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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Larry Mullins, DHA - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Sunday, September 28, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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If one were to drive to Corvallis, Oregon and take the Pacific Highway North, you will come a small side street called Elks Drive.  After a short distance on Elks, you come to Samaritan Drive and the entrance to what, at first glance, seems to be a lovely college campus.  The many trees obscure the buildings of what is actually the campus of Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis.  Everywhere one looks, there is evidence of new construction and bustling activity.  The main hospital building also serves as the corporate headquarters of Samaritan Health Services and the offices of its dynamic president and Chief Executive Officer Doctor Larry Mullins.  Many of the new buildings and construction have occurred since he took the post of hospital administrator 23 years ago.  This is the story of his career.

Mullins was born to Richard and Lucille Mullins in the town of Lakewood, Ohio.  His early years were spent with his two brothers David and Lee and his sister June in Ohio until his father, for health reasons, moved the family to Phoenix, Arizona.  There, Richard found employment as a maintenance engineer in a local nursing facility while his mother, who had worked as an admitting clerk at a local hospital, found employment in accounting.   Mullins attended Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, graduating in 1968.  He was active in football and track, but was still expected to work.  One of his first jobs was as a dishwasher at the nursing home, and later he worked as a maintenance man as well.

Following service in the U.S. Marines, he married Barbara Hibner, his high school sweetheart.  Mullins says that without her loyalty and staunch support, he never would have been able to endure all the hardships and challenges he faced in the war.

The Vietnam War was going on at the time, and the draft of young men was universal.  Following his brother’s example, Mullins enlisted in the Marines even before he graduated from high school.  Upon graduation, he was immediately sent to the San Diego training center and later to Camp Pendleton for combat training.   By age 19, he was already involved in combat missions including beach landings and helicopter insertions.  By age 20 he was a much-decorated veteran when he was rotated back to the states.  He spent his last six months at El Toro Air Base in California.  During that period, he enrolled in the local community college, beginning a rapid educational ascent to his doctorate in health and management years later.

After discharge, Mullins enrolled in Glendale Community College in Arizona, and while attending Glendale, had a job as an orderly at a local hospital.  His major at the time was history and science with the goal of becoming a teacher, but after working in a hospital, he changed his field to health care. He graduated in 1973 and became a licensed registered nurse, then promptly enrolled at Arizona State University graduating in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in health science.

After obtaining his RN degree, Larry was better able to support himself and his family, first as a floor nurse, and later in the Emergency Department and various supervisory capacities.  This income and the GI Bill enabled him to complete his bachelor of science and enroll in a master’s program at Northern Arizona University.  He obtained his master’s degree in education and psychology in 1979.

Not long after graduation, Larry was able to find a job as an assistant administrator at Valley View General Hospital and skilled nursing facility.  To become an administrator in such a facility, Mullins had to obtain a license from the State of Arizona.  The Baptist Hospital chain purchased Valley View, and soon Mullins was leading various projects for the group, including the development of the first private sector helicopter rescue in the state.  Over the next 20 years, Mullins steadily advanced up the management chain to senior vice president with a host of accomplishments including the construction of new hospital in Glendale.

     In 1992, a close friend advised him that the Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, Oregon was searching for a new administrator.   After several interviews, he was offered the job.  After discussing the move with his wife and family and, he accepted the job and moved his family to Corvallis.     

In 2003, Mullins obtained his doctorate in health administration at the Medical College of South Carolina.  His dissertation was a study of hospital emergency preparedness, and is still utilized as a reference at that school and other colleges.

With the needs of the mid-Willamette Valley foremost, Mullins, and his Board of Directors embarked on an ambitious program of modernization and expansion of services offered.  To fulfill the needs of several hundred cardiac patients that needed surgery, the hospital opened a cardiac surgery unit.  To transport these patients from other areas of the valley in emergencies, a helicopter service was developed.  For patients with kidney challenges, a dialysis unit was created.  To assure sophisticated emergency care for these and other patients, the emergency room was upgraded to a level two facility, and to service the increased needs of the Emergency Department, a neurosurgery department was developed. 

Soon, Samaritan reached out to smaller community hospitals in Lebanon, Lincoln City, Newport and Albany to form a health care system, Samaritan Health Services. Members of this new health system were able to benefit from all the services offered by the centrally located Corvallis hospital.

When Mullins arrived, one urgent task was to recruit more physicians to the area.
Mullins instituted a practice development program, which began with two physicians. Now with more than 400 physicians, PAs and nurse practitioners providing care, the practice development program has proven to be widely successful

Despite this large group, a shortage of physicians and nurses was still prevalent in the health care system.  In conjunction with the community’s local Linn Benton Community College, an existing nursing program was expanded, and programs were formed to offer training for laboratory and X-ray technicians.  Many of these graduates stayed in the area to be employed by Samaritan Health Services, directly benefitting the organization and community.

In 2006, Samaritan Health Services began to accept third and fourth year osteopathic students from the College of Osteopathic Medicine, Pomona COMP for clinical rotations.  Later, residency programs in Family Medicine, General Surgery, Internal Medicine and Psychiatry were instituted.  More residency programs were added, including orthopedic surgery, pediatrics and two cardiology fellows.  A large percentage of these new doctors are remaining to practice in Oregon, and today there are close to 90 osteopathic residents in various programs with Samaritan Health Services.

In 2007, Mullins attended a meeting where he became acquainted with Jeff Heatherington, chairman of Family Care, Inc. In conversation, Mullins mentioned to Heatherington that the health organization had been bequeathed a 50-acre plot right across the street from the hospital in Lebanon, and the Board was considering a medical school for the site.  Heatherington passed the word to the leadership at COMP, and a visit was arranged.

Mullins met Ben Cohen Provost and Philip Pumerantz, president of Western University of Health Science at the Hilton Hotel in Corvallis.  The three drove in Mullins’s pickup to Lebanon to look at the town, the Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, and the site of the proposed osteopathic medical school.  Mullins said that the staff at the hospital in Lebanon and the people of the town were very welcoming and convinced the visiting doctors that this would be a wonderful site.

Mullins relates that the negotiations of the many details of this project took about two years, and during that time, he used his persuasive powers to convince the Samaritan Health Services Board of Directors that this project would be a tremendous addition to the town and well worth the financial investment.  In 2009, construction began, and the first class began their studies in 2011.  

Not long after the medical school opened, the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs agreed to construct a long-term care facility for veterans on the same site.  Other projects are moving along as well, , including a new convention center, hotel, restaurant, and healing garden. Every new structure reflects Mullins’s passion for service to his community.  

Mullin’s daughter Jennifer has two sons, Jackson and Garret, and works in the health care fundraising field in Arizona.  His son Robert  is now in administration at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital overseeing business development of the campus. Mullins now enjoys travel with his wife, Barbara, and the occasional round of golf.

A host of other projects are on the map for the 60 acre site on the Samaritan Health Sciences campus in Lebanon, along with projects across Samaritan’s service region.  The street in front of the new medical school, COMP-Northwest, is named Mullins Avenue, a fitting tribute to this remarkable man.

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