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Gary Frei, MD, receives North Star Award


Long respected in the community for his exceptional talents in the operating room, his tireless devotion to his patients and an intellect that matches his work ethic, Gary Frei, MD, FACS, is the recipient of this year’s North Star Award.

The award recognizes an actively practicing physician in the region whose work has been defined by compassionate patient care, professionalism and a commitment to improving the lives of Central Oregonians.

Finalists included Dr. Linyee Chang, St. Charles Cancer Center; Dr. Jessica LeBlanc, Mosaic Medical and Dr. Stephen Mann, High Lakes Health Care.

” Dr. Frei is an extremely worthy recipient and embodies the traits of a truly outstanding physician ,” said Jeff Absalon, MD, St. Charles’ chief physician executive. “This award is a tribute to what he has meant to our community over his 30 years of service.”

Dr. Frei completed his surgical residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas and at Parkland Memorial Hospital in 1983. He was the long-term director of the trauma committee at St. Charles Bend, one of the principal founders of the multidisciplinary breast conference–and subsequent High Risk Breast Clinic at St. Charles Cancer Center–and former president of the Oregon chapter of the American College of Surgeons.

“He was always someone who could be contacted, whether daylight hours or 3 a.m., sacrificing personal time to help a colleague and more importantly, a patient,” said Darren M. Kowalski, MD, FACS, and a partner in Dr. Frei’s surgical group at Bend Memorial Clinic for the past 17 years. “The number of physician and health care providers who became his patients is a testament to the quality of care he provided. With his recent well-earned retirement, there is no doubt that our medical community has suffered a loss which will not soon be replaced.”

Dr. Frei will be presented with the award at the St. Charles Foundation’s annual Saints Gala event on Nov. 10. A $5,000 scholarship will also be awarded in his name to a high school senior who is pursuing education for a career in health care.

“The North Star Award is an opportunity for us to take a moment to recognize the many outstanding physicians who serve our community,” said Lisa Dobey, executive director of community and philanthropy at St. Charles. “As a community, we are extremely fortunate to have such a broad roster of talented physicians in our region.”

To donate to St. Charles Foundation in honor of Dr. Frei, please contact Cindy Fields at 541-706-6996 or

About St. Charles Foundation

As the philanthropic arm of St. Charles Health System, the Foundation works to support and improve health care in Central and Eastern Oregon. Private donations raised by the Foundation allow St. Charles to build new medical facilities, purchase state-of-the-art medical equipment, keep pace with the latest technological advances and deliver exceptional patient care in a healing environment. The Foundation does more than just raise money for bricks and mortar. The organization also raises money to support many programs that benefit low-income and uninsured patients.

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