Coos County Friends of Public Health Honors Superstars

2023 Superstars

On Thursday, May 18, The Coos County Friends of Public Health honored 7 Public Health Superstars at Black Market Gourmet in Coos Bay.  Those honored were:

Sam Baugh, Advanced Health

Sam Baugh is a strong supporter and advocate for public health in our community and brings this perspective to his role at Advanced Health as he works with the community members and service providers. Through Advanced Health, which is our Coordinated Care organization he has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving the health of Oregon Health Plan members.

Sam’s work in supporting the Community Advisory Council (CAC) members goes beyond what is expected in his willingness to work with a diverse group of social service and health care representatives as well as Advanced Health members on this council. The work done through the CAC not only supports the members of the Coordinated Care Organization (almost 20% of Coos County population) in receiving health care and other social services, but also provides a forum for discussion about health issues, and allows for discussions about funding community projects and agencies for their work in addressing the needs of low income and other marginalized groups in our area. The Community Advisory Council also supports our county Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan work.

Sam has also been involved in Cooking with the Co-op, bringing his daughter into the kitchen as a helper and he is role model for other parents and kids. He is tireless in his efforts to work with community members and attends many meetings to support positive health outcomes in our community.

Ralph Mohr, Master Swimmers of Coos County

Ralph is affiliated with the local Masters Swimmers of Coos County. He has volunteered his time for many years to promote swimming and other water related physical activities.

Ralph has maintained a massive email list of local swimmers who he keeps informed about the hours and closures of local pools, the temperature of the water at Eel lake, and opportunities to participate in various events such as open water swims. His emails encourage seasoned swimmers and those new to swimming He offers advice on how to improve one’s swim stroke and increase workout time. Ralph encourages people to get out on the water doing other activities like kayaking and paddle boarding.

Ralph volunteers to time swimmers who are competing in Master swim events, and volunteers to row alongside those doing open water swimming. Ralph’s volunteer efforts are things he does on his own out of a desire to help others.

Ralph is a retired teacher and former swim coach at Marshfield high school. One year ago he won a national title in a masters swim competition for the 80-84 age division, swimming 1.95 miles in 60 minutes. Ralph is an inspiration for other seniors and swimmers in this community.

Laura Philips, Coos Health & Wellness Home Visiting Program

Laura has been a public health home visitor at Coos Health & Wellness for over 5 years.  Without a doubt, she is a key player in the success of the Babies First! and Care Coordination home visiting programs.

Laura’s passion for working with children and families is obvious in everything she does and says.  .  Laura keeps families’ needs in mind, advocating for services, so she can help families problem-solve and identify solutions. She pays close attention to services that could be of benefit to families, and she coordinates care with myriad social and health care partners.

By recognizing and acknowledging a family’s strengths, she can build on those strengths to help families transform, grow, and thrive.  A client said of her: “She actually cares and we can see it” and “…of all the help, Laura’s help has meant more to me than help I’ve had from any other provider.”

Laura takes pride in every aspect of her work.  She is a critical thinker and As a critical thinker, she helps identify opportunities for program improvement and community collaboration and is quick to offer support to team members, regardless of the task. She’s dependable, prepared, plans ahead, and makes every effort to exceed expectations.

Laura is endorsed as an Infant Family Specialist with the Oregon Infant Mental Health Association and is a Certified Community Health Worker.

Outside of work, Laura developed and co-facilitated a multi-week Community Health Worker certification curriculum, graduating three cohorts of newly certified Community Health Workers into our County.  That is gift for many organizations and a way to help meet our County’s need for an expanded workforce.

Jeremy Pittz, Bay Area Hospital Emergency Management Coordinator

Jeremy has been the ultimate community liaison for BAH throughout the pandemic.  He organized and worked multiple events to meet the needs of the community.  That includes the drive through Covid-19 testing clinics at the hospital as well as mass vaccination clinics.  He organized community volunteers from local ambulance companies, local fire departments and surrounding hospitals to help meet the needs of the community.

Jeremy has the ability to lead a cross functional and cross organizational team so that the best people can be brought together to work closely and remain focused on the mission of filling the needs of the community.).  He is not intimidated by big projects that may have never been done before.  He faces challenges head on and makes things happen.  He relishes hard work, often putting in long hours at these community events.  He is not only an asset to the hospital but to the entire community.

Debra Richardson, Coos Health & Wellness

Debbie recently led the Coos County Syphilis Task Force in creating a new protocol for Coos County. Debbie assembled partners from Oregon Health Authority, and local providers in our community in developing a more efficient and easily understandable protocol to follow that should lead to earlier detection and assist providers in overcoming barriers to treatment of Syphilis cases in a rural community. Debbie is also hosting seminars and trainings to the local healthcare workforce on the protocol as well as sharing this information with other rural health departments to make a true impact in combating the quick rise of cases in the state and nation.

In addition, Debbie has started/assisted in a small wound care clinic at the Devereux Center to aid the unsheltered population with minor ailments incurred while travelling. Not only is this a caring and needed service, bur the result should help prevent unnecessary visits to urgent care facilities and local emergency rooms.

Debbie has become a true leader in public health in our community and we are so fortunate to have her experience, knowledge and work ethic at Coos Health and Wellness.

Jen Shafer, United Way of Southwestern Oregon

As the Executive Director of the United Way of Coos and Curry Counties, Jen Shafer has shown outstanding leadership and ability to mobilize the community. The United Way of Coos and Curry Counties, has a mission to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person living in our area. Under Jen’s leadership, United Way is working towards diversity, equity and inclusion practices in our community, and is serving as the fiscal sponsor for three organizations with those goals: Southern Oregon Coast Pride, Queers and Allies (Q & A) of Coos County, and the newly formed South Coast Equity Coalition. The United Way is also the sponsor of Social Services Connect, which provides education, presentations and a networking opportunity for social service organizations on the south coast. And the United Way serves as the backbone organization for the Every Child Coos initiative which supports youth in foster care; and brings in donations for the Coos Waffle Project, to provide a free all-you-can-eat brunch of waffles and fried eggs once a week to hungry people.

In addition to being a fiscal sponsor for projects serving the community, United Way also has awarded grants to organizations making a community impact. (CCFoPH was honored to receive a grant award for volunteer efforts in the Covid vaccine clinics.) Non-profit organizations have also been empowered by the free instruction on grant-writing that has been provided through the United Way, and that instruction helped to bring in needed funding for public health programs. It is noted that Jen has also served as a board member of the Zonta Club of the Coos Bay Area and launched the Girls Rock It-Tools and Trade (GRITT) project. Jen’s dedication and willingness to shoulder the responsibility for many projects has made a significant contribution towards the health of our community.

Matt Vorderstrasse, Executive Director, North Bend City/Coos-Curry Housing Authorities

Matt looks beyond the moment to really bring information and focus to housing issues in our community. His vision from his perspective working with the housing authority is making a positive difference in our community. He has been instrumental in working with North Bend and housing developers to create a working plan for low-income housing in North Bend that is critically needed. He hosted an information session to bring this project to community members and neighbors to gain their feedback, questions, and concerns about the proposed housing development. He has worked with Coos Health & Wellness to create collaborative systems that will be integral to improving housing options for those who have mental health issues. His vision to bring a housing project forward, integrate this with critical services, and work with the community to support this innovative and needed housing project is commendable. This is a critical way to support public health by addressing needs and options for improving housing for our community.