Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times Pediatrician Gabriel Barrio teases nurse Shaulana Lujan at Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island last week. After 10 years at the Oak Harbor practice, the good-humored doctor left to take a position with an Othello clinic.

Patients, coworkers say they’ll miss departing Oak Harbor pediatrician

Patients, coworkers say they’ll miss departing Oak Harbor pediatrician Gabriel Barrio

It’s not often a patient forgets a doctor’s name.

But when patients couldn’t remember Dr. Gabriel Barrio’s name when calling Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island, they never forgot his personality.

“They’d say, ‘Can I see the funny one?’” Barrio said.

Barrio wears his sense of humor like a badge of honor. It gets him, and his patients, through some rough patches.

“I utilize fun all day long,” he said. “It’s fun to have fun. It’s healing, too.”

Then, he adds a caveat — “As long as it’s kind.”

Barrio’s big heart and wit will be missed at Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island, according to his colleagues.

After 10 years in Oak Harbor, Barrio is following a dream to practice medicine in rural Eastern Washington, in the small Adams County city of Othello.

He accepted a position with Columbia Basin Health Association.

It’s been a longtime dream of Barrio’s to serve farmworkers and their families in a community with a largely Hispanic population, which Othello has.

“I grew up speaking Spanish and I wanted to work with a Spanish-speaking population. That’s my first language,” said Barrio, who’s from northern California.

“It turns out they’re a model rural health clinic.”

Barrio’s decision to leave had somewhat of a ripple effect on Whidbey Island.

“The whole community is in mourning,” said Debby Leffler, an advanced registered nurse practitioner who recently joined the practice. “Even people on the south end.”

“He’s a good doctor and a good person,” added Marisol Bernal-Garcia, whose four children were among his patients. “He treats us like we are his family.”

Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island held a goodbye party for Barrio Saturday while also welcoming Leffler to the office, located on Cabot Drive.

Though he’s leaving the Oak Harbor practice, Barrio said he isn’t saying goodbye completely to the island. Barrio’s love of Whidbey, the practice he co-owned and relationships he developed with patients made the decision to leave difficult and led to a compromise.

Barrio will have two households — one in Othello and the other in Coupeville, where his family is staying.

“Working here I have been honored to have been able to take care of Navy families,” said Barrio, who went to medical school at Stanford University. “I have been quite humbled by what they do for our country and what their families put up with.

“I have four kids, the youngest still in high school, (and) he doesn’t want to move. He’ll stay here. My wife will stay with him,” Barrio explained.

“I will go on a four-day deployment to Othello and work and go back home.”

Barrio, 56, said his goal is to work this schedule for 10 years, then return full-time to Whidbey and retire.

Some people have raised eyebrows when Barrio has shared that plan with them, but he’s used to that.

“One of my colleagues at the hospital said she’ll give me 10 weeks,” he said.

Barrio’s sense of humor has extended beyond his patients, surfacing around the other practitioners and staff members on occasion.

But being funny goes with the territory of pediatricians, he would argue. Michele Gasper, a pediatrician at the practice, said Barrio is in his own league.

“Gabe is at the top of the pile,” she said.

More in Business

Chamber honors business success

Coupeville Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards banquet and board installation… Continue reading

New nursery in Coupeville blooming with energy

Jackie Bartsch has been getting a lot of lookie-loos in the last… Continue reading

Bringing style, design options to Central Whidbey

Owners of a new interior design store want their shop to be… Continue reading

New county contract brings added WSU programming

As of March 1, Washington State University Extension, Island County serves as… Continue reading

Sweet! Tickets are still available for Coupeville’s tastiest event of the year

A handful of tickets remain available for Saturday’s Coupeville Chocolate Walk. For… Continue reading

Whidbey Coffee gets new facility, wholesale manager

One of Whidbey Island’s homegrown businesses is getting a double shot of… Continue reading

Fight off that turkey coma with variety of weekend activities

There are several events happening this weekend, sure to revive even the… Continue reading

Record file — Freeland entrepreneurs Jill and Steve Rosen recently purchased Whidbey Island Ice Cream. The Rosens also own Freeland eateries Rocket Taco and Freeland Freeze.
Freeland business owners scoop up Whidbey Island Ice Cream Co.

Whidbey Island Ice Cream Co. has new owners. Steve and Jill Rosen,… Continue reading

Rosalie Gale photo
                                Foamy Wader owner Alexa Allamano works on one of her nautical-themes pieces of jewelry in her Langley storefront.
Langley jewelry store takes inspiration from the sea

Lifelong Pacific Northwest resident Alexa Allamano has always been fascinated by the… Continue reading

Students get ‘real-world’ biz experience

Starting Monday, four teams of Oak Harbor High School students will get… Continue reading

Organic Farm School excels in new digs

The Organic Farm School survived its first year at its new Maxwelton… Continue reading

Island man grows pet composting biz

Saying goodbye to pets is tough. Now, however, Fluffy doesn’t have to… Continue reading