People have a hard time saying goodbye to Deborah Cahill.

Four years ago, when the local obstetrician and gynecologist moved to Astoria - after practicing for more than a decade in Seattle - many of her patients followed her here. One actually made a temporary move to Seaside so that Cahill could deliver her baby. Others, vacationing or passing through the area, make sure to stop for an appointment.

In Astoria, Cahill has developed yet another devoted following. But unfortunately, the favorite practitioner is moving again - and this time it may be a little harder to schedule a visit. Her practice will be based more than 1,600 miles away in Fairbanks, Alaska.

"I'm not so sure they'll travel that far," she says with a laugh.

The decision to leave a newly built home, the town she's become fond of and a community of patients and co-workers has left her torn.

"I absolutely love Astoria, I've been blessed with the most wonderful patients here, but I have a tendency to be a workaholic."

The recent closure of PeaceHealth left her as one of only two local doctors specializing in women's health. That means she works a rigorous schedule, seeing some 25 patients and welcoming at least two new babies into the world a day. Every other week she's also on-call, round-the-clock.

In Alaska she'll still deliver about 15 babies weekly, but with four other similar doctors in the area she'll have more freedom to take voice lessons, travel or spend time at home without continually being summoned back to the hospital.

"I realized I'm turning 50 this summer," she says. "I decided it was time to step back and re-evaluate how I'm going to spend the next 50 years."

In 1970, although Cahill's parents were unable to afford to pay her college tuition, the University of Washington granted her a two-year vocal-music scholarship. She continued with another 10 years of nursing and medical school, but singing has remained a passionate priority.

A mezzo-soprano with the North Coast Chorale, Cahill has been a regular featured vocalist in Astoria. This weekend marked her last local performance, but with the University of Alaska not far from her base in Fairbanks, she's planning to take voice lessons and discover another group to sing with. She also plans dog-mushing, cross-country skiing and an annual trip to Hawaii to combat the dark winters.

"Some think the move is a little extreme," she said. "But I'm looking at it as an adventure."

Before she leaves, she still has a few more laboring days left in Astoria.

"I promised a few (expecting mothers) I'd be here," she says. "I'm still waiting on a few babies."

- Shane Powell


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