Lake Chelan Community Hospital (LCCH) will become the state’s sixth host hospital and training site for a Family Medicine Residency Rural Program, the hospital Board voted at a special meeting Thursday, June 7. Beginning in August 2020, physician residents from the University of Washington’s (UW) residency program will practice at LCCH in partnership with Columbia Valley Community Health (CVCH). There will be two physicians in Chelan the first year, followed by another two in 2021, for a total of four in the valley.

The residency doctors will spend two years in Chelan and practice primarily at CVCH, spending about a third of their time at LCCH. Each resident will have a panel of patients at CVCH and work in the hospital’s emergency room, medical / surgical unit and Sanctuary addiction recovery unit. They will also deliver babies and spend a small portion of time at Confluence Health in Wenatchee finishing neurology, nephrology, cardiology and dermatology rotations.

“This program is a natural outgrowth of our two agencies’ deep commitment to Chelan and to people who choose not to live in big cities,” said Dr. Malcolm Butler, CVCH Chief Medical Officer. “It is a testimony to cooperation between CVCH and LCCHC that our medical community can win such a coveted training program.”

“What an opportunity for Lake Chelan Hospital,” said Steve Patonai, LCCHC interim CEO. “The community will benefit from this affiliation in many ways. Physician residents will bring new ideas, and it will raise the bar for all caregivers in the hospital, as well as improve patient access. It will also be a valuable recruiting tool.”

Seventy percent of residents stay within 30 miles of where they trained, explained Dr. Keri Bergeson, who will serve as the program’s rural site director. Bergeson, a family physician at CVCH, developed and championed Chelan’s affiliation with UW’s residency rural program. She has practiced in the valley for four years and worked tirelessly on the residency project since 2015

“Our biggest goal is to increase the number of physicians we have working the valley,” said Bergeson.  “We are facing a critical shortage of family care providers and hope this becomes a solution to that problem.”

Chelan’s program will provide residents, new doctors who have graduated from medical school, with the necessary clinical skills and community engagement training to make a difference in the health of their local community, said Bergeson. When they finish their residency, two more will join the program, keeping a continual flow of new physicians in the valley. Other Family Medicine Residency Rural Programs in Washington state include Cle Elum, Chehalis, Colville, Ellensburg and Port Angeles.

“We are thrilled with the hospital Board’s decision to partner with us,” said Bergeson, who explained that a residency program in Chelan is a great fit because of the many diverse services offered here. While developing the program, CVCH engaged three nationally recognized consultants, all of whom agreed Chelan is the perfect spot for such a program.

“Practicing in a town like Chelan is night and day different than practicing in Seattle or Spokane, and the best way to train doctors for this lifestyle and practice style is to train them right here,” said Butler. “Dr. Bergeson is wonderful. She brought a university to town!”

Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board Chair expressed enthusiasm about the project. “With our Board moving forward with the UW and CVCH on this agreement, a brand-new day is dawning. All of us in the Chelan valley will, for many years, see an added dynamic to the future of medicine right here at home. This is truly a historic time for us.”

In other business, the LCCHC Board also voted to approve the CEO executive position overview presented by B.E. Smith

Jordana LaPorte was sworn in as the new Commissioner for the Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) Board at a special meeting Thursday, May 31. “Jordana has a skill set that will be invaluable to the Board, “said Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board Chair. “She will be an excellent addition.”

In other business, Chris Corwin from B.E. Smith, a healthcare recruiting firm consistently ranked as one of the industry’s top firms, discussed the current CEO search process with the Board. Corwin, who spent time before the meeting consulting individually with board members and LCCHC caregivers, said, “We will be looking for qualified applicants who are committed and passionate about both your organization and the community.”

The Board will review, make any changes or additions, and approve criteria suggested by B.E. Smith at its next special meeting June 7. The recruiting firm will perform external vetting and initial screening interviews to narrow down choices.

After this process, the Board will conduct video interviews of the recommended candidates, followed by onsite interviews of the top two or three individuals. The finalists will meet the LCCHC administrative team, caregivers and members of the public at this time.

Criteria for the CEO search include leadership, community involvement and experience with building projects, said Corwin, as well as the detailed list ultimately approved by the Board.

“We will take the time needed to ensure we find the right person for the job,” said Signorelli.

Don’t miss this annual event put on by Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics Emergency Medical Service (EMS). To be held from 11 AM – 2 PM at Chelan Walmart. Free event.

Free bike helmets (first come, first serve). Bike skills stations and obstacle course. Bring your own bike or use one of ours. Free drinks and snacks. Free water bottle for completing all four stations. Free basic bike check-ups. Two new bikes to be raffled.

Don’t miss this year’s annual SafeSitter class June 22 and 23, held in the hospital board room from 9 AM to 3:30 PM daily.

Curriculum for young babysitters provides hands-on practice in lifesaving technique and instruction, including:

  • How a child’s age affects how to care for them
  • How to prevent problem behavior
  • How to run your own baby sitting business
  • Basic first aid, infant and child choking rescue and CPR

    SafeSitter® is a medically-accurate, up-to-date baby sitting course that teaches young teens (11-13 years) life and safety skills. This is a great opportunity to start and grown a babysitting business.

    Taught by EMS from Lake Chelan Community Hospital. Lunch provided both days. $75 tuition. Call 509-393-8681 or email to register.

Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) Board of Commissioners appointed Jordana LaPorte of Chelan to fill the vacancy left by Commissioner Tom Warren at its regular board meeting Tuesday, May 22.  She will serve until the November 2019 election.

“I applied for this position because I believe our valley should have the best possible healthcare facility, and I believe I can contribute to that goal,” said LaPorte, who is the President/CEO of LaPorte Financial Alliance, Inc., a full-service accounting firm in Chelan.

“I want our hospital to be successful,” she said. “To me, that means it can provide efficient, quality and compassionate care, that it is sustainable, and that it is not a burden to the taxpayers… I believe I have the education, business experience and desire to facilitate that success.”

“Jordana LaPorte has a skill set that will be invaluable to the Board, “said Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board Chair. “She will be an excellent addition.”

LaPorte founded LaPorte Financial Alliance, Inc. and purchased a local CPA’s sole proprietorship in 2003, after 17 years in the industry.  She completed her BA in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting at the University of Washington in 1985 and worked for one of the largest local accounting firms in Bellevue, continuing her education at Golden Gate University and receiving a Master’s Degree in Taxation in 1993. Professionally, LaPorte has focused on providing tax and business consulting and compliance to a wide variety of clients in many industries.

She is also a member of Lake Chelan Rotary, the American Institute of CPA’s, the Washington State Society of CPA’s, and Eastern Washington Advisory Board Member for the Washington Policy Center. She served as president of Lake Chelan Rotary in 2015 and 2016, as well as president of the North Central Washington Business Loan Fund. Additional experience includes founding Member and Chairman of the Young CPA’s, a subgroup of the Washington State Society of CPA’s, and Chair of the Membership Committee of the WSCPA.  LaPorte also participated in training through Financial Peace University and is a certified counselor. This program encourages the use of budgeting, financial responsibility, investing for the future and discourages the use of debt.

LaPorte looks forward to her time on the LCCHC Board and will begin orientation shortly. “I don’t pretend to know or understand all that this job will entail,” she said, “but I am confident that I have the skills and desire to get up to speed quickly and be a productive board member.”

“I don’t believe everyone will agree all of the time,” she continued, “and even when we do agree, I think it is still important to play the devil’s advocate, thereby looking at different sides of the issue, something I am particularly good at.”

LaPorte moved to the Chelan area in 1999, having married a farmer local to the valley; they have three children. The family farm includes apples and cherries as well as the occasional pig, steer or produce for fair.

Six individuals submitted letters of interest for the vacant LCCHC Board position. After initial review at a special Board meeting May 15, the Board asked two applicants, LaPorte and Guy Evans, to submit additional information, which they reviewed and discussed during an executive session at the May 22 Board meeting.

“We want to sincerely thank all of the applicants,” said Signorelli. “They were all quality candidates, and we appreciate their interest and support of the hospital.”

Chelan Hospital EMS hosted a Bike Rodeo at the 2018 Earth Day Fair in April. Kids learned all about bike safety, received a free helmet and practiced their safety skills through a small skills course. Ryan Greene from Country Financial donated a girls bike and Max donated a boys bike.

Max is the kids wellness program mascot and funded by Lake Chelan Health and Wellness Foundation.


Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) Board of Commissioners are accepting letters of interest from candidates who would like to fill the board seat vacated by Judge Thomas Warren, who passed away last week.

The LCCHC Board of Commissioners directly oversee hospital operations and will appoint the new commissioner. The appointed member will serve until November 2019, when a new election will be held. Letters of interest should include a candidate’s credentials and experience, as well as reasons why they want to serve as a LCCHC board member.

“Commissioner Tom Warren will be greatly missed by the LCCHC community,” said Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board Chair. “His contributions were constant, and his commitment to LCCHC undeniable. He leaves not only a vacancy in our hearts, but a very challenging job to appoint someone to fill his position.

“We are looking for an individual who is dedicated to quality healthcare in our community and has displayed a continuous commitment to advancing medical services offered by LCCHC. Candidates must also have time to both attend meetings and serve as an advocate for hospital projects.”

Candidates must submit letters to Dee Barnett, Director of LCCHC Human Resources, at PO Box 908, Chelan, WA 98816 or fax to 509-682-3453 no later than Tuesday, May 8. The LCCHC Board of Commissioners will consider all letters of interest.

Founded in 1948, Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) is a fully-accredited 25-bed Critical Access Hospital with supporting clinics in Chelan, Washington.  The health system provides a 24-hour emergency room, surgical center and inpatient services, as well as family medicine and specialist care at Lake Chelan Clinic in downtown Chelan. Rehabilitative therapy and behavioral care clinics are located at the hospital.

It is with deep sadness we mourn the loss of longtime LCCHC Board Commissioner Judge Thomas (Tom) Warren, who passed away earlier this week. Tom served the hospital well as a Commissioner, including time as Board Chair, and was a vital force behind the new hospital building project. He was also a passionate member of the Lake Chelan Health & Wellness Foundation (formally the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Foundation). The LCCHC family extends our sympathy to Tom’s family and friends. He will be very missed.

Mourning the loss of longtime LCCHC caregiver and friend Al Anderson, who passed away last week, and sending condolences to his family, friends and coworkers. Al was a longtime EMT and a big part of the foundation of our valley’s Emergency Medical Services. He also spent several years helping transport patients and community members as part of his work at LCCHC. His kind and caring touch was felt by many in our community and appreciated by all who worked with him. He is very missed.

Originally published on the Lake Chelan Health & Wellness Foundation website.

What does it take to become a surgeon? This is my story.

I was born in the Lake Chelan Community Hospital and grew up enjoying all that Chelan has to offer – swimming, skiing, camping, etc. I loved growing up in Chelan, but by the time I was fifteen I was ready to get out of this small town and see the world.

That summer, I flew with a group of teenagers to a small mountain village in Papua New Guinea. We flew onto a tiny airstrip in the mountains then hiked four hours through the jungle to a remote mountain village where tribesmen were still hunting with bows and arrows. For one month, we built a school and installed systems to catch rain water for drinking.  We learned that the closest medical care was over a four-hour hike away, so serious injury or illness was often life-threatening.  During that trip, I realized for the first time that there were people all over the world that didn’t have access to medical care, and I wanted to help.

So, I decided to become a doctor. I had no idea what I was getting into, which was probably a good thing!  At the age of sixteen, I enthusiastically headed across the country to start college in South Carolina. I gradually discovered that it takes many years of work, countless tests, and lots of money to become a doctor.

But, anything worth doing involves hard work. To help with expenses, I applied for scholarships and got several, including from the Lake Chelan Health & Wellness Foundation, which helped me pay for college and medical school.

After college, medical school was another four years of intense learning. The first two years were mostly classroom learning, followed by two years of clinical rotations and deciding which specialty to pursue. There were more specialties than I had ever imagined.

I enjoyed each rotation, but on my surgery rotation I learned that I loved to operate!  As a medical student, I was thrilled the first time I got to operate…even when it was just to amputate a dead toe. In the end, I decided to become a surgeon because I loved it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Training to be a surgeon is difficult. It takes at least five years of residency working about 80 hours each week, sometimes thirty hours in a row, with only a few days off each month.

But it is fascinating, challenging, and rewarding.  I learned to operate on virtually every part of the body: to remove the appendix for appendicitis, take out colon/lung/breast cancers, remove gallbladders and fix blood vessels and hernias.

After five years of surgical residency in Virginia Mason in Seattle, I took my final exams to become a board-certified general surgeon.

After thirteen years of training, I was finally ready for my first job as a surgeon and I was ready to go back overseas – this time to Niger, West Africa.

In 2012, my husband and I traveled to the country of Niger where we lived on the edge of the Sahara Desert for two years. Niger is a country about twice the size of Texas located in western Africa. Over 80% of its land is covered by the Sahara Desert and the heat is often so intense that the rain vaporizes before it hits the ground.

People often ask, why go to another country when there is plenty of work in America?

It is true that we need more surgeons in America, but there are places in the world where people are dying every day from easily treatable diseases – like appendicitis or hernias – because there aren’t enough surgeons.

That doesn’t happen very often in the United States.  In fact, two thirds of the world’s population have no access to safe surgery. Where I worked, in sub-Saharan Africa, 93% of people cannot obtain basic surgical care.

In Washington state, there are over 19, 000 physicians for 7 million people. In the country of Niger, there are about 400 physicians for the 19 million inhabitants. Of these, only a handful are surgeons. For comparison, there are more doctors in the city of Wenatchee than the whole country of Niger.

Many people think that the majority of health problems in developing countries are from infectious diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. In fact, the majority of money and energy goes into solving those problems. What most people don’t know is that the need for surgery is just as great.

In fact, one third of the deaths in the world in 2010 were from conditions treatable by surgery which is more than from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.

Being a surgeon in Niger was extremely busy. There were always more people to see and take care of than was possible. In two years, I operated on more patients that I had in all five years of my training in Seattle.  To help with the shortage of surgeons, I also trained African surgical residents.

This is a typical patient I would see in clinic. She is an 11-year-old girl who had crampy abdominal pain for two weeks followed by severe pain for a couple of days. She traveled an entire day by taxi to come to our hospital. I had been in Niger long enough to know that she probably had an intestinal perforation caused by typhoid.

Typhoid is an infection that most often comes from drinking contaminated water. It is almost unheard of in the United States but happens frequently in Niger where clean water can be difficult to find.

I was able to take her to the operating room, repair the holes in her intestine, and she went on to recover completely.

Being a surgeon is not boring!  If you have a strong desire to help people, a love for learning, and don’t mind a little hard work, medicine can be an amazing profession.

The last 19 years since I left Chelan to become a surgeon have been an amazing adventure that I wouldn’t trade for the world. But, as they say, there is no place like home and I am happy to be back in Chelan working at the hospital and raising my family in one of the best places in the world to live!