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Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

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7/12/2002 Fassett honored for her distinguished nursing career

Sharry Fassett GSH ‘71 tackles any project with energy and enthusiasm.

Whether it’s conducting ground- breaking research or securing funding for a rural health clinic to serve her community, Fassett’s spirit and passion help her succeed.

Fassett wears many hats. She is a nurse, a teacher, a mentor, a researcher, a mother and a community leader. Her enthusiasm for her work bubbles to the surface when she describes the many projects she has organized and been involved in throughout her career. For her dedication to the nursing profession, Fassett received the Lloydena Grimes Award for Excellence in Nursing during the Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing Alumni Day in May.

After a career that took her to New York, California, Texas and Portland, Fassett landed in Prineville seven years ago and has become a community activist and leader. Her latest project involves opening a rural health clinic to serve low income populations. She serves as president of the board of the Ochoco Community Clinic, which was awarded a grant in May from the Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Health Resources and Services Administration for $610,992. The clinic will open in early September.

In addition to that role, Fassett is chief nurse anesthetist at Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville. She also serves as multicultural liaison, a position she encouraged the hospital to open to meet the needs of the local Hispanic population. She is a certified spiritual director, providing spiritual support during times of accidents and catastrophic illness.

It was in her role as spiritual director that she first encountered the hurdles immigrants and low income families face in the medical system.

“What I saw was that our medical system was failing people who didn’t speak English, who had no money, who had no insurance,” she said. “I made a commitment that this was never going to happen to somebody else in Prineville again.”

A grant from Oregon Community Foundation funded a community assessment which revealed that the needs were even greater than Fassett had imagined.

“It wasn’t just the Hispanics,” she said. “It was people who were low income, it was Medicare patients that couldn’t pay for their medications, it was people in remote rural areas of Crook County who couldn’t get to see a physician or who had no money. “

Once it opens, the new clinic will provide bilingual staff and serve anyone, on a sliding-scale fee. It will provide primary care as well as mental health and dental care. She attributes the strong support throughout the community for the clinic’s success.

“Nothing that you ever do is just one person,” she said. “Anything that’s successful means that there are a lot of people that own a piece of it. I’m really thrilled with this.”

This is just one more achievement for a woman whose resume is chock full of accomplishments. After graduating from the Good Samaritan School of Nursing, she went on to complete her bachelor of science in nursing, her nurse anesthesia certificate and her master’s in nurse anesthesia.

During a stint at UCLA, while she was working, teaching and completing her master’s, she was also producing cutting-edge research. She completed the first anesthesia staffing study in the nation, which generated national publicity and legislative and congressional testimony. The study ended up as her master’s thesis and her graduate students took different aspects of her original work and generated their own research.

Around the same time, she became part of the lobbying effort that helped pass federal legislation to allow for direct reimbursement by insurance companies to nurse anesthetists. Prior to that, all payments had been made to the doctors, who in turn determined the amount paid to the nurse anesthetists. That legislation set the stage for other nursing professionals to receive direct reimbursement.

It was an exciting and heady time, she recalls. But the earthquake of 1994 changed things abruptly. Her home was severely damaged and she and her daughter decided it was time to return to Central Oregon. Now, instead of being a member of an anesthesia team in a major U.S. medical facility, she is one of two nurse anesthetists, working five days a week and on call every other night. They cover obstetrics, emergency, intensive care and the operating room, averaging 750 cases a year.

She wouldn’t have it any other way. Her motivation is to make things as good as she possibly can.

“You just can’t imagine how painful it is to watch somebody suffer unnecessarily,” she said. “You know things can be better. You tackle the problem one step at a time because if you ever knew how hard it was going to be in the first place – you wouldn’t start. You get one piece done and then you think ‘I can’t let it go. I made that commitment and I fully intend to follow through."