Former moterhead Steve Medrud's main goal when deciding on a career was that it let him work outdoors; the retiring family physician had to settle for being a good doctor instead.
“I came here for the first time in 1975, as a medical student,” Dr. Steve Medrud said this week.
“I was the first medical student to get experience in Redwood Falls, and I knew then this town would be a good place to live.”
With an interruption for a few years in Wisconsin, Medrud grew up mostly on a farm near Tracy.
“My grandfather homesteaded near Walnut Grove in the late 1800s,” Medrud said. “One of my great-granduncles, Anders Medrud, is pictured in the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum as ‘an early pioneer.’”
“In high school I wanted to be a mechanical engineer,” Medrud said. “I loved design and studied drafting in shop class for four years.
“I wasn’t a nerd. Most of the nerds in my town didn’t hunt,” Medrud said. “I was more of a motorhead.
“If not for the Vietnam War, I might have farmed,” said Medrud. “All my friends who farmed were drafted, but if you went to school you got a deferment.”
Medrud majored in pre-med, although, “I was enamored with wildlife biology. I spent a loot of time outdoors. i took biology, entomology, botany — anything I could that would get me outdoors.
“I very easily could have gone into veterinary or DNR-type stuff instead. That was very appealing, too.”
After majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry, Medrud promptly spent the next three years not putting his degrees to good use working for a railroad.
“I was a truck driver, a welder.... I was even a lineman for six weeks,” he laughed.
But as he read and studied on his own, medicine became more appealing.
Medrud started medical school at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, in 1973.
“I was there until 1877, then until 1980 I did my residency at Fairview and St. Mary’s Hospitals in the Twin Cities.”
While there he got to know doctors Roger Schroeppel and Dennis Flinn, and first heard about the town of Redwood Falls.
He also spent a lot of time in the emergency rooms bumping into an X-ray student named Janelle.
“She was also working as a ward secretary, and putting in 16-hour days,” Medrud said of his future wife.
Eventually Medrud had to decide on a specialty; it came down to being a family medicine, or surgery.
“I did lean toward surgery for awhile. I’m interested in anatomy and tinkering with things a little bit. I was still a bit of a motorhead,” he said.
“(The Redwood Falls clinic) offered me a contract in 1975,” Medrud pointed out. “I tried looking at a few other places, but Redwood was head and shoulders above the rest.
“The only time I’ve ever thought of leaving Redwood was in the early 1990s, when there were only four of us (physicians) here for four years. It was horrible, with no ER coverage. My wife would buy a pizza and bring it up to me in the hospital for supper.”
What had Medrud liked best about his career in medicine?
“Interacting with the people,” he said. “I always knew that even on the worst day I ever had, I could look back and know I was still helping somebody.”
What part could Medrud have done without?
“The hours. There were some long, long hours sometimes.”
Medrud is more than a little astonished at the progress in medicine since he began.
“When I started out, there were three or four blood pressure medicines. One had horrible side effects, and the others had to be taken multiple times each day,” he said. “Today, there are several whole classes of blood pressure medications.
“Trying to keep up with it was a no-win battle. We’re required to put in 50 hours a year of continuing education to maintain our board certification, but we all put in far more than that.”
Medrud will still be making appearances at the clinic and hospital to fill in for awhile as needed, but doesn’t think that will be necessary for long.
“We have an excellent new doctor coming in August, and in the last year we’ve added three new nurse practitioners,” Medrud said. “They’ve all been excellent additions to our staff here.”
Since April 25, Medrud’s last day as a regularly assigned physician, he has spent as much time outdoors as possible.
“I’ve been doing the things I love to do outdoors: hunt, garden, cut wood. I haven’t fished for years, I’ve bought a welder and would like to stick a few pieces of iron together, I’d like to work on my woodworking skills,” he said, ticking them off.
“We don’t plan on leaving here. After 33 years, the roots go pretty deep,” he said. “I could tolerate living in a city while I was in school, but after that....”
“I would like to visit Medrud, Norway some time,” he said. “My ancestors took the name of the place they came from. If they had chosen to take the father’s name, we would be Johanson today.
“My last day was on April 25, and I started hunting turkeys on April 26,” he said. “I haven’t done much relaxing yet...but I hope to someday!”