirement.  It was a brawl in the legislature but when the dust had settled the bill eventually passed.  Sadly the intent of the bill was trumped by a federal law that superseded the state law.


The battles never ceased. In 1983, 1985, and 1987 on behalf of the Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of Oregon  (OPSO) Jeff introduced a bill requiring insurance companies to reimburse hospitals that had training programs exactly the same throughout the state. With heavy opposition by both the insurance companies and the hospital association each Session, the bills failed to pass.


In the early 1990s hospitals began to discriminate against osteopathic physicians in new ways.  This time if the doctor was not trained in an AMA approved residency program they could not be given staff appointments.  This sort of discrimination persisted for several years until the 1995 Legislature passed an OPSO sponsored Bill requiring that any health care organization credentialing physicians must give privileges to any qualified applicant accredited by either the AMA or the AOA.  Again, the fight was led by Jeff and dedicated osteopathic physicians.


In 1991, sunset rules went into effect including those that governed the Medical Board.  At Jeff’s suggestion, Senator Bill McCoy attached a rider to an enabling bill changing the status of our alternate member on the Board to full membership.  How this sailed under the scrutiny of the OMA lobbyists and passed is still a bit of a mystery.  Perhaps Jeff will confide someday.


As if Jeff didn’t already have enough irons in the fire he was instrumental in forming “FamilyCare” a nonprofit HMO dedicated to the care of Medicaid patients in the State of Oregon.  Under his leadership and the very able advice of Board Members it became a highly successful enterprise serving over 60,000 clients. From humble beginnings in April 1, 1985 it is very close now to becoming the second largest Medicaid HMO in the State of Oregon!  In the formative years, Jeff took no salary.  Jeff very ably wore two hats Executive Director of OPSO and CEO of Family Care.   Family care has contributed over $3,000,000 to OPSO and other Osteopathic causes!


Jeff states that his greatest achievements have come through: his lobbying efforts on behalf of the profession; development of Family Care, Inc.; raising a fine son and now grandchildren; supporting the YMCA and its programs; and, his work with Delta Tau Delta Fraternity where served as International President.


At the dedication of the new Osteopathic college in Lebanon, Oregon, Jeff spoke for the first time about his involvement in the creation of the school.  He had had a conversation with Larry Mullin, CEO of Samaritan Hospital Group in Lebanon, Oregon.  Larry was so intrigued that he invited the administration of the College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pomona (COMP) to visit Lebanon.  After considerable prodding by Jeff, the Pomona folks came to Lebanon and were so impressed that they decided to locate the school in Lebanon.  Of course, the rest is history in the making!


Although Jeff is no longer executive director of OPSO he and the new executive director David Walls often collaborate.   Upon his retirement, Jeff received an honorary degree from Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Distinguished Service Certificate from the AOA, an honor only given to 15 laymen in the history of the profession.


The Osteopathic Profession was indeed blessed to have this man; a strong advocate who was very instrumental in creating the professional climate that today’s DOs enjoy.   

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