July 28, 2016
Former Orchard Worker, Now An
MD, Connects With Patients
By Sara Schilling
Kennewick, WA (AP) - Saul Valencia’s life would probably be a lot different if he’d missed that call.
It was late summer, and he’d just been laid off from his orchard job.
He stepped through the door at home and the phone rang. It was Washington State University’s admissions office, offering him a slot.
It was a second chance for him - he’d already been turned down once.
He made the most of it, reported the Tri-City Herald (http://bit.ly/29BG8xY).
Valencia earned a degree in microbiology from WSU and went on to medical school at the University of Washington.
He’s been a family physician at Tri-Cities Community Health in Pasco for 3 1/2 years, and he recently took on a new role: medical director.
It seems to be a good fit.
``What he brings to the position is insight as to how our patients are served in our clinics, the nature of our patient population,’’ said Al Cordova, the nonprofit community health center’s CEO.
Dr. Saul Valencia at his office (c)Tri-City Herald
``(He has) the ability to see our clinics from the patients’ point of view.’’
That’s because he’s been there. Tri-Cities Community Health serves a largely low-income population, and many of its patients make a living picking cherries, apples and the like - just like Valencia once did.
``When patients tell me, `I work in the orchard,’ I always say, `I’ve done that.’ I did everything in the orchard that you could do,’’ he said.
``I relate to patients. I know why they’re late. I know why they don’t want to come to appointments. I know why they don’t want to use insulin during the day ... I understand how horrible your check looks if you miss a day of work.’’
The men, women and children who pass through the health center’s doors - ``I understand where they come from,’’ he said.
Valencia, 43, started as medical director in June.
He was born in Michoac·n, Mexico, and moved to the Yakima area with his family at age 7.
He didn’t speak English or have much in the way of formal education. School was a struggle; he had to repeat the first grade.
In high school, he wasn’t the best student. His GPA hovered around 2.6.
He remembers liking biology, but he flunked the class a couple of times because he had to leave school to pick fruit, he said.
College wasn’t on his radar, so after graduation he did what he knew - orchard work. It was the path he’d always figured his life would take.
But then a buddy came home on winter break from WSU and planted a seed in Valencia’s head. Why not apply?
He did, but was declined.
However, ``in (the rejection letter), it said, `If you think we should reconsider your application, send us another letter,’’’ Valencia told the Herald.
He mailed off an earnest note, written in pencil, on a piece of notebook paper.
It took several months, but eventually Valencia was offered a slot.
He studied hard, determined to make a successful go of college. And he thrived.
Valencia flirted with architecture and construction management, but finally settled on microbiology as a major.
He aced the Medical College Admission Test, and earned a spot at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.
Valencia knew he wanted to work at a place like Tri-Cities Community Health. So he did his residency at a similar community health center in Yakima, and then came to work in Pasco.
He’ll still treat patients, even as he takes on the medical director role.
He looks forward to being able to make an impact in the post, he said.
``I think this role will give me that opportunity - to make a difference in the community, to make a difference across the board, for all the patients and not just my patients,’’ he said.
He aims to ``make access better, (improve) quality, help other physicians become more quality-driven, do more quality, evidence-based medicine,’’ he said. ``That’s my role, I think - to help everybody achieve their goals.’’
It’s clear he has a special touch. As he walked through the lobby to an exam room on a recent afternoon, staff members and patients alike were quick to greet him.
Cordova sang his praises.
``To find a physician for medical director who’s outgoing, who can relate to people on all levels, who’s a people person, is a big plus,’’ the CEO said.
Valencia and his wife, Norma, have two children - Saul Jr., 12, and Xiomara, 8. They both talk about growing up to be doctors like their dad.
They’re among many who find inspiration in Valencia’s story.
He says he was lucky. He could have easily fallen off the path to becoming a doctor, but ``my chips fell so perfectly (into place),’’ he said.
While Valencia was a student at WSU, he got a job in the admissions office. An official there mentioned the letter he wrote - the one that won him a slot.
``She said, `You know what? Nobody ever sends a letter. When we got your letter back on a little piece of paper saying you wanted to come in, we were like, Aww. We sat on the letter for a long time, thinking, what if he fails?’’’ Valencia recalled the woman saying.
But, she continued, ```we decided to take a risk.’’’
The school made the call. Valencia picked it up. He got to work.
Restore The Call Seeks To Help Common Loons Thrive
By Patrick Whittle
Windham, ME (AP) - The common loon’s haunting wail that pierced the dusk on Massachusetts lakes disappeared long ago.
Today, the birds number fewer than 50 pairs in the Bay State and conservationists are hoping to rebuild their population, starting with a handful of chicks from Maine and New York.
The Restore the Call program at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland plans to move 10 chicks to an area south of Boston this summer. David Evers, the institute’s executive director, says restoring an animal population starts out small but he is optimistic.
Loons once lived throughout Massachusetts. Hunting and habitat loss contributed to their decline and they were wiped out by 1898, the last eggs plucked near a lake south of Boston. They began returning in the 1970s, but the state still only has 45 breeding pairs.
``All we need to do is establish one pair,’’ Evers said.
Common Loon (c) Audubon Society
``Once that one pair is established and once that pair produces young, and those young come back, and they start to establish territories, then you’ve got some brooding that can start from that little seed.’’
However, common loons can be slow to recover because they don’t breed until they are several years old.
``Loons depend on high quality habitat without certain types of disturbance,’’ said Danielle D’Auria, a wildlife biologist with Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
The bird’s range has shrunk throughout the U.S. It has disappeared in Oregon and southern Michigan and parts of Idaho, Montana and Washington. It is a threatened species in New Hampshire, where last year biologists for the Loon Preservation Committee recorded 234 loon chicks hatched and 26 percent of them did not survive.
In all, researchers count about 14,000 loon pairs in the country.
And while their population remains strong in Canada, where they are a national symbol, the birds face threats of mercury and lead pollution there as they do in the United States.
Maine Audubon, which is helping with the relocation project, says Maine has at least 2,000 pairs of loons and New York has about 1,000. The Institute has undertaken similar projects in Minnesota and plans to add Wyoming to the program next year. A $6.5 million grant from the Ricketts Conservation Foundation funds the loon relocation efforts.
The Institute also relocated seven chicks from New York’s Adirondack area to Massachusetts last year.
Most of the few dozen loons in Massachusetts live near the Quabbin and Wachusetts reservoirs in the central part of the state. The chicks will be relocated to an area near where the last eggs were believed taken before the birds disappeared from the state.
Maine has the largest common loon population in the eastern U.S. and the birds are loved in the state. Bird enthusiasts participate in Maine Audubon’s ``loon count’’ every year.
Susan Gallo, wildlife biologist for Maine Audubon, said the group is working with the birders, some of whom haven’t embraced the idea of Maine loons moving out of state.
``Loons are near and dear to people’s hearts in Maine,’’ she said. ``Anything we can do to get the loons to nest in new places, I think, is a benefit to loons.’’
City Plans To Sell Historic 1930 Madam Queen Steam Engine
By Michael Hughes
Amarillo, TX (AP) - At one time, Madam Queen was large and in charge. But now, she’s up for sale.
Weighing in at nearly a million pounds, the 108-foot historic Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 5000 went from having rust holes the size of basketballs and gathering dust in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Depot yard to being moved to the corner of Southeast Second Avenue and Lincoln Street by a group who loved her, whether they owned her or not, said Sam D. Teague, president and founder of the Santa Fe 5000 Railroad Artifact Preservation Society.
The engine’s legal owner since 1957, the city of Amarillo, now wants to sell her.
The Amarillo Globe-News (http://bit.ly/29TuHVu ) reports the preservation society has a big problem with that, Teague said.
The society invested more than $800,000 in goods and services to move the engine to its museum site in 2008.
Starting in 1930, Madam Queen chugged up and down the Santa Fe railroad lines between New Mexico and Kansas via the Texas Panhandle. The locomotive retired from service in 1953, and was donated to Amarillo four years later. Then she sat and wasted away until volunteers stepped in, he said.
Madam Queen at rest
The engine’s restoration odyssey was documented on an episode of ``Mega Movers’’ on the History Channel. After the move, Teague said, his organization spent tens of thousands of dollars more painting and restoring her during 1,800 volunteer hours. Their goal is to restore the Madam to a functioning locomotive and pull passenger cars around the city.
``Can you imagine how attractive that would be for our city?’’ he said. ``But the way the RFP (request for proposals) is written, there’s no way we can even submit a bid for it.’’
Sonja Gross, spokesperson for the city, said she didn’t know exactly whose idea it was to put the engine up for bid. She said parties had approached the city, so the city decided to make the locomotive available for sale.
``City management was approached by various groups that expressed interest in the locomotive, and because of that interest they, along with the city council, decided it was best to go ahead and issue an RFP to find out what the real interest was out there, in case other groups that hadn’t approached them were interested as well,’’ she said.
Gross did not say exactly when the Amarillo City Council voted to sell the engine.
``That was done earlier this year and there was one bid submitted,’’ she said. ``When it was opened, the job of purchasing was then to go through the criteria set forth in the RFP, and it turns out the criteria were not met. That made that bid a non-responsive bid, so the process was opened up again.’’
Although the preservation society would like to own and operate the engine, he said they didn’t bid previously and will not bid this time either.
``The city is refusing to do what it takes for us to get it,’’ he said. ``The RFP requires that whoever takes ownership of it have $3.5 million general liability insurance and workers compensation. We have no employees. We’re all volunteers. We have all the knowledge and understanding to maintain and restore it, but we will have to ignore the RFP. I doubt there’s anyone who will accept it under those terms.’’
Teague said even if the group were to gain ownership of the Madam Queen, they don’t have the funds to move or restore it right away, and the RFP does not specifically address how long the buyer would have to move it, because the city owns the land where she rests.