Coos Bay Psychiatrist, Dr. James Martin is being honored for his dedication to the health and wellbeing of our community. On Friday, August 11, the Bay Area Hospital Community Foundation presented Martin with the John Whitty Award for Excellence.
The Whitty Award was established nine years ago in honor of Coos Bay attorney John Whitty, who was instrumental in establishing Bay Area Hospital more than 40 years ago. Whitty was the first recipient, followed by longtime local insurance agent Rudy Juul, who campaigned with Whitty to build the hospital.
The Whitty Award recognizes individuals dedicated to improving the quality of life in our region. Past winners include Dr. Oded Shulsinger, Lindi Quinn, and Dr. Steven and Eva Shimotakahara, retired state Sen. Joanne Verger, Dr. Wayne Murray, and Tom and Joan Stamper.
Dr. Martin moved to the Oregon Coast with his wife Georgia and his two sons in 1973, becoming Coos Bay’s only Psychiatrist, but his contributions to mental health started much earlier. A few years after graduating from University of Colorado Medical School, Dr. Martin joined the Air Force. He played an important role, as the only psychiatrist for a specialized correctional program rehabilitating Air Force offenders who had been court-martialed. It was the only program of its kind, and it proved to be successful; About 80 percent of servicemen who entered the program returned to service.
After discharge from the service, Dr. Martin made huge contributions to the mental and physical wellbeing of people in his home state of Idaho. He helped develop an inpatient psychiatric unit and also started a Free Clinic, which to this day continues to serve uninsured and underinsured clients with dental and medical care.
Eventually, a longing for the ocean air brought the Martin’s to Coos Bay. Dr. Martin opened his practice and suddenly he had very few blank spaces on his calendar.
“He was the only Psychiatrist here for so many years, and on-call, and he was gone a lot,” Georgia Martin recalls, but it wasn’t long before she joined her husband at his office, doing biofeedback and counseling. Employees at Dr. Martin’s office say the clinic became a safe space for many people. Over the years, the staff became like a family, and a twenty-plus career at Dr. Martin’s office became the status quo.
“When I started back in 1989, he was working at his private clinic, he was still once a week going over to Coos County mental Health, he was working with the folks at the Nancy Devereux Center, and was part time at the former Pacific Child Center, while also working at the hospital all by himself,” Said Kim Davidson, who worked in Dr. Martin’s office for more than 20 years. “He was the guy and he made it look easy,” she added.
Dr. Martin became a Bay Area Hospital employee in 2008, and his office became the new Outpatient Psychiatric Services Unit. Throughout his decades-long career, Dr. Martin also worked as the Chief of Staff at Bay Area Hospital, served as the president of Southwestern Oregon Medical Society, and was even a delegate to the Oregon Medical Association. He officially resigned from the hospital in January of this year, but even in retirement, he demonstrates true dedication to the health and wellbeing of residents on the South Coast. He maintains hospital privileges and is still on call twice a week and works one weekend each month.
“In some way or another, I felt like I could probably keep going for another 100 years, just doing what I was doing,” Dr. Martin said.
But while working full speed in a career for more than 50 years, Dr. Martin and Georgia built up a lengthy to-do list. They’re ready to start the engine on their “monster truck” and take their fifth wheel trailer on adventures across the United States. They’re looking forward to attending concerts, riding their bicycles, spending time with family, and putting their new golf clubs to good use.
The Bay Area Hospital Community Foundation is a non-profit organization supporting the hospital’s mission to “improve the health of our community every day.” Tax-deductible gifts to the foundation help provide resources for advanced training, state-of-the-art technology, and safe environments designed for healing.
The foundation also awards grants each year to organizations that enhance the community’s well-being. The publicly owned hospital, overseen by an elected board of directors, receives no local tax support.