San Juan County Board of Health celebrates retiring members

Submitted by San Juan County.

San Juan County Board of Health recognizes and thanks Dr. John Geyman and Dr. Dale Heisinger for their years of service on the Board. At the July 20 meeting, County officials, staff, and board members celebrated the doctors for their 21 combined years of service with a goodbye reception, speeches, and a small gift. During their tenure, both Dr. Heisinger and Dr. Geyman focused on access to care – advocating for patient rights, equity of access, and increased research on public health issues. They drafted a patient bill of rights that was adopted by the Board in 2014, oversaw changes to medical clinics around the islands, supported increased access to mobile dental clinics, supported the long-term care feasibility study, and were instrumental in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a real changing of the guard,” said Health and Community Services Director Mark Tompkins. “Each with over 10 years of community service, they’re two stalwarts who have been influential in advancing access to public health and the scope of the health department here in the county.” Dr. Heisinger began his time as a BOH member in January of 2012 and served as chairman of the BOH from 2014-2021. Under his leadership the Board was active in legislative and advocacy work, writing letters to state representatives and senators on the topics of young people’s use of tobacco and vape products, gun violence as a public health issue, single-payer health care systems, and increased support for foundational public health services, among many other issues.

“Dr. Geyman has been somebody I’ve looked up for a long time. He’s a national leader and we’re so lucky to have had him,” said Dr. Frank James, San Juan County’s Health Officer. “He’s an astounding intellect and he’s been a dear friend and mentor to me.”

Dr. Geyman began his time as a BOH member in October of 2011. As a family physician, he practiced in rural communities for 13 years, including in Friday Harbor where he worked at Inter Island Medical Center from 1990-1997. As an islander, Dr. Geyman was instrumental in establishing The Eagles, a group of pilots on San Juan Island who fly cancer patients to and from the mainland for treatment.

“You’ve been constant advocates for children and families and the delivery of medicine,” said councilman Jamie Stephens. “Both of you have kept us on our toes as to how we should be focusing on the bigger health care system in our county and in our state. Thank you.”

The parting gift to the retired doctors and avid readers was a leather bookmark donned with the saying, “Never underestimate the difference you made and the lives you’ve touched.”

Individuals looking to serve their community via the Board of Health are encouraged to apply. The San Juan County Board of Health application forms is available on the Board of Health webpage. The Board of Health generally meets on the third Wednesday of each month. Member terms are four years.