John Kitzhaber was born in Colfax, Washington, on March 5, 1947. He moved with his family to Oregon at age 11 and graduated from South Eugene High School in 1965. After earning his Bachelor's degree at Dartmouth College, he returned to Oregon to study medicine at the University of Oregon Medical School (now OHSU). Upon becoming a doctor, he practiced emergency room medicine in Roseburg, Oregon, from 1974 to 1988.
The Governor’s interest in health care public policy, along with a deep concern for the livelihoods of rural Oregonians and love for Oregon's natural heritage, led him to seek public service. He first won election to the Oregon Legislature in 1978, serving one term in the Oregon House of Representatives. In 1980, he was elected to the Oregon State Senate and served three terms. He served as Senate President from 1985 to 1993.
He accomplished much as a legislator, but his most memorable achievement was to bring lawmakers and interest groups together to enact the ground-breaking Oregon Health Plan. Tens of thousands of low and moderate-income Oregon families and their children still have access to health care because of this work.
In 1994, and again in 1998, Oregonians elected John Kitzhaber as their Governor. While leading state government, Governor Kitzhaber presided over eight years of significant economic growth. The Governor won acclaim for his pioneering work on the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, and before he left office, he helped launch the Oregon Business Plan, a bipartisan strategic framework developed collaboratively by business leaders, community leaders and elected officials to grow the Oregon economy.
After two terms, John Kitzhaber continued his work to improve access to cost-effective health care, becoming one of the nation's most respected voices on health care reform. Concerned about the impact of the fiscal crisis on Oregonians, and seeing the opportunity through that crisis to create systemic change, Kitzhaber ran for Governor again in 2010 and won election to an unprecedented third term.
The Governor’s agenda during his third term has been focused on transforming Oregon’s system of health care, creating a public education system that prepares Oregonians for the jobs and economy of the 21st century, and strengthening Oregon’s economy in every corner of the state. His work is motivated by his commitment to equity and opportunity for all, secure jobs with upward income mobility, and safe, secure communities where people have a sense of common purpose and commitment to one another.