A relatively formal social gathering with quality Wallowa County-type food, prompt service, silent and oral auctions, and hours of socializing payed big dividends for the Wallowa Valley Healthcare Foundation Saturday night when about $68,000 was raised to promote local health.

Held in Enterprise’s Cloverleaf Hall, the 19th Annual Healthy Futures Dinner Auction attracted a sellout crowd of 216 patrons. Some wore jackets and ties, some stylish dresses, some blue jeans and button shirts, and others slacks and blouses.

Topping the list of purchases to be made using money raised that evening will be a telemedicine robot, like the one borrowed from the Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande and employed to demonstrate its capabilities before the Healthy Futures audience. Doug Romer, executive director of Patient Care Services at Grande Ronde Hospital, explained uses of the robot after instructing the metal machine to “walk” from the edge of the cavernous hall to where Romer stood, microphone in hand, by the front stage.

As one example of the robot’s functionality, Romer stated that patients from Hermiston and Pendleton now were driving to La Grande to access their robot to have face-to-face consultations with their physicians located in Portland in lieu of the longer drive to that big city.

In essence, Wallowa Memorial’s new robot, once it arrives no later than April, will become a huge resource for surgeons and other health specialists here. With a head like a television screen, the advance of modern medicine will allow specialists from afar to watch and offer spoken advice to aid procedures underway at that very moment in Enterprise.

Jenni Word, Chief Nursing Officer at Wallowa Memorial Hospital, says, “We envision specialists at other locations to be at the bedside. And they can participate by using their laptop.”

The emcee for the evening was Matt Kurtz, and the auctioneer, from Boise, Jake Musser.

Early in the evening, following the silent auction and while salads and coffee were being served, hospital CEO Larry Davy thanked the throng for coming and spoke briefly.

The theme of his message hinged around wellness and what he described as the “personal touch” so prevalent and valued in this rural medical community. In closing, Davy said, “Thanks for making sure our finest hour is still in the future.”

Then followed the prime rib, chicken, and vegan main entrees.

Introduced as new Healthcare Foundation board members were Eric Johnson and Becky Knapp. They will replace Denni Dawson and Bob Keyser.

Of the 21 items sold at the oral auction, those receiving the highest bids at $2,000 each were an eight-person champagne brunch to be served at the home of Gail Swart and a five-night stay at a luxury vacation home at Sunriver, near Bend, donated by Dr. and Mrs. Gary Underhill.

The meal was served by the Enterprise High School chapter of FCCLA.

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