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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Greg Falk, DO - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Monday, December 5, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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As a young boy I remember a trip my family took, heading north out of Ukiah, California. It was night and I remember peering out the window of the car at the eerie scene of wigwam burners lighting up the night sky with their lurid red colors. Each little town we passed through had lumber mills all operating full blast to supply the insatiable demand for lumber created by WWII and the rebuilding that occurred in the 1940s and early 1950s. The mill workers, the loggers, and others all needed medical care and it was in the small towns that the osteopathic profession flourished. This is the story of one such Osteopathic family, the Falks.


Prior to WWII Rollin Mertin Falk, MD a Loma Linda graduate became dissatisfied with his practice with several other MDs in North Hollywood, California and decided to retire to Oregon.  He had read about a cranberry farm for sale in Coos Bay, Oregon and moved his family there. In a short time he realized that he still loved medicine. He found and purchased a hospital in Coquille, Oregon and resumed his practice as a surgeon. In 1944 when his son was old enough, there were concerns that he might be drafted and so they searched for a medical school that would take a student with only 18 months of premed.  He and his son found that the Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine had such a program, and so young Weldin (Greg’s dad) graduated at age 21 with a degree in Osteopathic Medicine.  Following a rotating internship he returned to Coquille to practice but his mother encouraged him to find a new location. They had heard about an opportunity in Glendale but after a conversation with a pharmacist in Canyonville at Gordon’s Rexall Drug, they decided to stay in Canyonville.


In short order young Dr. Falk was very busy, working six days a week and on call. Because of his extreme youth, the people of the town were at first mistrustful of his expertise. Apparently, when he grew a mustache they finally accepted the idea that he was a genuine doctor. He attempted to obtain hospital privileges at the hospital in Roseburg. He was rebuffed and so he started his own hospital in Canyonville named Forest Glen Hospital. Like so many DOs at the time he and his colleagues had a constant struggle to gain the acceptance and respect of the MDs in the area. From the start the hospital was a success providing the people of the town and surrounding area 24-hour emergency services, diagnostic x-ray, obstetric service and medical and surgical services. Soon, DOs from other little towns in the area were using the services of the hospital as well – osteopathic surgeons from Eugene came, osteopathic internists came to offer consultation services, and for many years there were at least 300 deliveries a year at that hospital.  A look at the surgery logs of the time demonstrates the wide scope of services offered at this busy 20 bed facility. Not content with “just” a hospital, Dr. Falk constructed a nursing home near the hospital. Both of these structures stand to this day. The hospital is closed, but the nursing home is still going strong. Dr. Falk, hit the floor running and kept up the frantic pace until his early death at age 58.


Greg Falk, DO was born in Canyonville. He was the third child of a family of five brothers and sisters. Despite having a frantic schedule, his father seemed to find time for his children. Greg explains that growing up in a small town afforded opportunities to be a boy and to be active in a variety of sports including football, basketball and baseball. He made many lifelong friends that still live in Canyonville. After high school, Greg attended college in Walla Walla, Washington where he majored in “pre-DO.”  Interestingly he roomed with two other future DO – Dr. Griese and Dr. Kirsher. Despite his stated “preDO” major, he had a secret desire to teach and become a sports coach. He stated that he really majored in “fun” and by his senior year at Walla Walla his future was somewhat in doubt. Thought there came a moment of truth while he was building his own home in Walla Walla the summer before his senior year. While he was lying on his back, perspiring heavily, with sawdust in his eyes drilling holes for plumbing, he came to the realization that he did not want to make a living doing this kind of work. He contacted the dean of the Kansas City school and made a deal that he would take science courses required and get a four point average as well. He was true to his promise and was accepted into the Kansas City College of Osteopathic medicine. After graduating in 1981, he interned at Des Moines Osteopathic Hospital. After completing his internship, he and his wife Marcia, whom he married in 1976, returned to Oregon. He received his license, and went to work with his father in July of 1983.


On arrival in Canyonville his father informed him that he was not well and said that Greg needed to take over for a time. He saw 17 patients that day – and that was a light schedule!  Sadly, his father died two months later and suddenly, Greg had the responsibility of a 25 bed hospital with 60 employees and a practice where on average he saw 30 to 40 patients a day. He stated, half-jokingly, that for the next ten years he rarely saw the light of day. Fortunately, his father left an excellent hospital staff and a PA who has worked with Greg ever since. 


In 1987, Mercy Hospital purchased his practice and for the next four years he worked for this hospital. The Canyonville hospital remained open and Greg was still in charge. With five children, Greg began to set aside time to coach them in sports and also to dabble in sheep ranching. The family moved to a property outside of Canyonville where for the next five years he attempted to manage his sheep ranch in addition to all of his other responsibilities. He said he discovered the method of making a “small fortune” in sheep ranching – start with a large fortune!  When Mercy Hospital folded, Greg was back on his own and managed the hospital and his practice until 1994 when Douglas Community Hospital, also of Roseburg bought the practice.


In 1997, Dr. Falk decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and teach.  He sold the practice and took a position as coach in several sports, as a PE instructor and as a health instructor. He also delivered a few more babies during this time. By the end of the first year he was ready to return to his true vocation – family doctor in a small town.  He said the patients are a lot more appreciative than his students at the school.


Presently he is back working full time and completely self-employed. Two of his daughters have expressed interest in becoming osteopathic physicians. One, the elder, is an artist but has decided that osteopathic family medicine will be a wonderful career and hopes to attend the new school next year. The other daughter is in a premed program and also hopes to become an osteopathic physician. The Falk family tradition of serving as osteopathic physicians will likely continue for another generation. 


The biggest challenge of his career was when he had to assume the responsibility of the hospital and practice after his father’s untimely demise. His greatest satisfaction has been the care of his patients, following them from the time of their birth to adulthood.  He says that osteopathic medicine is still a wonderful career. He enjoys teaching and feels that his clinic affords some great opportunities for medical students to get an idea of what it is like to practice in a small town.

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