History will be made July 1 when Dr. Robert Berecz begins practicing medicine in Wallowa County. He will be the first general surgeon Wallowa Memorial Hospital has had since the new hospital was built in 1950.
The 61-year-old Berecz comes to Enterprise from John Day where he has been practicing medicine for the past 4 1/2 years.
Asked why he is moving to Wallowa County and the likeable gentleman answers the question in two words: Larry Davy.
Davy is the CEO of Wallowa Memorial Hospital and a long time friend from the days they worked together in the trauma unit in the Portland Adventist Hospital.
"I was not looking to move when Larry came and knocked on my door. I feel very comfortable with him. He is a man of integrity," said Berecz.
As a general surgeon Berecz will concentrate on the abdominal area of the body. Patients needing appendectomies, gall bladder surgery, hernia work and the like will no longer be shipped outside of the county for operations. He is also trained to do upper and lower endoscopies, or flex cameras.
Berecz, a Hungarian name that is pronounced as a rhyme of Maurice, will rent office space in the half of the Wallowa Valley Mall recently purchased for that purpose by the Wallowa County Health Care District. Persons interested in scheduling appointments may phone Kathleen Negus at the hospital.
Wallowa Memorial Hospital's first ever general surgeon was raised on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin and is very comfortable with the rural lifestyle. He attended medical school at Loma Linda University in southern California and did his internship at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He served two years in the Navy, one of those years in Vietnam, and returned to complete his surgical residency in Los Angeles.
He began his first private practice in Portland in 1975, moved to Chehalis, Wash., from 1979 until 1986, then returned to Portland before relocating to John Day in 1998.
A man who professes to love biking, hiking, skiing and jogging with his Vizla dog, Berecz and wife Ruthie, a registered nurse by trade, are in the process of raising a granddaughter who will be entering the second grade in the fall.
They have three grown daughters who live in Loma Linda, Walla Walla, Wash., and John Day.
They have not committed to a residence yet, but will probably elect to live in Enterprise because of its proximity to the hospital.
With the exception of Dr. Rene Grandi, the new MD moving to the community, Berecz has met the rural health providers he will be working with and registers no complaints. He relies heavily on the word of Davy who, says Berecz, evaluates the doctors from a nurses' perspective and tells him that he (Davy) has never worked with any better family doctors than those based in Enterprise.
"I enjoy interacting with the patients and the hospital staff," says the new surgeon. "And the opportunity to work with Larry again is a major factor in me being here."