Jim Shames said you don't practice medicine for the occasional pats on the back, but he does feel "energized" to receive one of Oregon's highest physician awards.

Jim Shames said you don't practice medicine for the occasional pats on the back, but he does feel "energized" to receive one of Oregon's highest physician awards.

Shames, medical director of Jackson County Health and Human Services and the medical officer for Josephine County, received the Doctor/Citizen of the Year Award from the Oregon Medical Association for his work bringing attention to the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse in Southern Oregon.

"Winning an award like this causes some reflection," Shames said. "It's an opportunity to look back on some of the things I've done and why I did it."

In recent years, the abuse of prescription painkillers has skyrocketed in Oregon, according to the Oregon Medical Association.

In fact, Oregon ranks as the second-highest state in terms of pain killer abuse in the nation, the association said.

Shames recognized this problem and in 2011 he formed the opioid prescribers group comprised of local doctors and drug and alcohol treatment providers.

The group held meetings to see what could be done to stem the flow of illegal pain killers flooding the drug trade.

These sessions led to the creation of a local standard doctors meet in prescribing pain killers. This work expanded from Jackson to Josephine County and will include additional medical personnel such as pharmacists and dentists.

Shames said he is "amazed at how eager providers are to get together and problem-solve in a collaborative way."

Shames said the abuse of pain killers remains a large problem locally, but local doctors are working hard to get it under control.

"We are making good progress," he said. "There are still a lot of people out there who are abusing opioids. It's not a problem that's going away any time soon."

Shames began his career working in poor communities.

"We provided care for whatever folks could afford to pay," he said. "I suppose that could count as charitable work, though they were the best years of my life so it certainly didn't feel like charity."

Shames is no stranger to award ceremonies. He has been honored by the Center for Disease Control for his efforts in childhood immunization. His work in addictions recovery and his practice in rural areas also have been awarded.

The Oregon Medical Association's Doctor/Citizen of the Year Award has been handed out to one state doctor each year since 1957.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.