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New building shaping rural doctors

by Candi Helseth

: Medical students Kelsie Grenier and Jacob Greenmyer enjoy the new building layout, which features many spots where students can confer, and a computer kiosk (inset photo) for individual work to be conducted.PHOTOS BY NDAREC/LIZA KESSEL
Medical students Kelsie Grenier and Jacob Greenmyer enjoy the new building layout, which features many spots where students can confer, and a computer kiosk (inset photo) for individual work to be conducted.PHOTOS BY NDAREC/LIZA KESSEL

With comfortable study spaces, sunlight streaming into the large windows, and all the medical education services and classrooms under one roof, the new University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences on the UND campus is a welcome addition.

Medical school students Kelsie Grenier and Jacob Greenmyer particularly appreciate the natural lighting and comfortable environment that help sustain them through the long hours of classes and studying.

“We are the first class to use it, and I think we feel very fortunate,” Grenier commented. “Anything we need access to is here. It's such an awesome facility; you just feel more motivated. I read an article where other medical schools are looking at our facility and program and are trying to mold their programs that direction. That's an awesome bragging point.”

Grenier and Greenmyer, who both earned undergraduate degrees at UND in biology, with honors, are currently first-year medical students. Grenier's science teacher and basketball coach, Mike Baier, at Bottineau High School, fueled her love of the sciences. Because she also is a people person and service-oriented, a career as a physician seemed a good direction.

Greenmyer’s personal health history led him to a career in medicine. He wants to be the kind of provider he admired growing up. As an 8-year-old, he was diagnosed with common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), a disorder marked by recurrent infections.

Then as a high school freshman, he spent 13 months with crippling chest pain, pneumonia and other debilitating symptoms. After being diagnosed with a rare cancer, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, he had half of his left lung removed. He has been in remission since he was 14, but still receives monthly treatments for CVID.

“My experiences interacting with medical caregivers, as well as living with a chronic disease and cancer diagnosis, certainly influenced my decision,” he said. “I want to be able to give back and help other families similar to how my physicians helped me.”

His parents were also influential. He and his mother, Chelie, made weekly 200-mile round trips to Fargo when he was ill. On their drives, Chelie frequently talked about the rewards and satisfaction she experienced as a registered nurse working with home health patients. Jacob says farm life also influenced him, because careers like farming and being a physician are “not just a job, but more of a calling.”

Both are grateful for their North Dakota roots and rural upbringing. Jacob’s parents, Ron and Chelie Greenmyer, farm near Stirum and are members of Cass County Electric Cooperative. Kelsie’s father, Steven, and stepmother, Meghan Grenier farm near Rolette and are members of North Central Electric Cooperative. Kelsie’s mom, Alison, and stepfather, Harvey Schultz, reside near Bottineau, and are also members of North Central Electric Cooperative.

While the new facility is certainly a strong addition to the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Greenmyer and Grenier say they chose UND primarily because of its good reputation for student-teacher relations and its solid preparation for the real world of medicine.

“UND is well-known for having students who are ahead of the game when they enter residency programs, because they have already had a lot of patient interaction,” Grenier said. “At a lot of medical schools, students spend all the time in the books and don’t interact with patients much at all.”

 Grenier and Greenmyer will spend four years in medical school, graduating with a degree in general medicine. They will then complete a residency, where they work under supervision in a specialty area for three or more years. Although neither of them has definitively charted their future course, Grenier is leaning toward emergency medicine and Greenmyer toward pediatrics.

“ER intrigues me, and I love the fact that you see a bit of everything there,” said Grenier, who worked for a year as a medical scribe at Altru Hospital’s emergency room.

“For me, a big part of what I want to do is deal with kids and families,” Greenmyer commented. “In my experiences watching my family go through my diagnoses and treatments, I saw how important it was for the physician to care for the entire family.”

By the time she becomes employed as a physician, Grenier will have spent another 12 years in school in addition to her K–12 education. She doesn’t see that as a disadvantage: she likes school and learning.

Greenmyer agreed. “To go into the medical field, I knew I needed a sense of delayed gratification,” he reflected. “I knew it was going to be a lot of work. I also understand it will be worth it in the end.”

Candi Helseth is a freelance writer from Minot