How much difference can one physician make? More than you
Dr. Daniel Dahle, MD, lives and practices in a small
Northern California town of just 300 people, but he has a huge reach—serving an
area larger than five states. As the only primary care physician in the region,
he has been keeping the local citizens healthy and safe for over three decades,
sharing his medical expertise and an unflinching commitment to personalized
exceptional record of compassion and service, Dr. Dahle has been named 2019
Country Doctor of the Year.
Presented by Staff Care,
Healthcare company, the Country Doctor of the Year Award recognizes
the spirit, skill, and dedication of America’s rural medical practitioners.
Staff Care has presented the national award since 1992 to exemplary physicians
practicing in communities of 30,000 or less.
“Dr. Dahle is
more than an outstanding primary care physician,” said Jeff Decker, president of
Staff Care, “He is one of the pillars on which his community stands. The
people, the health system, and the economy of his region simply could not do
Returning to his roots
Raised on a
potato farm near the California/Oregon border, Daniel Dahle served as a medical
corpsman in Vietnam before earning a PhD in radiation biology and a medical
degree at the University of Rochester in New York. In 1985, he elected to
return to his home region and began practicing in Bieber, California, a frontier
town of 300 people located in an isolated section of northeastern California,
where he has continued to practice for 33 years.
primary care physician in Bieber, Dr. Dahle is on staff at Big Valley Health
Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that sees all patients,
regardless of ability to pay. He draws patients from a service area that
extends over 7,500 square miles, larger than Rhode Island, Delaware,
Connecticut, Hawaii and New Jersey, and to a large extent has been personally
responsible for maintaining health services in the region.
In addition to
seeing patients at the health center, Dr. Dahle drives 25 miles away to the
town of Fall River Mills almost every day to see inpatients at Mayer’s Memorial
Hospital, where he also covers the emergency department and cares for long-term
patients at the hospital’s nursing home. Over half the hospital’s inpatients
are admitted by Dr. Dahle, and his presence in the community has been vital to
the hospital’s continued viability.
“As a rural
hospital goes, so goes the community,” Decker said. “Few people want to stay in
or move to a place where there are no healthcare facilities. By supporting the
local hospital, Dr. Dahle has done more than keep patients alive – he has kept
the community alive.”
Far-reaching impact, one patient at a time
Dr. Dahle has
delivered over 1,000 babies in his career, often under trying circumstances.
Many of the residents in the local valleys, including much of the student body
at Bieber’s high school (where Dr. Dahle coached track for 25 years), were
delivered by him.
His skills as a
diagnostician are legendary. Once, when a long-term patient and co-worker
presented with pain and mental confusion, Dr. Dahle correctly diagnosed herpes
encephalitis, despite encountering this rare condition only one previous time.
The condition is commonly fatal, but by rushing the patient to a tertiary care
center hours away and insisting on proper treatment, Dr. Dahle is credited with
saving her life.
recounts how he provided her dying husband with a last wish, personally
escorting him on a scuba diving trip to Hawaii, while another relates how Dr.
Dahle revived her newborn when the infant was not breathing. Virtually all of
the town’s residents (including Clint Eastwood, who has a ranch in the area)
have been positively impacted by him in one way or another.
Planning for the future
Now at the age
of 70 and contemplating retirement, Dr. Dahle has made educating future care
givers part of his mission. Each year he provides training to medical residents
from the University of California, Davis as well as students from the physician
assistant program at the University of Iowa. He is well known for sharing his
“zebras” with students, which is medical slang for patients whose maladies are
masked or otherwise difficult to diagnose.
Dr. Dahle is
hoping to pass the torch of his practice on to a husband and wife duo who will
soon be completing their medical training. Though he has seen rural physician practice
evolve during his tenure, he believes the essence remains the same.
“Much has changed
in 30 years,” said Dr. Dahle, “but patients still respond to someone who really
knows them and to someone who really cares.”
As the 2019
Country Doctor of the Year, Dr. Dahle will be able to enjoy two weeks of time
off, as Staff Care will provide a temporary physician to fill in for him at no
charge, a service valued at approximately $10,000. He also will receive the award’s signature
plaque featuring a country doctor making his rounds on a horse and buggy, an
engraved stethoscope, and a monogrammed lab coat.
STAFF CARE is the nation’s leading temporary physician
staffing firm, matching employers and practitioners seeking part-time and
full-time locum tenens opportunities across the U.S.
For more information:
Visit our Country Doctor of the Year Award
page, including information about past winners.
For media inquiries, contact Phil Miller at (469) 524-1420
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