With her quick wit and laugh, Tennessee native and women’s health nurse practitioner Mitzi Thompson has a knack for making people feel at ease.
Story by Dick Baltus Photos by Kevin Eckerman
It takes all of about two seconds to figure out that Mitzi Thompson isn’t from around here. She speaks with the warm lilt of a southerner, so friendly sounding she could mention you were having a terrible hair day and you might well thank her.
Close your eyes and it’s not hard to imagine you’re listening to Dolly Parton telling you she grew up on a hay farm at the foot of the Smokey Mountains in her native Tennessee – until, of course, Thompson mentions that the legendary country singer actually did live only about 90 minutes up the ridge.
But Roseburg is home now, and Thompson couldn’t be happier about that. The women’s health nurse practitioner left the South three years ago to join her former practice partner, gynecologist Dr. Faye Ameredes, in Roseburg’s Harmony Health for Women. It has been one of the best moves she ever made, Thompson says.
First, there’s her new hometown. “I absolutely love it here,” she says. “It’s beautiful, and the climate is wonderful. When my friends ask me when I’m coming back to Tennessee I tell them I have an extra room and they are welcome to visit me any time.”
Then there’s Thompson’s professional reunion with Ameredes, with whom she practiced from 1996 until 2000, when the physician left Tennessee for Roseburg. “Faye is wonderful,” she says. “I like to say I would stand in her glow. She asked me to come with her when she moved here, but my son was young, and I just didn’t think I could move across country then.”
As fate would have it, her son, now a forensic psychiatrist, married a woman from the Northwest and wound up taking a job with the state of Oregon. So, at the end of 2015, Thompson and her husband, James, packed up their belongings, including two Tennessee walking horses, and drove across country five days to their new home.
The couple bought a tree farm in Roseburg where their horses can run. Growing up, Thompson had always wanted a horse, and made a point of “cultivating friends” who had them, she says.
Finally, a few years ago, Thompson decided it was high time she had her own. She found a local woman to teach her about horses and how to ride. “I went through every step of the process — learning how to buck stalls, pick hooves —before I sat in a saddle,” she says.
Thompson gained a lot more than knowledge about horses from that experience.
“Along the way, I met my husband,” she says. “He had horses and I had a brand new Duramax diesel truck. It was a match made in heaven.”
Thompson says the appeal of her horses goes far beyond their beauty or her love of riding. “They are so calming,” she says. “They will read you, so if you are going to be successful with them, you are going to have to get to know yourself, face your fears and just be in the moment. That can be difficult for someone in my line of work. Just being able to be in the moment is rare, so my horses are better than therapy.”
“MY (FUTURE) HUSBAND HAD HORSES AND I HAD A BRAND NEW DURAMAX DIESEL TRUCK. IT WAS A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.”
— Mitzi Thompson, WHNP
When Thompson and her husband feel the need for a little more horsepower, they jump on his Harley and head off for a ride.
At work, Thompson uses her 19 years of nurse practitioner experience to help women, from preteens through seniors, with the spectrum of health needs. “I’ve treated a lot of women who turn around and bring their daughters to see me,” she says. “I see patients as young as 12, and my oldest patient is 99. Isn’t that sweet?”
Thompson began her career as a nurse, even though, she says, “I tried every way in the world to not be one.”
She kiddingly blames her sister, Misty, for that.
“We’re identical twins, and she was a nurse. I just thought it would be far too cute to be identical RNs, but (the profession) just wouldn’t stop talking to me.”
Thompson practiced nursing for 15 years with her associate’s degree, before returning to school to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
She says she loves helping women with their health needs — “Women are complex, different, tender and tough,” she says—and has noticed a significant difference between her Douglas County patients and those she cared for in Tennessee.
“Women here are better educated and much more motivated on their own behalf,” she says. “They aren’t looking for medicine. They are looking for validation that they are going to be OK so they can get out and live their lives well.”
Mitzi Thompson, WHNP, is accepting new patients into her practice at Harmony Health for Women, 2460 N.W. Stewart Parkway, Roseburg. For appointments, please call 541-677-4463