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Building bodies, brains and character

Editor’s note: Community Builder is a periodic Q & A series providing perspectives from local people who have been involved in significant change in Southern Oregon. Today’s conversation is with Dr. Doug Naversen, a longtime runner, race director and advocate for lifelong health in Southern Oregon.

Q: You’ve been promoting running and swimming for years. What’s your vision of Medford’s newly approved aquatic center?

Doug: It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for Southern Oregon. Our city leaders had great vision in getting funding for a $60 million facility without raising anyone’s property taxes. The aquatic center is going to have a three-lane heated pool to teach all kids to swim. I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever a kid drowns. This will help prevent many drownings. Can you imagine kayak classes, scuba diving classes and exercise for senior citizens? It’s very exciting. There will be a 13-lane competition pool. It’s not just an aquatic facility, we’re going to have eight basketball courts and volleyball and pickleball courts. There will be an outdoor splash pad for kids during the hot weather months. Two water slides, a lazy river and ultimately a seven-acre outdoor park with barbecues and playgrounds will make it a destination facility. Rogue Credit Union has committed significant resources for an outstanding community complex.

Q: How will young people benefit?

Doug: A competitive swimming pool will spark development of many youth swim teams. We could develop a powerhouse swimming program involving hundreds of young people. I want our kids to have lots of choices for exercise and physically tire them out. With the internet, TV, smartphones, legalized marijuana there are too many diversions and temptations. I’d like young people to exercise, play sports, do their homework, collapse and get a good night sleep. I don’t want them to have time for drugs in their lives.

Q: What will an aquatic center do for the region?

Doug: I think it’ll really help our motels and hotels, restaurants and shopping centers by hosting big swim meets. It could help bring in tourists as our baseball and soccer fields have. The Rogue Credit Union Community Complex is modeled after U.S. Cellular Community Park, which has been highly successful. Southern Oregon will have the best pool between Portland and Sacramento.

The original plan is to build a 33-meter competition pool. I’d like to see the pool increase to a 50-meter Olympic-size pool. This pool facility will last 60, maybe even 80 years. With slightly more money we could build an Olympic pool that could attract really big swim meets. It’s going to require astute management to make the numbers work. Architects will draw plans for the original pool and plans for an Olympic-size pool. For perhaps 2% more investment, we can get an Olympic pool in Southern Oregon.

Q: You’ve supported running as Stagecoach Run race director, co-founder of the Britt Woods Firehouse Run and supporter of Pear Blossom Scholarships. Why are these events important?

Doug: I owe a lot to my older brother, Ken. I always tried to outdo and outrun him, which is hard when there’s almost a four-year differential. I got hooked on running young. Running has been an exciting and important activity in my life. I want to give others the same opportunity.

I live about a mile from the Britt Woods. The Jacksonville Fire Department was interested in starting a race. So, my wife and I started The Britt Woods Firehouse Run 18 years ago. It’s a really neat cross-country race. There are no cars on the course. It’s a staggered event that greatly favors the young, the old and ladies over men. The 21-year-old stud is usually not going to win this race. It’s typically a middle-schooler, a 55-year-old lady or a 65-year-old guy who wins. We’ve done hundreds of hours of community service, sprucing up the trails, taking out rocks and roots and making it safer for people who are hiking and walking.

Q: Do you still run?

Doug: I’ve been a runner and swimmer my whole life. It’s just a healthy thing to do. Running is the only way I get an endorphin surge. I can’t get it biking, I don’t get it hiking, I can’t get it swimming. Running is it for me. It’s good for your heart and lungs and you shed pounds. I had an opportunity to run in the Boston Marathon. My personal best marathon was at the California International in 2:55. I’ve done more than 100 10K runs in under 40 minutes. I’m most proud of those three accomplishments. A group of us run every Sunday at 3 p.m., from the upper Britt parking lot. Come and join us, rain or shine we’re out there. It’s great fun and great exercise. You can make a new friend every Sunday afternoon.

Q: How did you land in Southern Oregon to live and practice medicine?

Doug: My dad was career Air Force for 28 years, so we moved all over the country. I mainly grew up in Ohio. I went to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. My dermatology residency was at University of California at San Francisco. I did a hitch in Alaska. I realized that the “west was best.” Dr. Lee Harlow was a Medford dermatologist and a fellow UCSF grad, so we knew the same professors and trusted each other. We did a handshake deal, and I took over his practice in September of 1982.

Q: How did you end up in dermatology as a career?

Doug: My dad wanted me to be a fighter pilot and an engineer. When I was young, I had breakouts with my skin and pretty bad acne. We didn’t have Accutane then, so I suffered with it. I thought practicing dermatology would give me empathy with my patients. Although curing their acne won’t save their life, it would really improve their quality of life. Originally, I thought dermatology was acne, warts and fungus, but once I got into it, I learned there are approximately 2,300 fascinating skin conditions, most of them treatable. It’s been a wonderful specialty for me. It’s far exceeded my expectations.

Q: What about the laser removal of tattoos that you’ve been providing?

Doug: I was trained in the use of lasers for skin conditions. In 1997, lasers were really advancing, so I bought a VersaPulse C laser. It cost about $200,000. We had one before OHSU did. It was a marvelous machine; it could erase tattoos. I wanted to give back to the community that’s been so good to me. I thought I could dial up 1-800-gang-tattoo and get a bunch of patients. It didn’t work that way. Eventually, we found people who were ready to turn their lives around and wanted to get their tattoos removed. Prisoners would come into the office with handcuffs and leg irons with an armed guard. We screened people with visible or obscene tattoos on face, neck, arms and hands. Now, we use the Lumenis PQ4 laser. The charge is 10 hours of community service for each tattoo removed. We partner with Jackson County Community Justice to supervise the community service.

Q: What’s the back story behind the BBC philosophy?

Doug: Years ago, I participated in the Redding Marathon and ended up running with a high school student and a calculus teacher from San Jose. The teacher told his students about BBC, not British Broadcasting Corporation, but “exercise your brain, your body and your character every day.” He was a great role model. Every kid in his class voluntarily ran a marathon that spring. They will remember him forever. The three of us ran together for quite a few miles. At the 10-mile mark, the kid and I dusted the calculus teacher. And then at the 12-mile mark, I dusted the kid. It rained hard, and the last six miles were grim. People were pulling muscles and pulling out, but I’m an Oregonian, I know how to dress and run in the rain. I scampered across the Sundial Bridge and waited for the calculus teacher and the kid. You meet the most interesting people running! I try to exercise my body, brain and character every day.

Q: What is left to accomplish?

Doug: I’m 72 and still going strong. I have no desire to retire. If I quit, I wouldn’t get to see my patients and staff. I’d be cut off. I love what I do, so I’ll work at being healthy and keep practicing medicine. Currently, we have five board certified dermatologists. We just added Dr. Sigrid Barklund, who’s extremely well trained, and have hired a young Navy dermatologist who trained at Walter Reed. So, we’re bringing in new blood and constantly building the practice.

I still find it very gratifying to treat teenagers with acne to prevent scarring. They can be cured of acne in about five months, which improves their self-esteem and their life. A patient with head-to-toe psoriasis can be treated in 16 weeks resulting in skin so clear they could run buck-naked through the streets and no one would know they once had psoriasis. I don’t encourage them to do that, but they could.

The Bear Creek Greenway really got destroyed by arson this summer. That’s going to need a lot of work. Dave Jordan, the director of the Greenway, has done a great job along with a lot of other people to clear and reopen the Greenway trail. We recently made a contribution to fund a new bridge in Ashland to open up an extra mile and a half. The long-term goal is to finish the Greenway from Emigrant Lake to Grants Pass. I’d like to see the Greenway replanted and maintained like a park, limb the trees up six, eight, 10 feet so they don’t burn. Unfortunately, the homeless like to camp out there. They contribute to trash and build campfires. I realize they need a place to live, and I feel for them, but we need to make it safe for residents who hike, jog and bike there. We need to patrol it to make people feel safe.

My big focus, however, is getting an Olympic-size pool built. The increased cost will be more than paid for in economic gains for Southern Oregon. If we don’t build it now, it won’t happen. It’s now or never.

Steve Boyarsky is a retired educator and longtime resident of the Rogue Valley. He continues to be involved in educational and youth programs.


Rogue Credit Union Community Complex

A 160,000-square-foot sports and events facility is planned for Wes Howard Memorial Sports Park in west Medford. It will be constructed by the city of Medford at the intersection of Ross Lane and Rossanley Drive.

The $60 million complex is financed by a voter-approved increase in lodging taxes; car rental taxes; the park utility fee; and early repayment of a U.S. Cellular Community Park construction bond. Rogue Credit Union supported the project by purchasing the naming rights for 10 years.

The Rogue Credit Union Community Complex will consist of:

  • A 33-meter competitive swimming pool with 13 lanes
  • A versatile recreational pool
  • Two indoor water slides
  • 90,000-square-foot multipurpose indoor event space
  • An outdoor splash pad

The complex is in the planning stages with anticipated groundbreaking in summer of 2021 and completion in 2023. For more information about the complex, see www.ci.medford.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=4411.

If you are interested in an expansion to an Olympic-size pool, email Doug Naversen at bigderm@aol.com

Dr. Doug Naversen, front left, leads a training run with Charles Hodge of the Southern Oregon Runners club in Jacksonville. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune