There will be a hole in the loÂŹcal medical community after the Healing Arts Center Medical Clinic shutters its doors this Friday, ending over a decade of family practice under the guidÂŹance of Dr. Lon Hatfield and his daughter and colleague, Dr. Jenna Collins.
âI have been very blessed to work here, live here, and raise my family here,â says Dr. HatÂŹfield, who retired recently at the age of 72. âItâs been wonderful, and we have been blessed.â
Dr. Hatfield and his wife of over 50 years, Meredith, will follow Dr. Collins and her family as they make their new home in Corvallis, OR. this fall. Dr. Collins will be joining a family practice with a focus on alloÂŹpathic medicine.
âThe patients are why we have existed for so long,â says Dr. Collins, who graduated from Colville High School in 1989. âItâs not for a business; you donât go into this field for that. Itâs the people.â
Originally from the Midwest, Dr. Hatfield taught Biochemistry at the University of Iowa, and ran a research lab in the DeÂŹpartment of Psychiatry while in medical school. Dr. Collins was born while he attended the UniÂŹversity of Idaho, followed by his daughter, Sarah, when he completed his residency in Cedar Rapids. The young family moved to Stevens County in 1979, where Dr. Hatfield co-founded the nationally recognized rural Northeast Washington Medical Group, which now has 25 phyÂŹsicians.
Creating something different
In 1998, he opened a multidisciplinary state-of-the-art alternative medicine center on Garden Homes Road called The Healing Arts Center, in which allopathic medicine was blended with both ancient and current alternative therapies that included a holistic approach to medical care.
In 2001, Dr. Collins joined the center after completing her resiÂŹdency in Portland, graduating from Washington University in Saint Louis before going on to medical school in Des Moines, Iowa.
âI had just finished my residency and was trying to decide where I wanted to go from there when dad called me and said, âWe could use you up here,ââ recalls Dr. Collins. âI thought it would be a good idea while I figÂŹured out what I wanted to do next. Thirteen years later, I was still here, and it has been great.â
The Garden Homes location closed in 2004 when the NorthÂŹeast Medical Group purchased the location, and Dr. Hatfield and Dr. Collins opened their own smaller practice on Elm Street in Colville. Their patient roster has steadily grown to some 3,000 patients.
Both physicians describe their relationship as one of mutual respect and admiration. Dr. Collins remembers always being impressed by her fatherâs dediÂŹcation and curiosity to medicine, announcing to her mother at 18-months of age that she wanted to be a man when she grew up so she could become a doctor.
âDad was in his residency then, and the medical field was a male dominated one,â explains Dr. Collins. âI thought that this is what I needed to be in order to become a doctor, so when mom asked, âWouldnât you like to be a lady like me?â My answer was no, I wanted to be a man so I could go into medicine.â
She credits her time away from home after high school to strengthening the bond between her and her parents, as does Dr. Hatfield.
âWe always got along great, but it was important to cut the apron strings and let her evolve into her own person and figure out what that meant,â says Dr. Hatfield. âItâs been great to work with my daughter; she brings a lot to the table that I was never trained in.â
A playful sheen comes over his eyes and he smiles good-naturedly, glancing over his shoulder at Dr. Collins, who momentarily left the interview to handle a package delivery at the clinicâs entrance.
âSheâs very disrespectful,â he says in faux conspiracy. âShe calls me M.D.: Manipulative DeÂŹficiency. Itâs not fair at all.â
The affection is evident, as is the vision and inquisitiveness the two have brought to their profession.
Not content to remain conÂŹfined to the regulatory, linear thought process of western medicine, Dr. Hatfield was one of the first physicians in the area to look at aspects like life-style and nutrition when treatÂŹing patients, and to see the inÂŹdividual as a whole, not just a series of symptoms. Itâs no wonÂŹder than that Dr. Collins takes that approach as well.
âI was raised with that viewpoint growing up,â Dr. Collins says. âDadâs always had that apÂŹproach to looking at the bigger picture, as opposed to just a cut-it-up, throw drugs at it mentalÂŹity.â
Having attended medical school at a time when teaching revolved mainly around diagÂŹnosing and proper application of pharmaceuticals to treat illness, Dr. Hatfield has never let conÂŹventional western medicine constrain his methods, even while he acÂŹknowledges its benefits.
Not just treating symptoms
âWestern medicine is exÂŹtremely good at treating on an emergency room basis, but as far as taking care of chronic problems and helping people reÂŹgain their health, thatâs someÂŹthing that has to be learned outside the box, which is my tradition,â Dr. Hatfield states. âWestern medicine in the United States has a history of disreÂŹgarding or putting down any tradition that we donât own or control. In doing that, we have further isolated ourselves to beÂŹcoming technologists rather than medical practitioners.â
An example of that would be when Dr. Hatfield moved to Colville. At the time, numerous studies on folic acid and its health effects on Neural tube defects in infants were coming out of England, encouraging exÂŹpectant mothers to consume more of the nutrient. Most of the pediatric community in the United States snubbed the studies, claiming vitamins were not important during pregnancy.
âBecause the research hadnât been done yet in the U.S.,â says Dr. Hatfield. âNow, we know it to be true, but at the time, it was fighting against an orthodoxy that was founded on fragile information.â
Dr. Collins adds that she thinks the western approach to medicine is slowly starting to change into a worldlier viewpoint. As a medical student, she recalls only receiving two weeks training in nutrition, but now renowned medical schools like Harvard and the University of Iowa are reshaping their curriculums to offer doctors a broader view on treating patients, not just their symptoms.
âIt takes about 25 years for something to become main stream in the medical field,â says Dr. Collins. âIt just comes down to helping people, to lisÂŹtening to them and helping them with the resources they need to live healthy lives. They (patients) want to be seen as a person. Thatâs why we, as docÂŹtors, are here.â
After its closure, the Healing Arts Center will beleased to Providence Health Care, the same corporation that purchased Mount Carmel Hospital and Northeast Washington Medical Group. The clinic will assist with patient overflow from NEW Medical Group.
Patients of Dr. Hatfield and Dr. Collins wishing to have their medical records forwarded to their new physician should contact the Northeast Washington Medical Group. Records will remain private, unless perÂŹmission is given by the patient to release them.