(Above, Dr. Juan Tamariz of the St. Charles Pulmonary Clinic. Dr. Tamariz is one of three new permanent physicians at the clinic.)
A couple times each year, Ken Kloster gets up early, hops into his truck and begins the long journey to Central Oregon from his home west of Lakeview.
His destination? The Pulmonary Clinic at St. Charles Bend. At 82 years old, Kloster experiences shortness of breath and he was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea, so his oxygen levels drop at night. Plus, after a 46-year career as a pipefitter, he’s worried that exposure to asbestos will give him mesothelioma.
“I’ve had a couple friends die of that and it’s a horrible way to go,” he said. “So, I don’t mind coming here to keep an eye on things. This is the closest place to my home to do it, and they’ve always treated me well.”
Kloster isn’t the only one happy that St. Charles Pulmonary Clinic exists. After a tumultuous year of uncertainty and a near closure, the clinic has bounced all the way back to providing a full level of service.
“People had to trust us, because we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. It’s been a roller coaster,” said Jacob Espinoza, interim director of ambulatory specialties for St. Charles Medical Group. “Now we’re rolling at full speed and we’re ready to go.”
One of Espinoza’s primary jobs over the past several months has been to recruit new, permanent providers. Ultimately, the clinic will be staffed with four doctors and one nurse practitioner. Today, three new doctors are in Bend and seeing patients, with the fourth (and the nurse practitioner) set to join them next spring.
The three new physicians are:
- Dr. Gregory Blair, who joined the group in April and brings with him more than 30 years of pulmonary, sleep and critical care medicine experience.
- Dr. Ryan Nelson, who joined the group at the beginning of August after completing his fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine. Dr. Nelson will split time between working in the Pulmonary department and working in the Intensive Care Unit.
- Dr. Juan Tamariz, who joined the group at the end of August. His interests are thoracic oncology, COPD and pleural diseases, and he is excited to be part of a strong medical community in a town with amazing outdoor opportunities.
With the new providers on board, the clinic has reinstituted spirometry testing in the office, as well as cardio-pulmonary exercise tests and outreach to Redmond each week. The clinic also houses St. Charles Bend’s COPD coordinator and will start a smoking cessation program by the end of the year. (A full list of services and procedures offered can be found at the bottom of this article.)
Dr. Blair called the rebirth of the clinic “exciting” and said he and his fellow providers can offer the same pulmonary services available at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, where he practiced for 30 years. He retired at the end of 2018, but was starting to feel restless when St. Charles called and offered him a job in Bend.
So far, his favorite thing about his new job is the diversity of ailments that show up in the clinic, which he attributes to St. Charles’ enormous service area that includes much of Eastern Oregon.
“I see people from Fossil to Burns, and they’re all just amazingly happy for anything you can do for them,” Blair said. “It just feels good to know that we’re at the point where we can offer the kinds of services that will save people a lot of time and trouble, while at the same time remaining a small, cohesive group that’s focused on taking care of patients.”
For administrative staffers who’ve been with the clinic for the past year or more, the opportunity to get off the roller coaster and get back to focusing on patients is very welcome, said Miriam Bueno, supervisor of clinical operations.
“I am super excited that we have a great team that goes above and beyond to provide excellent patient care,” she said. “Everyone works hard on a daily basis to make sure the clinic is running smoothly, and we’re so glad to be here serving our community like we have for so many years.”
St. Charles Pulmonary Clinic treats the following lung conditions and diseases:
● Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
● Emphysema and chronic bronchitis
● Pulmonary fibrosis
● Pulmonary hypertension
● Occupational lung diseases
● Adult cystic fibrosis
● Other infectious lung diseases
The clinic offers the following services and procedures:
● Inpatient pulmonary consultations
● Pulmonary function testing
● Pulmonary stress testing
● Pulmonary rehab
● Diagnostic bronchoscopy
● EBUS bronchoscopy
● Asthma medication, treatment planning and education
● Smoking cessation consultations
● Alpha-1 treatment