Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer has received the 39th Annual 2022 Rural Health Hero of the Year award from the Oregon Office of Rural Health.
“Dr. Bob, as our community affectionately refers to him, has been a rural health hero in Douglas County for many decades. His love and devotion to health in our community began with his practice as a pediatrician and most recently in his role as Public Health Officer leading our county COVID response,” said Teresa Mutschler, executive director of the Douglas Public Health Network. “Dr. Bob remained steadfast in his commitment to Douglas County as he became a chief strategist and leader in our local pandemic response.”
Criteria for this award include going above and beyond expected job responsibilities, outstanding volunteerism, sustained and successful commitment to a particular issue or issues affecting rural health care, and the long-term impact of the contribution. The award was presented at the Oregon Rural Health Conference in October at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver.
Mutschler and Vanessa Becker led the charge to get this nomination organized and submitted while also requesting nomination support letters from the Douglas County community.
“We received an overwhelming response from not just the medical community, but from local government, businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations,” said Douglas County spokesperson Tamara Howell.
In addition to being the Douglas County Public Health Officer, Dr. Bob is a pediatrician at Aviva Health. He grew up in New York City, earned his bachelor of science in pre-med from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, completed his medical school training at Albany Medical College in New York, his pediatric residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and then served in the United States Navy. He moved to Roseburg in 1989 and has practiced pediatric medicine here ever since.
“Dr. Bob became the face for calm, compassionate and correct COVID information during the pandemic at a time when people were full of uncertainty and panic with the strange new virus,” Howell said. “His efforts provided our community a foundation in which to negotiate the tumultuous waters that the pandemic threw at us individually, in our families and our community organizations. Dr. Bob’s thoughtful, bright and compassionate work has positively impacted thousands of community members and dozens of our community institutions. His unwavering commitment to improving health and reducing the morbidity and mortality of COVID was felt far beyond the borders of Douglas County as he advocated for rural communities at a state and national level.”
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Dannenhoffer helped distribute information, testing and vaccinations.
“It was amazing how much information Dr. Bob had in those early days,” said Brian Prawitz, owner of BP Media Solutions Inc and Roseburg City Council member. “It was like he had been through this before and none of us had.”
Douglas County was the first in the state to bring drive-thru testing and to have a COVID-19 hotline in place and was one of the first in the state to offer drive-thru vaccinations.
“I have been in rural healthcare for 30 years now. This pandemic was no surprise to anyone who is paying attention to public health,” Dannehoffer said. “Douglas County is the perfect size for getting things done.”
Prior to the pandemic, Dannenhoffer had been instrumental in getting drive-thru flu clinics set up in various spots around the county. Those turned out to be great practice for the pandemic.