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MeritCare Centennial A Look at Pioneers in Medicine

Fargo, N.D. - In March, MeritCare is celebrating pioneers in medicine—the doctors who helped light the way to provide outstanding health care in our region. In 1905, when founders Dr. Olaf Sand and Dr. Nils Tronnes shared their vision for better health care, they laid the groundwork for St. Luke's Hospital. Even more, they exemplified what it means to be a "pioneer."

Fargo, N.D. - In March, MeritCare is celebrating pioneers in medicine—the doctors who helped light the way to provide outstanding health care in our region. In 1905, when founders Dr. Olaf Sand and Dr. Nils Tronnes shared their vision for better health care, they laid the groundwork for St. Luke's Hospital. Even more, they exemplified what it means to be a "pioneer."

Neurology Pioneer - Dr. Lee Christoferson
In 1951, no neurosurgeons were practicing between Minneapolis and Seattle. Dr. Christoferson, a native of the Midwest, realized this and when it came time to start a practice, he choose Fargo. Although many doubted the need for such a specialty, Dr. Christoferson, or "Chris" as he was called by patients and employees, believed he could make a difference and be successful. He was right. He became so busy he needed to work nights, weekends and holidays. Four years later in 1955, he joined other doctors to form The Neuropsychiatric Institute (TNI). In 1961, TNI merged with St. Luke's Hospital.

Another of Dr. Christoferson's accomplishments is he spurred interest in neurology at the University of North Dakota where he developed a course called "Introduction to Neurology and Neurosurgery." This led many more up-and-coming doctors to purse the field.

Dr. Christoferson passed away in March 2000. Dr. Roger Gilberson, MeritCare president/CEO, specialized in neuroradiology and worked with Dr. Christoferson. Please contact MeritCare media & news if you'd like to arrange an interview with Dr. Gilbertson.

Cardiology Pioneer - Dr. Clif Hamilton
Dr. Clif Hamilton, thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon, performed the first open-heart surgery at St. Luke's Hospital, now MeritCare, in early 1971. Having performed these procedures while practicing in Omaha, Dr. Hamilton was the first to bring this technique to the region. The success of the first open-heart surgery was the beginning of MeritCare's path toward becoming one of the nation's top heart hospitals. Dr. Hamilton, who is now retired, doesn't miss the intricate details of surgery; he leaves those up to the younger doctors. He does, however, miss caring for patients.

Dr. Hamilton spends winters in Hawaii; he will be returning to Fargo next week. Interviews are available when he returns. Please call MeritCare media & news if you'd like to arrange an interview.

Children's Services Pioneer - Dr. Marlin Poindexter
Dr. Marlin Poindexter was the 13th doctor to join Fargo Clinic. In 1948, just after World War II, only a handful of pediatricians were practicing in Fargo. Dr. Poindexter was happy to come to the region and help fill the overwhelming need. In an interview before his death, he recalled the growing town of Fargo and the overworked doctors. "The doctors who had been here during the war were pretty tired and were glad to get some relief." His career as a doctor was filled with challenges, such as the polio epidemics of the 1940s and 50s, and scarlet fever. To make sure everyone received care, Dr. Poindexter, or Pondy as he was called by staff and patients, usually made several house calls a night. He was dedicated to his "small" patients and was a beloved doctor and co-worker for over 30 years.

Dr. Poindexter passed away December 2006. Dr. Ron Miller, MeritCare managing physician partner of pediatrics, knew Dr. Poindexter. If you'd like to arrange an interview with Dr. Miller, please call MeritCare media & news.

Regional Network of Care Pioneer - Dr. Robert Montgomery
Dr. Robert Montgomery was president of Fargo Clinic (now MeritCare) from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. He believed quality health care should be available to everyone, not just those living in larger cities. Dr. Montgomery was instrumental in developing MeritCare's current regional-network-of-care model. Today, MeritCare has a network of 30 clinics across a 250-mile service area. These clinics bring primary care, and often specialty care, such as cardiology, urology, etc., to rural communities across eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

Dr. Montgomery currently resides in Fargo and is a part-time pediatrician at MeritCare. Please call MeritCare media & news if you'd like to arrange an interview.

Every day, MeritCare doctors make a difference in the lives of patients. The founders established this priority on Feb. 25, 1908, when they missed the hospital's grand opening ceremony to help a patient. Since then MeritCare doctors have brightened the paths of many in our region -they continue to pioneer and light the way for generations to come.