Rodney Orr: Listening, problem solving a lifetime’s work

October 2010 Posted in News, People

By Jay ShenaiRodney Orr speaking at a public debate at Homer Davenport Days in Silverton.

The weather-beaten, wood-carved sign for Family Medical Group in Silverton has been a fixture in the Silverton community for many years.

Generations of residents have come through its shade-covered doors, for checkups, diagnoses and treatments for themselves, their parents, their children.

These days, a new sign has been taped to a wall in the waiting room: “Orr for State Representative.”

For Dr. Rodney Orr, starting his practice was the biggest challenge he’s ever faced. Fresh from his medical residency in Greeley, Colo., he came to Silverton in 1979 to start a new practice – alone. For Orr, Silverton just had a vibe to it, he said.

“I just felt good about it,” he said, “it was the kind of place I wanted to be.”

Having no previous experience, launching the practice was a leap of faith, he said. Years of difficulty ensued, years of struggle with not much money, and not much rest. That eventually took a toll on his first marriage, he said, because those who run a business, especially an on-call medical practice, put in so much more time and effort than the business-hours sign on the door suggests. “In my kind of business, you can’t just lock the doors,” he said.

“We didn’t have an emergency room here that was staffed, when I first came. If somebody came to the emergency room, (and) it was a patient of mine, I had to get out of bed and come see ’em,” he said.

Dr. Rodney E. Orr, 60

Hometown: Born in Portland, raised in Gresham,
moved to Silverton in 1979 to start
Family Medical Group.

Education: medical degree from
Oregon Health Sciences University;
residency in Greeley, Colo.;
bachelor’s from
Western Washington University

Family: Wife, Dr. Shandra Greig,
two children ages 10 and 12;
two grown children from a previous marriage.

Job: Family physician;
owner, Family Medical Group of Silverton,
Family Medical Group of Molalla and
Molalla Urgent Care

Favorite Music: Eclectic tastes, although
“it’s toughter to get into rap music… .”
Music was amazing
in the 1960s and 1970s, he said, “even ABBA.”

Favorite movie: Enchanted April

Favorite Book: The Battle for God
by Karen Armstrong

Being on the verge of bankruptcy, and having to be available at a moment’s notice, was an everyday reality back then.

“But you know something? During the whole time I was doing it, I never felt discouraged, or frustrated,” he said. “I felt energized, I felt tired at times. But I always had confidence that I was going to be able to do it. I didn’t have any question about the fact that I’d be successful at it.”

Today his practice has expanded to eight doctors, a nurse practitioner and two physician assistants and two additional offices, Family Medical Group of Molalla and Molalla Urgent Care. Turning his practice into a success taught him the value of perseverance, he said, and level-headedness in even the toughest of times.

It’s these qualities that he knows would serve him well in the Oregon House of Representatives, as he runs for the District 18 seat currently occupied by Republican Vic Gilliam.

Elizabeth Blount, M.D., a colleague at Family Medical Group, said Orr’s experience running a successful business has given him the insight necessary to be a state representative.

“He’s a great business manager,” she said. When she first met Orr she was struck by his level demeanor, despite his being the only doctor left that day to manage an entire office’s patient load.

“How incredibly relaxed and easygoing he was,” she said. From surgery at 7 a.m. to end of the day 7 p.m., he is always smiling, she said. And listening.

“He’s listened to patients in our community, all kinds of people,” she said, adding Orr knows his patients well, their background, what makes them happy, what stresses them.

“I’ve been listening to people tell me about what’s going on in their lives for 31 years,” Orr said.

Being a doctor, bombarded for 30-plus years with advertising and free samples from the pharmaceutical
industry, has conditioned him to the relentless pressure of special interests, he said.

“I’m used to that, I’m used to people trying to influence my decisions,” he said.

But foremost, being a doctor has taught him to be a problem-solver, he said.

“I mean, basically that’s what I do every 15 minutes every hour of every day,” he said. ‘‘People come with a problem, I learn as much information as I possibly can, get as much data as possible, and I chart a path forward, a course of action.”

“We have to incentivize state agencies to save money,” Orr said, “and untie their hands.” Empowering them to streamline their operations could save the state upwards of 20 percent, he said.

“Is regulation and restriction and all the stuff that we pile on state agencies really necessary?”

One of his patients who works for the state DMV, Orr said, confided there are some things the DMV can do right away to save money, like reduce training budgets and the amount of vehicles and equipment it has. He likens state agencies to an employee who has been laid off – both will have to do without some things for a while. You may have to give up your gym membership, and you may have to give up your cell phone and you may have to give up your cable TV, Orr said.

But that doesn’t mean we have to return to living “in shacks with outdoor plumbing again. That’s not the idea. We want to be efficient and effective.”

And not at the cost of abandoning entire segments of the population, he said. “Do we want to have a society where we disenfranchise so many people that they have to turn to a criminal element just to survive,” he said, “Does that make sense?”

To revitalize the state’s sluggish recovery, one item Orr proposes is making the state deposit its revenues in local banks, as opposed to sending it to East Coast banks. It is bankers that businesses are leery of, not government, he said.

Adding capital to banks will increase their ability to loan money, something small businesses desperately need these days to make payroll and operating expenses, he said.

A lifelong Democrat, Orr said he is not interested in party-line votes or antagonistic debate. “You have to be a voice of moderation within your own party,” he said. “Secondly, you got to be willing to reach out to people from the other side of the aisle, if they’re willing to meet you.”

Partisanship is damaging the Legislature’s ability to get things done, Orr campaign manager Dana Smith said, adding it’s why she joined his campaign. “I found that we agreed on a number of key issues, not the least of which was that partisan politics makes it impossible to have meaningful policy discussions,” she said. “Both sides need to stop pointing fingers and just find their way to middle ground.”

For whoever wins this November, tough decisions are ahead for Oregon Legislators. Despite his lack of political experience, Orr said he is not afraid.

“I’m not afraid of challenges, I’m not afraid of being alone in standing up and saying what I think and what I believe,” he said. “Things that are difficult build character.”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.