Wes Rippey

Wes Rippey
Episode 129

Join host Japhet De Oliveira for an engaging conversation with Wes Rippey, Medical Officer and Surgeon at Adventist Health Portland as they discuss his family's medical background, moments of courage, the importance of commitment and dedication, and the challenges and rewards of being a surgeon.
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"I would always choose what I've done as a profession over again, and I never have had regrets. I love my work! The opportunity to make a difference in people's lives brings such fulfillment."

Narrator: Welcome, friends, to another episode of The Story and Experience Podcast. Join your host, Japhet De Oliveira, with his guest today and discover the moments that shape us, our families and communities.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, welcome, friends, to another episode of The Story and Experience Podcast. I'm here at Adventist Health Portland, in Oregon. Delighted to be with this guest. I'm going to introduce you to them in a second. But if you're brand new to the podcast, we have 100 questions. They progressively become more vulnerable, more open the closer you get to 100. The guest gets to choose between 11 and 100, where we're going, I'll ask the first 10.

Let me begin, first of all, with question number one. Could you tell us your name and does anybody ever mispronounce it?

Wes Rippey: Wes Rippey. Mispronounce? Occasionally. They put in an L in frequently.

Japhet De Oliveira: Ripley?

Wes Rippey: Ripley. Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Japhet De Oliveira: That is.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: I can see that. I can see that.

Wes Rippey: Back years ago, I could always say, no it's like Rodney Allen Rippey, who was younger than I am.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. Doctor, what do you do for work?

Wes Rippey: I am a surgeon by training. I serve as the medical officer for Adventist Health Portland and for the Oregon network.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. All right. How long have you been in this role?

Wes Rippey: I've been a surgeon here at Portland for my entire career.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really?

Wes Rippey: For over 40 years. Have served as the medical officer here for the last 15 years.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow. You did your entire career here?

Wes Rippey: Entire career.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's amazing. That's a rarity, right?

Wes Rippey: Unusual this day for docs coming out.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: In the past, not as unusual.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really? Okay.

Wes Rippey: Yeah. My generation, it was more the norm to stay where you landed.

Japhet De Oliveira: Where were you born?

Wes Rippey: I was born in Los Angeles, at the White Memorial.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, Adventist Health White Memorial, nice.

Wes Rippey: Correct.

Japhet De Oliveira: Nice.

Wes Rippey: My dad was in medical school there, at Loma Linda. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's great. Did you grow up there then, a little while?

Wes Rippey: Just for two years. Then moved back to Portland. He did his internship and started his residency here in Portland. Then was drafted. We lived in Fort Ord, California for a couple of years.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Wes Rippey: Then he finished his surgery residency in Des Moines, Iowa, in a VA.

Japhet De Oliveira: When you were a child growing up in these different places, what did you imagine you would grow up to be?

Wes Rippey: Early on, I would say once we moved back to Portland and my dad took up practice with his dad, the office was close to home, walking distance. I had allergies. My dad had allergies. We both were taking allergy shots once a week.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Wes Rippey: I would go to the office once a week, and sit and wait for him to be between patients, where I'd give him his shot, he'd give me mine.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really? Okay.

Wes Rippey: Then I had to wait around for side effects and make sure that there was no problem. I got to see what happened in the office. From a back office perspective, I got to know his nurse real well. It was what I was exposed to, I really enjoyed what I saw. Back in those days, I got to see some in the hospital as well. It fascinated me. Yes, my high school annual says I wanted to be a surgeon. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really? You grew up in medicine and you became-

Wes Rippey: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: A part of it.

Wes Rippey: My family, I'm a fifth-generation physician in my family.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really? Okay.

Wes Rippey: My dad had this picture in the office, of the five generations that he kept in the waiting room. Four of the surgeons got to practice with one another, if you would. My great-grandad practiced with his son-in-law. My dad practiced with my grandad. I got to practice with my dad for 13 years before he retired.

Japhet De Oliveira: My, my, my. Now we are actually seated in the Innovation Center at Adventist Health Portland. There are some paintings.

Wes Rippey: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oil paintings, right?

Wes Rippey: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Originals.

Wes Rippey: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: They're on the wall right next to us. One of them is-

Wes Rippey: My great-granddad.

Japhet De Oliveira: You're great-grandfather? Okay.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: What was his role here?

Wes Rippey: He was one of the first surgeons in the Portland area. He actually trained originally at Rush in Chicago, and then worked with the Kellogg brother that was a surgeon in Battle Creek.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Wes Rippey: Then came to Portland. He was the superintendent, sort of, of the hospital as well, serving a dual role in those days. Was involved in bringing the first administrator to the hospital here, which he was very willing to give up that piece of his work.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's also to our listeners is that on the oil painting, your great-grandfather is wearing a gray suit, a three-piece gray suit.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: You're wearing a gray, not a three-piece, but a gray suit, very similar tone. Is it a family tradition?

Wes Rippey: The gray isn't necessarily. But yeah, my mother would be happy with the way I've dressed.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great, that's great. All right. In the morning when you wake up, first drink of the day, water, coffee, liquid green smoothie, tea, what do you do first?

Wes Rippey: Coffee.

Japhet De Oliveira: Coffee. Black, with milk?

Wes Rippey: Black.

Japhet De Oliveira: Black? All right, all right. Great. Are you an early riser or late night owl?

Wes Rippey: Both.

Japhet De Oliveira: Both? Okay. This morning when you woke up ... Both. When you woke up this morning, first thought that went through your mind?

Wes Rippey: What I needed to do to get ready and what time I needed to be here to work.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, all right. If people were describe your personality, would they say you were an introvert or an extrovert? Would you agree with their conclusion?

Wes Rippey: I would consider myself more an introvert. In my work, I need to be engaging. I try to have fun at work and working with people. I would say I don't think I would be described as an extrovert, but somewhere in between.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, all right. Last question in this set and then I'm going to hand over to you, and you get to pick the numbers. It's a leadership question. Are you a backseat driver?

Wes Rippey: I think of a backseat driver as someone who's constantly nagging, that's my perception of it. I would have to say no.

Japhet De Oliveira: No? Okay. That's good. Thank you. In that scenario, yes, I totally understand. Great.

The floor is open. Where would you like to go, which number?

Wes Rippey: Seven.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh actually, I did the first 10.

Wes Rippey: Oh, you did the first 10?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: 17.

Japhet De Oliveira: 17? All right.

Wes Rippey: Let's just go.

Japhet De Oliveira: Share what day is most special to you on the entire calendar and why?

Wes Rippey: I would say Christmas.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: Probably is the most special day. It's a chance for the whole family to be together and celebrate. Have the grandchildren all there, et cetera. It's a great time of the year, yeah. One of my favorites.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's beautiful. I like that. Good, all right. That was 17. Where next?

Wes Rippey: Let's take another 10, 27.

Japhet De Oliveira: 27? All right. Bring us into your kitchen for a special meal. What would you be making?

Wes Rippey: If I was making it, it would be a sandwich.

Japhet De Oliveira: Good, good. What kind of sandwich is your special meal?

Wes Rippey: Vegan cheese.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really? Okay. Anything else in it, or just bread and a slab of vegan cheese?

Wes Rippey: A little vegan mayo and lettuce. Maybe pickles.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow, you're overdoing it now.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: This is good.

Wes Rippey: It's special.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's very special. You threw the pickles in as a bonus.

Wes Rippey: Correct.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, right.

Wes Rippey: Adds taste.

Japhet De Oliveira: Adds taste. All right, that was 27. Where next?

Wes Rippey: 37.

Japhet De Oliveira: 37. Oh, what do you love most about your family?

Wes Rippey: The closeness. I think that's what's special. My wife and I have two girls. The oldest has one girl, who's now seven-years-old. My youngest has twins that are now seven months old. Just the chance, they're both local-

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, that's great.

Wes Rippey: That makes it special.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: Just to see the youngsters grow and watch them through their stages, that's what Saturday afternoons are all about.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. You're a grandfather. Tell us, teach us, what's the difference between being a grandfather and a father?

Wes Rippey: The responsibility.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah.

Wes Rippey: Normally, you're done by 10:00 at night, normally. Yeah, whereas with your own children, yeah you're totally responsible all the time. From the standpoint of just getting to enjoy their antics and just really be able to be involved, that's what's great about grandkids I think. Yeah, right.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great. That's great. Good, all right. That was 37. Where next?

Wes Rippey: 47.

Japhet De Oliveira: 47, all right. You just met someone. What would you want them to know about you and why?

Wes Rippey: I would want them to know what I do as a profession because that truly demands the majority of my time and then, has an impact on all I do otherwise.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah. Hey, that's good. That's good. I like that. All right, where next after 47?

Wes Rippey: 51.

Japhet De Oliveira: 51? All right. Tell us about something that you know you do differently than most people.

Wes Rippey: I write left-handed.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Hey, that's great. That's great. Other people in your family left-handed or just you?

Wes Rippey: Just me.

Japhet De Oliveira: Just you? Huh. That's great. You enjoy it. Are you able to do it with the right-hand as well or just?

Wes Rippey: I have, for a period of six weeks, when my left arm was in a cast many years ago.

Japhet De Oliveira: Six weeks. Yeah. But specifically, six weeks, four days.

Wes Rippey: Right. But I do most other things with my right hand.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Wes Rippey: As far as throw a baseball. I water ski left-handed, I guess left-footed.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: I prefer to use cautery with my left hand. I'll use a scalpel with my left hand.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: But otherwise, I'll use the scissors with my right, because all the scissors normally are right-handed.

Japhet De Oliveira: We are so glad that you use a scalpel with your left hand. That's great. Thank you for confirming that. All right, great. That was 51. Where next?

Wes Rippey: Let's take 61.

Japhet De Oliveira: 61? All right. Oh, tell us about a time in your life that you required incredible courage.

Wes Rippey: There are times in the operating room where you're faced with a situation that you worry how are you going to get the patient out of this procedure. That's probably the times that I think about that have required courage on my part to do what needed to be done to get the patient out of the OR.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That is complex, right?

Wes Rippey: Correct. Particularly with trauma cases, yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: I'm going to ask you an add on to that. What do you with the trauma cases that you felt you could not?

Wes Rippey: I think that, in being a surgeon, there are times certainly where that will develop.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. You can't save everyone.

Wes Rippey: Yeah, you can't save everyone.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: The ability to recognize that and then deal with that personally, and explain it to the family and/or the patient, is something that with experience, becomes a little easier. But still, is always just a gut-wrenching component of the work we do.

Japhet De Oliveira: It is harder now to recruit doctors, right? Nationally.

Wes Rippey: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's also there's been a reduction of people choosing the path to serve by being a physician. What would you say to somebody who is young and thinking, "Should I be, should I not? Should I enter into this or not?"

Wes Rippey: That is something that I've had many chances to do here, in that we run a student healthcare leaders program. I always explain that I think that people do tend to go into work that they're exposed to, that they see as interesting, fulfilling and brings joy to their life. I explain to them there is always an opportunity in medicine to find that it is super fulfilling. That I would always choose what I've done as a profession over again and I never have had regrets. I love my work.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: The opportunity to make a difference in people's lives brings such fulfillment that yeah, I highly recommend it and something that you can truly find satisfaction. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's beautiful, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. All right, where next?

Wes Rippey: Oh, 67. No. Have I chosen that already?

Japhet De Oliveira: No.

Wes Rippey: Yeah, 67.

Japhet De Oliveira: What's the best picture that you've ever taken and why?

Wes Rippey: Oh.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: The one I currently enjoy the most that comes to mind is a waterfall that I actually have on my phone.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, yeah?

Wes Rippey: As the face page, if you would. Yeah, a set of cascading water outside of ... Let's see. It's outside of Stevenson, Washington.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Wes Rippey: Up in a native forest. It is so wide and cascades from everywhere, off this long, green wall. I love that picture and movie that I took of it, actually.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's good.

Wes Rippey: That's my best one.

Japhet De Oliveira: Good memories for you.

Wes Rippey: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's great. Yeah. Alright, where next?

Wes Rippey: 71.

Japhet De Oliveira: 71? All right. Describe a time in your life that took a really unpredictable turn.

Wes Rippey: Ah, eight years ago.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, okay.

Wes Rippey: This month.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really?

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: What happened eight years ago this month?

Wes Rippey: I was here in the hospital as a patient.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow, okay.

Wes Rippey: Yeah. On a Saturday night, I woke up in the middle of the night. Thought at first it was heartburn and instead it was a heart attack. Came in, got treated. Went well, stinted. Really wanted to get home Monday morning, but the doc came and in said, "No, just a little-"

Japhet De Oliveira: Those doctors.

Wes Rippey: "Going to have to stay until Tuesday." Discharged Tuesday morning. Changed clothes, was waiting for my ride and arrested.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow.

Wes Rippey: It changed my life.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: Another three days in the hospital.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: Additional intervention with an AICD. Yeah, that was unexpected and made me changed some things.

Japhet De Oliveira: First of all, I don't know what an AICD is?

Wes Rippey: An automatic internal cardiac defibrillator.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, wow. Okay, all right.

Wes Rippey: If your heart stops-

Japhet De Oliveira: It just starts it.

Wes Rippey: You go into VTAC or VFIB, yeah it shocks you.

Japhet De Oliveira: Does it do it automatically?

Wes Rippey: It does it automatically.

Japhet De Oliveira: You don't have an app for it?

Wes Rippey: No. No app.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right. Then you made some changes. Are there any of those changes that you would be able to share with us?

Wes Rippey: Dropped 70 pounds.

Japhet De Oliveira: Are you serious? Wow.

Wes Rippey: Took on a vegan diet and gave up my favorite food, which is cheese.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, I noticed you had your special vegan sandwich.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: Yeah. Just worked hard to control different things.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's amazing. Well done. Well done, well done. You feeling good for it?

Wes Rippey: Feel great.

Japhet De Oliveira: Feel great?

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Ah, fantastic. Well done, well done. All right. We're glad you're doing well.

Wes Rippey: Thank you.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right, where next?

Wes Rippey: 75.

Japhet De Oliveira: 75? All right. Oh, do you remember the very first thing that you bought with your own money? What was it and why?

Wes Rippey: What first came to mind is what my dad bought with his first money.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, what was that?

Wes Rippey: He was on a trip to Alaska with his parents.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Wes Rippey: He was young. He really wanted to buy a knife that his dad said he couldn't.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, okay.

Wes Rippey: But he wound back up in the shop and bought that knife with his own money. He opened his mail for years with it.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really?

Wes Rippey: He gave it to me, years ago so I open my mail with that knife.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, that's nice. That's nice.

Wes Rippey: Boy, I think I bought a camera.

Japhet De Oliveira: You did? Okay.

Wes Rippey: With my own money. That's the first thing I really remember.

Japhet De Oliveira: Do you still have that camera?

Wes Rippey: No.

Japhet De Oliveira: No? Okay.

Wes Rippey: It was very rudimentary.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Wes Rippey: Very rudimentary.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's good. That's good. All right, where next off the bat? That was 75.

Wes Rippey: 81.

Japhet De Oliveira: 81, all right. What is something you've given your absolute best effort towards and why was it important?

Wes Rippey: First thing that comes immediately to mind is what I've been working on for the last almost year. That is to transition our anesthesia staff here from a corporate practice that had served many hospitals in Oregon, but was failing to adequately staff us and many other hospitals as well. Really had to work over the last year to transition that group of loyal providers who really wanted to stay here and work into an employed group, and try to recruit additional members to develop what we need for staffing here.

Japhet De Oliveira: Well, well done. That's good. That's good. How long was that project?

Wes Rippey: It is still ongoing.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's still ongoing.

Wes Rippey: We have people hired that won't be joining us until September.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Wes Rippey: We're working to recruit some added ones as well.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great.

Wes Rippey: To be able to grow more blocks.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, to grow. Absolutely. Well done, well done. All right, where next?

Wes Rippey: 65.

Japhet De Oliveira: 65, all right. Share one word that you would describe your entire past and then unpack that word for us.

Wes Rippey: Committed.

Japhet De Oliveira: Committed? Okay. Yeah.

Wes Rippey: I'm committed to my family, to my belief system, to my work. Particularly to the work within Adventist Health, both corporately and within the markets here in Oregon and all that that entails. I'm more than willing to do the work that that entails. It's what brings me a great deal of satisfaction and is the purpose in my life.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. Thank you, thank you. All right, where next?

Wes Rippey: Oh, 82.

Japhet De Oliveira: 82. If you could only keep three possessions, what would they be, the three things you would keep, and why?

Wes Rippey: Three possessions? My favorite Bible.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah. Favorite Bible, okay.

Wes Rippey: My home.

Japhet De Oliveira: This is good, that's good. Very large, good.

Wes Rippey: My wife's car.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, all right. Your wife's car, not your car?

Wes Rippey: Correct.

Japhet De Oliveira: Right. Tell me about-

Wes Rippey: It's in better shape.

Japhet De Oliveira: In better shape? Tell me about this favorite Bible. What makes this Bible your favorite Bible? Then we'll get to the car.

Wes Rippey: It is easy to read from the standpoint of print size and the quality of the paper, and the covering and the translation.

Japhet De Oliveira: Just good.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Good all around.

Wes Rippey: Yeah, good all around.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right, all right. That's fantastic. When you get in your own car every day, are you just envious of your wife's car?

Wes Rippey: No, no, no. I drive a car that's been totaled so it has a salvaged title.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah.

Wes Rippey: It was my son-in-law's. I enjoy it, I enjoy driving it. It's a good car but has a little cosmetic damage. It's what, nine years old, something like that.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh yeah, that's great.

Wes Rippey: Yeah, it gets me around fine.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good.

Wes Rippey: I like it.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. All right, we have time for two more, the final two numbers. Where would you like to go for your final two numbers?

Wes Rippey: 49.

Japhet De Oliveira: 49? All right. What are you currently learning about?

Wes Rippey: I've done reading this weekend about elective inductions.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, all right. It sounds like very light reading.

Wes Rippey: Well, it brought about by having three scheduled to come in Friday night, which then tasked the anesthesiologist on call for the next day. There were five OR cases. Then, those inductions, when are they going to come do? Nighttime work, et cetera. I've needed to know more about what's ideal.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good, that's good. I like that, I appreciate that. Good, all right. Your last one?

Wes Rippey: 89.

Japhet De Oliveira: 89? Okay. What's the most impactful no that you said recently?

Wes Rippey: This morning.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, that was recent. All right. You said no this morning, all right.

Wes Rippey: To a change we were having to make in the OR schedule because of an unexpected insufficient staff that I had to look at the overall picture as compared to the individual surgeon who was just looking at his picture.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Seeing the whole picture, putting it all together, saying no and making a way forward.

Wes Rippey: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Well, good for you. Good for you. Doctor, it's been fantastic. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I want to encourage people to do the same thing. Sit with a friend, ask them good questions, learn about their stories, about their famous oil paintings, the gray suits, the calling of why to still be a provider today. Really important reminders for us. Thank you for doing that. God bless everybody else and we'll connect again soon.

Wes Rippey: Okay. Thank you.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us for The Story and Experience Podcast. We invite you to read, watch, and submit your story and experience at adventisthealth.org/story. The Story and Experience Podcast was brought to you by Adventist Health for the Office of Culture.