Remembering Ben Westlund

Share your thoughts about Oregon's former state treasurer and healthcare leader by sending an email to [email protected]
March 9, 2010 -- Oregon lost a great healthcare leader with the passing of Ben Westlund on March 6th. As a state senator, he was instrumental in not only keeping the Oregon Health Plan, but remained focused on the need to achieve universal access so that everyone could receive healthcare services.
His loss has already been felt by many, among them his colleagues in the legislature and healthcare leaders around the state.
To pay tribute to Westlund’s contributions, The Lund Report has invited people to share their thoughts by commenting below. Sign up here for a free account to open the comment window or send an email to [email protected].
From State Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland):
“Ben Westlund was a wonderful friend and colleague.  I selected him to be my mentor when I was first elected to the House, even though he sat across the aisle at that time. He guided me with great advice, such as ‘you can get a great deal done if you don't care who gets the credit.’ 
“But the most valuable thing about knowing Ben, was the opportunity to simply be around him.  When you were with Ben, you bathed in his wisdom and his extraordinary good humor.  Even in the midst of his battle with cancer he was always upbeat and full of the joy of life.  His passing has left a hole in my life, as it has in so many others.”
From Thomas Aschenbrener, president of Northwest Health Foundation: 
“I had the pleasure of several private meetings with Ben, especially around the formation of the Health Fund Board and the Oregon Health Authority. His energy, humor and focus were remarkable as was his patience in educating me about politics in Salem. 
“With every meeting, I always felt that my issues were being heard in our discussions. We continued to meet from time to time after he became Treasurer, and I shall deeply miss our conversations.’
From Dr. Bruce Goldberg, director of the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services:

“Ben was a treasure to his family and to Oregon. His personal warmth, intellect and sense of humor were infectious, as was his passion for making the world a better place for all. He was the heart behind much of the health reform work we are doing today. He was relentless in his pursuit of affordable and available health care for all Oregonians. As we carry that mantle forward, I will miss him as a partner in that work and as a friend.”

From Liz Baxter, executive director of The Archimedes Movement:
“I remember being in the room with Ben Westlund and Senator Bates when they found out they would be co-chairing the Special Committee on Health Reform during the 2007 session. His excitement about what was possible was contagious, and I saw that he was a dreamer of big things. He always had a smile and hug for me, even on the days that he looked exhausted. He always had a minute to spare to say hello, and was a great support to me when my mom was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. I'll miss being around his great heart, and his love of all things Oregon.  

From Karen Whitaker Knapp, former executive director of the Office of Rural Health at OHSU:

"It was with deep sorrow that I read of Ben's passing. In my years of working with Oregon's Legislature, a few members stand out as being a genuine privilege to know and work with. Ben was certainly one of them. His enthusiasm was never tempered by experience and his compassion was not compromised by cynicism. He and I shared an affection for the old Brooklyn Dodgers and Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Wait Till Next Year. Ben had deep reserves of personal and professional courage and Oregon will surely miss him."

From Dr. Fred Matthies:

"Hearing Westlund and Bates at City Club in 2007 energized my work to promote change in medical education to correct the generalist/subspecialist imbalance that is costing so much in this country."

From Chris Flammang, Coos Bay, OR:

"I first heard former Senator & State Treasurer Westlund when he and Senator Bates made their presentation on health care reform here in Coos Bay. It was at that time that the two senators spoke openly of the very personal medical events leading to the first diagnosis of Ben Westlund's cancer. This was very impressive and moving, and I'm certain it was effective in generating the support for the ultimate legislation that brought about the Oregon Health Authority. Some months later, I was present when he and Senator Bates spoke to the Governor's Commission on Senior Services during a working lunch about the need for health care reform in Oregon. I am certain that legislation is one of his legacy gifts to the people of Oregon."

From David Rosenfeld, independent journalist, associate editor of The Lund Report:

"Ben was very encouraging of my work as a journalist for Oregon Health News. At a speaking event during one of our breakfast forums Ben told us, 'Keep doing what you're doing. Keep speaking truth to power.' He would often be one of the last to leave at many of our events as he'd stick around to help clean up tables. As a state senator, Ben always returned my calls though he barely knew me. During interviews he'd take thoughtful pauses and carefully choose his words as if crafting the perfect quote. And it always was."

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