Parents, children rally to support beloved doctor

Approximately 200 adults and children showed up to a peaceful demonstration in front of Samaritan Lebanon Health Center Pediatrics on Dec. 7 to support a pediatrician who was let go by the valley’s largest health service provider.

Dr. Dana Kosmala worked for Samaritan and served Lebanon families for more than 22 years, but she was abruptly dismissed for reasons that are unclear. Rumors on Facebook suggest it might be related to issues concerning gender affirming care, but neither Kosmala nor Samaritan would confirm nor deny the matter.

People stand in front of Samaritan Lebanon Health Center Pediatrics, where Dr. Kosmala once worked.

Samaritan Health Services issued Lebanon Local the following statement: “Samaritan employees and providers are held to a code of conduct that is centered in respect and integrity for all. Furthermore, Samaritan providers are allowed to determine their personal scope of practice. This means they are not required to provide services such as abortion, medical marijuana prescriptions, participation with Oregon’s ‘Death with Dignity’ act or gender affirming care. If they do not include these services in their scope of practice, they are to refer the patient to a provider who is better suited to meet their needs.”

Kosmala said she is bound by a nondisclosure agreement, but wanted to correct any false statements about her termination.

“My dismissal had nothing to do with a patient or patient complaint, but instead Samaritan and my worldviews were no longer compatible,” Kosmala said. “That ultimately led to everything that had unfolded and brought us to a parting of ways.”

Aubrey Grove, a mother of six, organized the demonstration to show support for the pediatrician. She said Kosmala has been there for her family in some of their hardest times, and it’s a big deal for a parent when their child is sick or needy.

“The person you entrust their care to leaves quite an impact on you, and Dr. Kosmala has done that,” Grove said. “All these people showing up for her today is an example of how much we love her.”

Adults and children held up signs along N 5th Street, where Kosmala’s office was located. The signs expressed love for the doctor, and some called for her return.

“She loved us and cared for us,” Stephanie Herb said. “She’s like the highest standard of a doctor in this town, and that’s why we’re out here.”

Though, once again, no one knows exactly what led to Kosmala’s termination, the group responded to the rumors.

“It’s the principle of the matter,” Herb said. “We are defending her right to have her values, and we support that. It’s not just and it’s not fair. And, frankly, it’s scary if they’re infringing on her values, because we share those values. To me, that’s frightening, and I want my children to know you have the right to stand up for what we believe in.”

Regardless of the reasons, Grove said with Kosmala gone, a “huge resource” has been removed from the community that will have “detrimental effects.”

Kosmala has been awarded the “Top of the Valley Favorite Pediatrician” three years in a row and has been at the top of the list for the Press Ganey Patient Satisfaction survey. She had approximately 2,500 patients.

“When you’ve served a company for as long as she has, you leave quite a legacy,” Grove said.

Yet she believes Kosmala’s legacy is being erased by Samaritan. To prove her point, she showed a 2018 article about childhood obesity that included a quote from Kosmala, but the quote has now been removed.

“Samaritan is removing her actual legacy from their website,” Grove said.

Responding to this, Leslie Fager, public information officer for Samaritan in Lebanon, said the company removes quotes and links from clinicians who are no longer with Samaritan so as not to mislead readers into thinking they can establish care with a provider who is no longer employed there.

After a few minutes in front of the Samaritan building, the group walked to the waterfall feature at the corner of Mullins Drive and Highway 20, and faced Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital with their signs. Drivers honked their horns as they drove past.

Natalie Ellis believes Kosmala has treated everyone equally, and has demonstrated support not just for the kids, but for parents also, as their children go through both physical and mental struggles.

“She just goes above and beyond,” Ellis said.

Some among the group cited examples of Kosmala checking in on her patients with phone calls or working on her days off. Grove said the doctor has worked with the Boys & Girls Club, and participated in initiatives to help the community. Parents shared physical problems their children went through that Kosmala treated them for, while some even said she saved their lives.

“Her values don’t affect the way she treats our children,” one unidentified parent said. “The second you walk in the room, you genuinely feel like she loves your children and you and your whole family.”

9-year-old Paige Herb said Kosmala was really nice.

“She was always really loving and caring for one another,” she said.

Her brother, Conner Herb, 12, agreed.

“I trust her more than any other doctor,” he said.

Kosmala said the incident weighs heavy on her heart because she loved her job and the thousands of relationships she built, but she has seen individuals now coming together in new ways to express support for children and families.

“It is because of them I exist and have a place in this community,” she said.

It is her faith in and love for Jesus Christ that gives Kosmala the ability, wisdom and strength to practice medicine, she said.

“In all I do, I do unto Him,” she said. “As this door closes, another one will open. I believe my patients and families know how much I adore them and love them with all my heart and how honored I have been to take care of them for the last 22 1/2 years.”

Right now, Kosmala does not know what her next steps will be.

“I am not sure what I’m going to do from this time forward, except to take some time to get my feet back on the ground.”