It’s clearer now than ever how critical health care is to our local communities. That’s why it’s vital we create local educational and training opportunities here in Douglas County to provide a reliable pipeline of providers. The Southern Oregon Medical Workforce Center is a big piece of the puzzle for our rural communities.

Already this year the newly formed Umpqua Valley Development Corp. has begun work on the next phases of the project, which include site selection and program development. UVDC brings together cross-sector collaboration through a more focused and formalized process, involving many of the key players who have been behind the project from early on: Mercy, Roseburg VA, UCC, and City of Roseburg, plus our lead academic partner George Fox University. As we move forward, we’ll collaborate with a growing number of community and statewide partners.

Given the priority to locate the SOMWC in Roseburg, which offers a central location in Southern Oregon easily accessible from I-5 and close to the VA’s largest regional medical center, efforts are being made to narrow down the list of prospective sites. We’ve gone from an initial list of over 30 potential locations down to five.

UVDC is currently conducting due diligence on the final site list, comparing utility and telecommunication connectivity, transportation accessibility, and evaluating potential land use issues. Site evaluation will also account for square footage requirements once the full range of degree programs and building needs — which are expected to be phased in over time — are determined.

Health care providers — hospitals, clinics, and VA medical centers throughout Southern and rural Oregon — face acute labor shortages in a wide range of allied and mental health disciplines. It’s been a challenge to determine priority degree programs for the SOMWC since so many different types of health professions are in high demand. George Fox offers extensive expertise in these programs and has been a significant asset in our program selection efforts.

UVDC and George Fox are working now to prioritize degree programs that include an updated analysis of workforce and training needs, as well as coordination with UCC and other regional educators. Another area of consideration is identifying specific program needs, such as operational startup requirements and student clinical placement prospects, to determine feasibility.

Other academic institutions may be brought on to run high-demand health programs at the SOMWC outside of George Fox’s expertise. These programs could add significantly to building space needs and would need to be factored early on. There is also consideration being given to creating state-of-the-art simulation labs to enhance clinical placement learning. Such labs could serve to provide on-demand and multi-disciplinary training for our local healthcare professionals.

George Fox is already taking steps to roll out medical training that will help jumpstart programs at the SOMWC. The university will launch a physician assistant program in Newberg in 2021 that will be the precursor to a Roseburg-based PA program. George Fox has secured multiple PA student clerkships among local health care providers, starting in 2022, in primary care, emergency medicine, general surgery, internal medicine, OB/GYN care, and behavioral health. George Fox is aiming to secure additional clerkships, particularly in pediatrics, that will give 4 to 6 students each year added exposure to our community so they might stay and take local jobs.

Oregon Solutions, which is charged by the State Legislature to evaluate project readiness in advance of the state bonding early next year, will be releasing an initial report of its preliminary findings and recommendations. We’ll be developing a detailed roadmap to guide our planning and decision-making efforts with the aim of finalizing a business plan prior to the bonding of state funds.

It’s exciting to see continued progress toward making the Southern Oregon Medical Workforce Center a reality. Bringing everything together is a complicated task that involves many moving parts. Visit for more detailed information about the project and to get involved.

Richard Heard is the board president for Umpqua Valley Development Corp.

React to this story:


(1) comment


This is amazing to hear. Imagine all the jobs that will bring.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.