Following over 30 years of outstanding service to the Yakima community, Dr. Stephen Litchfield’s generosity continues to shape the health of the region he calls home.
By: Paul Bubluski
I enjoy going to work now more than I ever did as a physician, and I love that,” explained Dr. Stephen Litchfield, assistant professor of Osteopathic Principles and Practice, from his home office. “The hardest time of my entire career has been during this COVID experience, because I have not been able to interact with our students in labs,” said Dr. Litchfield, a smile overtaking his face.“I like to see the students’ excitement; I like that feedback.”
Having served for over three decades as an Osteopathic Family Physician in Yakima, Dr. Litchfield never imagined becoming a teacher one day. Today, as a professor at PNWU, Dr. Litchfield's joy comes not from seeing patients, but from giving back. Thanks to his generosity and wisdom, a new generation of holistic-minded osteopathic physicians are being trained in the very community he cared for.
Dr. Litchfield’s compassionate nature has shaped much of his life. Today, his philanthropic efforts serve as invaluable assets to a non-profit health sciences university with a mission of caring for some of the Pacific Northwest’s most medically underserved populations.
Growing up in rural Lewiston, Idaho, Dr. Litchfield fell in love with the charms of small-town life early on. After completing high school in Spangle, Washington, he continued his education at Walla Walla University before having his number called as part of the Vietnam-era draft. When the Army assigned him to be a medic, his path towards becoming a doctor was laid out before him. After a lengthy assignment in Germany, Dr. Litchfield returned home to take the next step on that journey. Capitalizing on his GI Bill, he enrolled as an osteopathic medical student at a private school in Kansas City, MO (now known as the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences).
Arriving in Yakima in 1978 to finish residency, Dr. Litchfield began working with Dr. Lee Ghormley at the New Valley Osteopathic Hospital. While there, he learned more about OMT (Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment). He was enamored by the relief he could bring to people thanks his osteopathic training. A few years later, as the rewards of being a family physician became ingrained deeper in his heart, he purchased the family practice and made it his own.
“There was never a boring day during my career,” said Dr. Litchfield, reflecting on his practice. Although the day-to-day challenges he would face were unpredictable, his constant focus on helping others never tired. “If I had a way to take it (relief) instead of cash, I would have practiced for free,” he explained. Today, Dr. Litchfield is channeling that same passion to nurture the Pacific Northwest’s next generation of compassionate healthcare workers.
As a professor, Dr. Litchfield extols the values of holistic care, sharing years of accumulated knowledge and hands-on experience. As a philanthropist and one of PNWU's most generous and loyal donors, he is helping to build and support a health sciences university capable of revolutionizing community health.
"I want PNWU to succeed because it is close to me,” said Dr. Litchfield. “My wife Colette and I love to share whenever we can, and we have great students here who are going to give back too -- many of them already are.”
During a recent effort to beautify the University’s Terrace Heights campus, the couple purchased two more maple trees to add spectacular color around the buildings. On the plaques at the base of each tree they had this simple statement engraved: WE HEART PNWU STUDENTS!
"I’m proud to say our students have similar beliefs about giving back” explained Dr. Litchfield. “Our students have a great attitude and have a lot to give back to the community."
Dr. Litchfield’s regular donations directly support the future doctors who will be responsible for the care of countless families' health in the future, and he almost seems to glow with pride when he explains his motivations. “I want the Osteopathic profession to live on. I want to keep teaching the new people so they can carry it forward.”
“I had a lot of doctors encourage me along the way and I just want to pay it back, or forward, or whatever,” he continued with a laugh. “I’m not sure I can ever pay them back because I have been very blessed.”
After a slight pause at the end of the conversation, Dr. Litchfield calmly said: “Without hesitation, I would do the same thing all over again.”