It's taken me weeks to deal with my confusion, frustration and embarrassment regarding the Jan. 7 Beltrami County commissioners' vote on (the possibility of accepting) refugees. I think time has permitted me to express my feelings in a positive manner.
It's been my good fortune to reside in Bemidji for the past 40-plus years and raise five children here. Our family benefited from the excellent education system, the multitude of family- and children-oriented activities, and our multigenerational and multicultural neighbors who emphasized the value of sharing and generosity.
My professional life as a physician was enriched by the opportunity to participate in the health care of individuals from all socioeconomic levels and various cultures, ethnicities and beliefs. Over half of my professional career involved recruiting health care professionals. Due to Bemidji's remote location and cold winters, our pool of potential candidates was limited. Yet equally significant is the fact Bemidji is a family oriented community with excellent public schools, and many opportunities for children to grow and participate in a diverse array of music, theater, athletic, outdoor and cultural experiences. The fact that our county has the second lowest per capita income in Minnesota did not have a negative influence on the individuals who interviewed here.
Our ability to attract non-U.S. trained physicians allowed our local health care system to continue to grow and add services. The services in our community today are directly related to the presence of these foreign-trained physicians. These individuals and their families share their knowledge and expertise with our community, as well as adding to the culture of the region. Many county residents, family and friends have been treated by these physicians; some maybe had their lives saved.
So it's challenging for me to understand how some people can ignore these facts, and choose to focus only on foreign individuals who they feel, in their mind, cannot immediately contribute to our community.
If our schools are to truly and comprehensively educate our children, what better life skills to learn than the ability and curiosity to relate to and understand individuals from different cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic status. Seems that would be a recipe for potential success regardless of one's station in life.
Hopefully I have successfully converted the energies mentioned in the initial paragraph to making others in our community aware of just how much we can grow and profit from people who choose to come to Beltrami County.