When Dr. Liz Powers, Wallowa County's newest physician, was growing up in the upper peninsula of Michigan she had the perfect role model - her father.
"He was the small town doc," she said, remembering times when he'd ski cross-country in a blizzard to get to the hospital. "I wanted to be just like him."
Powers, 30, started a full-time practice with Winding Waters Clinic about a month ago, but said she was already familiar with the clinic in Wallowa County after spending a 10-month rural residency rotation here in the spring of 2005.
"I love it here," she said. "I grew up in a small town and love being outdoors. I always knew that I'd be in a small town." She added, "The thing I love about Enterprise, Joseph and Wallowa is the people. I really like my partners and the community, and it's beautiful here."
The medical practitioners working with Powers at Winding Waters include Dr. Scott Siebe, Dr. Rene Grandi and nurse practitioners Kathy Siebe and Terry Russell. Dr. Rusty Woods also works there sometimes, as does Dr. Lowell Euhus, who was Powers' mentor in the residency program. Euhus retired last year but still keeps a hand in the practice. "We can't quite let him go," she said of Euhus, with whom she shares an office.
Powers attended Vassar College in New York State, studying biology and Hispanic studies and spending a year in Spain, where she concentrated mostly on playing rugby.
"I don't play anymore. I got too many concussions," she said, joking that she couldn't afford any more head injuries "because you need to be smart to be a doctor."
She graduated from medical school at Stanford University in California in 2003, and then started a residency in her specialty - family medicine - at OHSU in Portland.
"I like taking care of families and communities, rather than one organ in the body or one age group," she said.
After completing the residency program in the spring, Powers said that she and her husband, Nic, an electrical engineer, took off on a road trip looking for the perfect small town in which to settle. They traveled in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
The couple had met at a square dance at Vassar while she was a senior at Vassar and he was attending Rensaleer Polytechnic Institute and had already decided they wanted to stay in the West because they'd fallen in love with the mountains.
However, Powers admitted that she was probably already prejudiced because of her rural residency experience in Wallowa County - no place else quite measured up during their road trip.
She said that the fact the county is building a new hospital may have had some influence on her decision to accept the invitation to practice here.
"I think it's hard to practice excellent medicine if the facilities are behind times, and it's important to me to practice excellent medicine," she said. She feels that the medical community here is really "forward thinking."
"It's been really exciting to me to be working with people that would build a new hospital," she added.
This week Powers is joining with a group of doctors from around the nation who belong to the American Academy of Family Physicians who are converging on Washington, D.C., to rally "to improve the health care of all Americans," an issue very important to her.
Powers said that she has enjoyed seeing a number of the patients she saw as resident here, as well as many new ones. A couple of weeks ago, she delivered her first baby since returning as a full-time doctor here. It was a happy milestone.
Nic Powers will be traveling one week out of every month on his job as an engineer, while working the rest of the time via Internet.
The couple enjoys backpacking, mountain biking, skiing and other outdoors activities. Powers said she loved horses as she was growing up and looks forward to having one here in the future as they settle into their new home.