Cass Lake doctor adapts to new life
Dr. Greg Roberts used to work long hours at a busy family clinic in Colorado. Although he found his job satisfying, he often felt it could be too demanding.
Then it all changed.
Roberts' wife, the Rev. Gay Albers, was appointed to the United Methodist Church in Bemidji. That's when they packed up and relocated to Northern Minnesota.
The couple started planning their move about two years ago. Both agreed it would make sense and Albers wanted to get back to the Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church. Albers previously served at the United Methodist Church in Owatonna. In 1996, she took a family leave and moved to Colorado with Roberts.
This year, Albers decided that it was time to restart her career and let the Minnesota Conference know she was ready to be appointed. It would be quite a dramatic change for both the husband and wife. Albers would be working full time and Roberts would try to cut back hours.
So Roberts searched for a job nearby that would allow him to spend most of his time with his three children.
"My wife and I really want to be available to our kids," Roberts said.
Roberts found a job opening with Sanford Health in Cass Lake. Sanford was looking for a doctor to work a light schedule, so it was nearly a perfect fit for both parties.
Once they moved to Bemidji, the role reversal was complete. Roberts went from full-time doctor to full-time dad.
Roberts now works Tuesdays and Thursdays at the clinic and spends the rest of the time hanging out with his sons Daniel, 9, Joel, 8, and Zachary, 5.
The boys have been sure to take advantage of Minnesota's famous lakes.
Roberts lives near the east side of Lake Bemidji and has made the most out of his free time in the heart of Minnesota. This summer, he enjoyed taking his sons out fishing, swimming and canoeing.
"They hardly ever swam in a lake before," Roberts said. "Now they've been in lots of lakes."
Roberts also took a drive up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. He doesn't want to leave any road untraveled.
The multitude of outdoor activities and wide variety of cultural events that take place in the Bemidji area are very attractive to both Roberts and Albers. Roberts is also averse to heavy traffic and long commutes, something he isn't likely to encounter driving to Cass Lake for work.
Roberts is a highly accomplished doctor. He did his residency in Greeley, Colo., for three years and worked as a traveling physician for two years after that. During that time, he worked at various clinics around the country for six to eight weeks at a time, filling in at places that needed help.
He settled down in Craig in 1994 to work as a family physician and lived there until this year.
Craig is a small, wintery town in the eastern part of the state. The similar size and climate made the transition to northern Minnesota relatively easy. The decision to relocate was a no-brainer.
For many doctors, that isn't the case.
"In the country, there are a lot more jobs than there are doctors to fill them," Roberts said. "A lot of physicians want to be in the city. That's not like me."
Officials at the Physician Recruitment Office of Sanford Health Bemidji said the biggest challenge smaller communities face is finding the right fit for a doctor who wants to practice in a rural area. Often times, doctors who accept positions in smaller communities have family ties or prefer living in a rural area.
"In a way, that makes it kind of lucky for me," Roberts said. "It makes it easier for me to find work."
Albers also likes the friendly, open people that live in Bemidji. Though Albers used to play the role of a full-time mom, she has settled into her new job at her church.
"It's been a wonderful thing, setting my career aside to nurture our kids, knowing that there is going to be a place for me to be back at work full time," Albers said. "This actually has worked out perfectly. It's a great thing to have a good partner."
Albers says the change hasn't been difficult, just different. She's happy to see her kids adjust to a new community and a new school with ease. The whole family continues to enjoy all the perks that Minnesota has to offer.
Roberts likes the transition from a very intense, long hours practice to a much more limited practice. It gives him a new found freedom from work that he hasn't experienced in years. Now he focuses most of his time and energy into taking care of his children and making home improvements.
It's certainly enough to keep him busy.