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MeritCare Bemidji continues rapid growth

MeritCare Health System Bemidji provides services to the region with a variety of medical specialties.

Headquartered in Fargo, N.D., MeritCare opened in 1988 in Bemidji, succeeding the Bemidji Clinic, which dated from 1947. Now, MeritCare Bemidji lists on the roster 513 employees, 46 of whom are physicians. As a result, the clinic offers more than 30 specialized areas of health care ranging from anesthesiology to urology.

Other departments include dermatology, emergency medicine, family practice, internal medicine, pulmonary disease, rheumatology, medical and radiation oncology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, occupational health, ophthalmology, optometry, orthopedic surgery, pathology, pediatrics, podiatry and general and vascular surgery.

Jodi Mutnansky of MeritCare marketing services said the vascular surgery department, in partnership with North Country Regional Hospital, makes the Bemidji clinic unique for a city of about 12,000. Also, having patients being able to access cancer care close to home is a big advantage, she said.

Executive Partner Dan Olson said the clinic continues to grow, expanding departments and adding new services. Olson came to Bemidji in January from Detroit Lakes, Minn.

The clinic's outreach became even clearer this spring, he said.

"During the flood in Fargo, a lot of people who couldn't get care in Fargo came here," he said.

Mutnansky said a new MeritCare branch is the building at 1611 Anne St. N.W, which houses eye care and dermatology specialists. She said that facility will fill up as the services MeritCare offers expand.

"I think people are not aware of all the services we have here," Mutnansky said. "It's very comprehensive."

Olson said one of his goals is to develop a closer relationship with NCRH.

"To be a strong, vibrant clinic, we need a strong, vibrant hospital," he said.

Warren Larson, MeritCare public policy and community benefits director, pointed out some of the partnerships MeritCare has fostered to improve the community. As members of the B-TEAM (Beltrami Tobacco Education Awareness Movement), the group worked toward eliminating smoking indoors. Last year, the organization morphed into B-WELL (Beltrami Wellness Education for Long Life).

With the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Larson, who is B-WELL president, said the group is working on a long-term goal of reducing childhood obesity. They also received a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield for a walkability assessment for Bemidji. He said this project will also involve the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce and "Bemidji Leads!"

"We do know with advocacy and public policy we can have a big impact on people's health," Larson said.