Chelan doctor Tobe Harberd named 2018 Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner

Dr. Tobe Harberd of Chelan was honored as the 2018 Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner this week at the annual Rural Health Conference in Spokane, WA.

Harberd, who has practiced family medicine at the Lake Chelan Clinic (LCC) for 10 years, is an advocate for rural health and an inspiration to medical students, said John McCarthy, who presented the award March 27. McCarthy, Assistant Dean of Rural Programs at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine, oversees the UW programs that place medical students in rural primary care clinics to learn from established doctors.

Lake Chelan is one the program’s participating clinics, and Harberd plays an active role mentoring medical students. His nomination included a letter from Scott Hippe, one of LCC’s students who ultimately chose to pursue a career in Family Medicine in the northwest, in large part to what he saw Harberd doing for patients in Chelan.

“Dr. Harberd showed me what it is possible to do as a rural physician,” said Hippe, “and I strive to gain the proficiency and scope he attained. Dr. Harberd is committed to educating the next generation of rural physicians. He is a clinical professor in the University of Washington system … he is an excellent teacher, having bestowed on me experience as a medical student that has helped tremendously so far in my residency training.

“But his commitment to the doctors of tomorrow extends beyond formal training; when my basement apartment flooded, he and his family welcomed me into their home to finish out my time in Chelan. This openness to showing students not only what it is like to work in a rural setting, but also to make a life there, makes all the difference.

The memorial award Harberd received is in honor of John Anderson, MD of Cle Elum. Like Dr. Anderson, who stabilized his medical community with a commitment to excellent care for his patients, said McCarthy, Dr. Harberd is the kind of physician who supports the future of health care in his community. “He manifests with the joy of the profession,” he said, “and his ability to mentor others will lead to stabilize medical infrastructure and more rural physicians.”

Harberd, who cares for nearly 2,000 patients in Chelan, says he was both surprised and honored to receive the award. Becoming a family physician in a rural area was his ultimate plan as a medical student, he said. He especially likes the autonomy and diversity of working as a rural family doctor. I like taking care of patients of all ages, he said, all the way from OB to pediatrics to geriatrics. “Chelan is a great community. It allows me to practice medicine the way I want, and it is also a wonderful place for my family.”