In the fall of 1977, a couple of 30-year-old doctors in a new town with a small staff that included a nurse, radiology/lab technician and a receptionist, opened a health-care clinic in a just-constructed building on Applegate Street.
Those two doctors — David Cutsforth and David Grube — had a good feeling about Philomath to not only establish a quality medical practice, but to settle down with their families in a caring community .
Cutsforth and Grube retired in 2012 in Philomath and they both still live here — in fact, they’re neighbors. Last week on Oct. 24, they celebrated the 45th anniversary of Philomath Family Medicine’s opening.
Working and living in the small community, Cutsforth and Grube most enjoyed getting to know the folks that they served.
“One of our very first patients — a guy we saw the very first day and knew him forever — he came in on our very, very last day that we were open before we retired,” Grube said.
The pair can name a lot of people that they got to know over the years — many of them that could be called pioneers of the community. Flossie Overman used to walk past the park on Saturdays, Cutsforth recalled. Grube mentioned Wonderly Road and Decker Road — “those were patients.” Dean Tatom, Betty Starker and several others visited the office as well. They even made house calls to Rex and Ethel Clemens.
Said Grube, “We had a wonderful, wonderful clientele.”
Cutsforth, Grube and Philomath Family Medicine’s current staff gathered for a small, quiet celebration with refreshments, including a cake decorated to mark the occasion. The event was set up to occur exactly 45 years after the opening — down to the day.
“For me, it was just all of the people,” Grube continued about what he loved most about working all of those years in Philomath. “Just when you go to work, you have no idea what you’re going to hear and when you walk into a room, everything is a surprise.”
Philomath Family Medicine opened its doors on Oct. 24, 1977 with Grube and Cutsforth sent to the community through the National Health Service Corps, a subsidiary of the U.S. Public Health Service. A nonprofit group called Philomath Rural Family Health Care had organized to bring medical services to town while establishing a clinic.
Grube and Cutsforth worked together throughout their careers. They met back in medical school in Portland and after earning degrees and became involved with the Corps, a program established in 1970 that within two years began placing physicians, dentists and nurses in communities in need of those services. In 1974, the pair ended up working together through the program in Grand Coulee, Washington.
“If you show that you’re in a critical health manpower shortage area, you can apply to have federal doctors come, so we were Lt. Commander Cutsforth and Grube when we were first stationed here in the Public Health Service,” Cutsforth said.
The pair eventually resigned their commissions and bought the practice from the nonprofit.
“The idea is that if it works out, then the doctors would quit the Public Health Service and go buy everything from the community and that’s exactly what we did,” Grube said.
Grube and Cutsforth both had strong connections to Oregon and so the Philomath opportunity seemed perfect.
“On the first day, we saw six people between us,” Grube said. “I mean, this was a novel thing, you know, we were the first doctors in town for almost 20 years or so.”
Based on past newspaper articles, the last doctor in Philomath before Grube and Cutsforth had closed down his private practice in the early 1960s.
“There were no computers, of course, all paper stuff,” Grube said. “The east side of the building was Philomath Pharmacy — it was Kampfer’s Pharmacy at that time and they built the building … we helped them design the other half of it.”
The completion of the building took longer than expected, they recalled.
“We had a grand opening of July 5 planned — that was the estimate — but we didn’t open until the 24th of October,” Cutsforth said. “It was interesting, when we came in 1977, it was the 30th anniversary of the Corvallis Clinic. Now, they’re celebrating their 75th anniversary, so it’s all consistent as time goes by.”
The clinic and pharmacy operated at the location together for several years. In the early 1990s, the pharmacy moved to the building now occupied by Eats & Treats and the doctors purchased the other half from Larry Kampfer.
The merger with the Corvallis Clinic occurred soon after in 1993 as a way to expand service capabilities The two buildings were renovated to become one.
The physicians both earned widespread recognition through the years, including as recipients of the Oregon Family Doctor of the Year award — Grube in 1986 and Cutsforth in 1993. They also took on challenges that were not always met by all with enthusiasm, such as their key involvement in efforts to fluoridate the city’s water (twice) and to help Philomath become a smoke-free town.
Grube and Cutsforth retired in 2012 after operating the clinic a couple of months shy of 35 years. The two doctors have been through a lot together as lifelong associates and friends.
“We were roommates in college and we ended up delivering each other’s kids and living next door to each other,” Cutsforth said.