Passion for Rural Health Leads to Montana Skiing

We live on the North Dakota prairie where there is a shortage of family practice doctors. That shortage of doctors actually led us to Big Sky, Montana this week where a family practice physician’s conference was being held. 
In my husband Nathan’s previous corporate career he interacted with doctors on a daily basis in a sales representative role and then in a corporate management role. 
Using his previous corporate work experience to benefit and enhance our community and region is a passion for my husband. The difference is now there are no corporate perks or benefits. He is a passionate volunteer trying to sustain and then enhance our rural healthcare offering. 
The truth is rural healthcare is in dire straits. North Dakota is booming economically but we cannot wait for the government to fix our rural healthcare problems. We have to take it upon ourselves to impact change and growth. It is for those reasons that my husband despite being over-commited in business, civic and family roles serves on our local hospital board. The local hospital board, administration and local Job Development Authority are working to help bring family practice physicians to our community. In addition to our local effort, The Center for Rural Health, located within the University of North Dakota medical school is a national leader in impacting positive growth and change for rural health. 
A combination of Nathan’s connections, passion, volunteering, past corporate work experience, our local hospital board and the Center for Rural Health brought us to Big Sky, Montana earlier this week to attend the family practice physician’s conference. Nathan attended this event for many years previously. Once we were dating and then married, both our son and I attended, learning to downhill ski along the way. 
Since leaving Nathan’s corporate career, we have returned to Big Sky for vacation and family fun skiing. But this visit was different. The little girls stayed home with Nana Carol and Grandpa Eldon. We drove 24 hours total in our vehicle to Big Sky and back which ended up being 1421 miles on some slick and icy roads. 
We certainly loved the skiing this week but the purpose and goal of the trip was for Nathan to interact with doctors he knows and talk about the opportunities and benefits that practicing medicine in rural North Dakota can bring to the doctor and his or her family. He returned to the conference for the first time as volunteer in a display booth alongside a Center for Rural Health staff member with no corporate strings attached.
While we didn’t actually bring home a doctor with us, Nathan left with renewed connections, follow up phone calls to make and opportunities to present at upcoming family practice medicine events. Indeed we are hopeful there will be a family practice physician or two that will commit to rural healthcare and be willing to serve our local clinics and 24 bed critical access hospital.
For us as a family, we returned to the prairie today with a new sense of pride for our local community and all that we are grateful for versus if we would have stayed on the corporate wheel and not relocated back to Nathan’s hometown on the North Dakota prairie. 
Please ask yourself today: What can I do for my community today to truly make it a better and enhanced place to live? 
And if you know a doctor that wants to live on the prairie, please send him or her our way. 


  1. Wow, good for you guys! You’re right—the future of rural healthcare is pretty bleak. As someone who is being trained in family practice, I have found few (okay…zero) colleagues who have big dreams of living out in the rural areas and relocating family, life, etc. While they sometimes offer some nice relocation incentives, the competition is just too tough next to larger towns. It’s a tough sell—but—keep up the good work 🙂 You might find just the right person!

  2. That is great advice: If you’re looking for doctors, go where the doctors are. I’m confident you’ll find the ones who would actually prefer a rural or small town location.

    On another note, this is one of the downsides to a boom: your infrastructure can’t scale fast enough. And as you do scale up, you are susceptible to the next bust. (Trust me on that boom-bust cycle, I’ve lived in the oil patch all my life, in Oklahoma and Texas.)

    I applaud you for being involved, and not waiting for someone else to fix it. People like you are what make small towns great. 🙂

  3. Excellent post. Rural communities are underserved, but have the greatest need. To help, we are offering free grant writing resources to rural health providers. Our goal is to put the Affordable Care Act to work for rural! Our community site is

    Thank You

  4. We are fortunate to have rural healthcare clinics in our very small town. And, I agree with Becky. So great that you guys are involved in this.

  5. I LOVE Big Sky resort!! So gorgeous and relaxing. If you get the chance, I would absolutely recommend visit Yellowstone National Park in the summer. It is a treasured place that my family visits at least once every year. {A perk of living just a couple hours away.}

Leave a Reply