New doctor arrives in Alpine |

New doctor arrives in Alpine

by Kurt Hildebrand

Alpine County’s new public health officer hangs out his shingle on Oct. 1 to serve the residents of California’s least populated county.

Dr. Richard Harvey has returned after 16 years away from Alpine County and is looking forward to meeting county residents.

He worked at Carson-Tahoe Hospital for 10 years and was one of the first physicians at the Gardnerville urgent care center when it was in the Stratton Center.

The public health officer’s position is part-time and Harvey works three days a week. Two of those days he sees people with health problems and deals with the county’s health issues.

“I invite all members of the community to come in for health screening,” he said. “As a typical health officer, we’re concerned about West Nile Virus, which is now quite prevalent in California. We also have plague in Alpine County and hantavirus, which are both spread by rodent vectors. I work in conjunction with the vector control monitors.”

The third day he works with Mono County on the state’s bioterrorism initiative.

The 60-year-old Californian grew up in the Bay area and received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He attended medical school at the University of Southern California and worked in Oakland.

After leaving the Sierra’s east slope in 1988 he and his wife of 27 years, Kate, moved to Vermont, where he worked as an academic emergency room physician at the University of Vermont.

Having lived in Vermont, Harvey has no worries about the Markleeville winter.

“This is a huge improvement from Vermont,” he said. “The sun shines here. In Vermont we would go for a long time without seeing the sun. Both my wife and I like to cross-country ski. We’re real happy to be here.”

It has been a few months since the last time there has been a health officer in Alpine County and Harvey has been spending these days before he officially begins doing some preparation.

“I’ve been playing catch-up,” he said. “There were 200 e-mails on the machine that needed to be screened and read. There are lots of different requirements to this position. It runs from dealing with water contamination, new subdivisions may have health concerns, the spread of communicable diseases all the way to prevention and monitoring cholesterol.”

Harvey said he looks forward to a quieter practice after working as an emergency room doctor.

“I’ve always wanted to be a country doctor,” he said. “I’ve practiced emergency medicine and it can be hard on you. The hours are long and irregular. I finally decided to spend more time with folks and this job allows me to do just that. I can get into people’s health care in-depth. I can see them back as often as they need and hopefully really make a difference in the level of their health care.”

— Kurt Hildebrand can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 215.