My Story: the “why” I do this work

Perspective on Oregon Health Care

by Becky Hultberg

I’ve always found inspiration in the stories of people drawn to do the difficult work of health care. My own journey, while circuitous, was shaped by important events in my life. 

I grew up in the small town of Kenai, Alaska. As an attorney who worked in utility law, my dad frequently talked to us around the dinner table about the impact of government on people’s lives. I grew to understand the importance of healthy partnerships between the private and public sector. 

Those dinner table discussions seeded in me a broader interest in public policy, and over time I gravitated toward a career in government. I worked as the press secretary for one governor and served in the cabinet of another as the commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Administration. Between those two roles I also worked for a hospital system, where I began to better understand the complexities of health care and the vital role hospitals play in the communities they serve. 

But ultimately it was a family health crisis that called me to do this work. 

In 2009, my husband had open heart surgery, an incredibly stressful experience for my young family. My complete focus was on his condition, as the surgical team did the complicated work of replacing his aortic valve and repairing an aortic aneurysm. The procedure was successful, and I was filled with gratitude and admiration for the skill and compassion of the surgical team and the nurses, techs and physician assistants who provided his hospital care. If you’ve been through a similar experience with a friend or loved one, you know how difficult it is to put this person, who is so important to you, in the hands of a medical team. But they walked us through, as they have so many other patients and families. 

The experience changed my life in a profound way. It gave me clarity of purpose. It was the moment I knew I wanted to spend my career working side by side with hospitals to advocate for access to care for patients. When your loved one is in a hospital bed, there is nothing more important than the skill and resources of the hospital team caring for them. 

My work for the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems is driven by a mission to ensure we have healthy hospitals for generations to come. My team and I do this work on behalf of patients, our friends, our families, and neighbors. We do this work so when someone needs a hospital, as my husband did, they will have access to high quality, compassionate care. 

My husband is doing well. We’ve moved to a state we have come to love, and he has another care team here that we trust just as much. They, too, are skilled and compassionate caregivers, and they inspire me to do the work of leading the association and our members together to ensure access to the care our communities deserve. 

It’s gratifying to reflect on how those childhood conversations with my dad around the dinner table are shaping my work today. At the association, we have a great team of people who work every day to bring together public and private sector partners to create good policy and ensure that vital health care services are available now and for generations to come. 

We support hospitals so that they can support you, and I’m proud to play a leading role in that effort.