Dr. Tedd McDonald has traveled to a couple of states in pursuit of his professional dreams. A career change later, however, he has come to the conclusion there is no place quite like home.
“It really is nice being in a comfortable environment,” said McDonald, who grew up in Fallon and has been with Banner Churchill Community Hospital the past seven years. “Now that I’ve lived in other places, and there are nice things to say about the places I’ve lived, but I’ve found there’s always a certain comfort level coming back here. And it’s because people still treat me pretty much like I’m the guy who went to high school here.
“Fallon’s just one of those places where people know each other. They grew up together. They treat each other as equals and they all just fit in very well. Nobody dresses any differently — I don’t have to wear a suit every day, I can wear this Hawaiian shirt and usually when I’m at the hospital I’m wearing my scrubs most of the time.”
McDonald has worn many different hats in Fallon — as optometrist and obstetrician/gynecologist, school board member, civic leader, even cross country coach.
“I really think that coming back and having input and making some effort makes a bigger difference,” McDonald said. “And you’re making a difference in some place where your heart is attached to.”
Now he has another title to add to his resume, that of Churchill County Health Officer. McDonald was confirmed to the post by county commissioners last month, filling a vacancy vacated by Dr. Tim Hockenberry about two years ago. Commission Chairman Carl Erquiaga supported McDonald’s nomination for the post.
“He’s just a good local person and a good doctor who’s interested in health for the right reasons. I think he would be a good choice,” Erquiaga said at the commissioners’ June 20 meeting.
McDonald said the health officer might handle any of a number of duties, such as setting up quarantines in case of an emergency. One of the key roles is simply being available to provide public information.
“The big thing the county health officer here has done in the past, Tim Hockenberry was involved when we had the leukemia cluster as far as being the resource person somebody could go to if they needed information or somebody to talk to,” McDonald said. “There are so many things that involve county health. I’ve had folks come and talk to me about the dogs out in the county that bite runners. I’ve actually had people call and ask me informally about the Bango Oil situation. Is that considered part of what (the county health officer does)? I really don’t know at this point.”
McDonald went on to add he appreciates the work of his predecessors, James and Tim Hockenberry.
“I’ve known them for years,” McDonald said. “James Hockenberry delivered my daughter, and he was my physician when he was working. Then, when I was an optometrist, Tim and James and his family were my patients.
“So we’ve had people in this position who lived here and had a good community connection. That’s important because when emergencies arise, they are a good liaison to provide information. People trust them because they’ve been here so long and they’ve got a good reputation.”
McDonald graduated from Churchill County High School in 1974 and then from the University of Nevada, Reno. At that point, though, he was still unsure what he wanted to do.
“I initially thought I was going to be a marine biologist, and when I finished school, I realized I really didn’t care that much for studying invertebrates and slimy animals.”
Then, acting on advice from a cousin who was an optometrist in Fallon at the time, McDonald moved to Oregon and attended the Pacific University College of Optometry.
He returned to Fallon and opened an optometry practice in 1984, and in the meantime, became involved in his community. He served as one of the original chairmen on the Cantaloupe Festival, as president of the Fallon Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Churchill County Republican Party and as a school board member from 1990-94.
McDonald describes his term as a school trustee as a positive experience.
“The school board, you’re about as involved as you can be,” McDonald said. “I enjoyed the process and I liked the people I worked with, we had very good people in the district. The political parts of it, those were sometimes frustrating. I’d rather everybody just kind of get along well and get things done and focus should be on what’s best for the kids and the school district.
“If I hadn’t gone into medicine I probably would be a teacher. You provide people information so they can make informed decisions and help solve problems. I’ve found that whether it’s medicine or any position where people come to me for things, that’s when I feel like I’m fulfilling whatever my mission in life is.”
McDonald was still searching for that mission when he decided to go back to school. He was at the University of Nevada School of Medicine from 1994-98, then spent 1998-2002 in Fort Worth, Texas, working on his residency program. He tried private practice in Fort Worth for a time, but then set his sights back on home.
Meanwhile, McDonald is happy to be at Banner Churchill, where he also serves as chief of Medicine.
“This is home, and that comes up a lot in our conversations at the hospital,” he said. “My focus is on ‘What can we do for the community?’ And we’re real fortunate right now to have a CEO, John D’Angelo, who is very community oriented. I think the morale in our hospital is good. We found that the biggest interest our employees have in Fallon is for the community, and he’s been kind of the leader in doing things that positively affect the community.”
Meanwhile, McDonald is happy to be back home in Fallon.
“I don’t live more than two miles from where I grew up, and my two sisters still live here,” McDonald said. “My daughter (Shae) is going to school in Reno and my wife (Rachel), who is originally from Washington, has gotten involved with the community and is now a kindergarten teacher at Northside, so that all makes it nice.”
Nor does McDonald have any intention of resting anytime soon.
“I’m not going to become a millionaire and retire,” he said. “And I’m probably not even going to retire, I’m just going to find things to keep doing. I went through the school system here, I worked here during my summers, it’s provided me the opportunity to have a pretty good job and good lifestyle. So I feel, and it may sound kind of hokey, but I want to put something back into the community or at least try to help so people have as many opportunities as I had, or actually more.”