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A Passing of the Torch: NEOAHEC Celebrates Retirement of Long-Time Board Members

When people think of Northeast Oregon, they usually conjure up postcard images of mountain views, rolling farmland, tumbleweeds, and snowy winters, but there is something else the region should be known for: its abundance of some of the state’s most selfless public servants. In our 27-year history, Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center (NEOAHEC) has had the privilege of working with dozens of committed volunteers who set aside their busy schedules to grow Northeast Oregon’s healthcare workforce by serving on our Board of Directors.

Among these individuals are retiring members Barb Hosford, Don Benschoter, Bonnie Dittmann, and Bret Uptmor, who each completed the full length of their terms on the board.

(From Left to Right: Barb Hosford, Don Benschoter, Bonnie Dittmann, and Bret Uptmor receiving retirement plaques at NEOAHEC's September 2018 board meeting)

About These Members:

Barb Hosford: 6 Years of Service

A retired high school health occupations instructor from Hood River, Barb joined our ranks to link current educational experiences and practices with the board. During her six years with NEOAHEC, she helped to seamlessly guide our organization through the transition of two executive directors. She also offered unmatched recruitment skills using her infectious energy and passionate personality. She never failed to hand-deliver NEOAHEC program flyers to regional schools to generate student excitement, track down scholarship funding, or enlist new board members when needed.

“I am very proud to have served 6 years,” said Barb. “The mission work is first class.”

Don Benschoter: 12 Years of Service

Don is a retired dentist from Pendleton, a current member of the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization’s Clinical Advisory Panel, a trustee for St. Anthony Hospital, and by far, the individual with the longest service to NEOAHEC since our inception. He served on our board during two very different and fundamental periods in our development—The 1990s and 2010s. In this time, he assisted with an evolving array of NEOAHEC initiatives, from the establishment of quick response teams in areas of Eastern Oregon without immediate access to ambulances, along with various K-12 projects and other programs.

Throughout his relationship with NEOAHEC, Don has been an eager advocate for rural healthcare, consistently stepping up to forge important partnerships with other organizations or groups when needed. Similarly, he helped to select the Oregon AHEC Program Office director and provided generous MedQuest scholarships to high school students who would not be able to attend camp otherwise.

When describing his innate connection with MedQuest, he said, “It saves students and parents so much money and so much grief by [preventing them from] taking the wrong classes for careers that they are not sure that they want to pursue. It really helps them focus and get on the fast-track for their education with the minimal cost.” NEOAHEC has been incredibly fortunate to work alongside Don to offer this unique camp.

Bonnie Dittmann: 6 Years of Service

Bonnie, a physician assistant at La Grande Family Practice, joined our board in 2012 after relocating from her home state of North Carolina.

Bonnie credited her decision to get involved with the board to her high level of buy-in with our mission. “I am a rural health provider; [therefore] I am NEOAHEC. I wanted to see what I could do to help foster better medical care in rural Northeast Oregon.”

During her six years as a member, she offered invaluable direction to help us meet our goals and routinely provided expert autograph skills as one of the signers on our account. “I didn't have the time to get as involved in NEOAHEC as I would have liked, but I signed checks really well!” Bonnie chuckled. She added that she would love to participate in the board again in the future. “[In the meantime] I will advocate for this board. I believe in NEOAHEC!”

Bret Uptmor: 6 Years of Service

The newly named superintendent for Grant County School District originally joined our board during his tenure in a parallel position in Wallowa.

“I believe in serving on boards to better a community,” said Bret. “I am proud to have served an organization that creates opportunities for people to experience the good life [in rural areas].”

Bret was the NEOAHEC board chair for the 2018 fiscal year, and consistently provided solid leadership and vision to put our mission to life. He pointed to program improvement as his favorite role on the board. “I really liked the evaluation of current programs and their effectiveness, planning on what needs to change, and watching staff move those changes forward. I am now excited to follow NEOAHEC into its next adventure.”

“We've been extremely fortunate in our history to have such amazing board members who advocate and encourage our organization to stay active throughout our region,” said Executive Director Meredith Lair. “Barb, Don, Bonnie, and Bret each brought unique skills and incredible personality to their role and helped NEOAHEC move the needle towards meeting our mission. They will be missed.”

On October 1st, retirees pass their torches to the following new members, who have enthusiastically agreed to advance our mission:

  • Michael Glane-Freysinger: Science and CTE instructor at Hood River Valley High School
  • Lynn Carpenter: Health instructor at The Dalles High School
  • Patty Barfield: Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) at Valley Family Health Care in Ontario and assistant professor for the OHSU School of Nursing in La Grande

NEOAHEC relies on its board members to act as the eyes, ears, and voice for our organization—and for their communities. If you feel a connection to our mission and are interested in serving on the Board of Directors, please reach out to Meredith Lair at for more information.