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.