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Prairie Post: Proximity to quality clinics and hospitals is a godsend.

Kevin Schulz

August 4, 2023

2 Min Read
Clipboard with intake form, pen and stethoscope sits on a table
WITHIN REACH: Minnesotans have the luxury of having quality hospitals and clinics fairly accessible. ATU Images/Getty Images

No one enjoys going to the doctor. My grandfather even went as far as to suggest, “Never go to the doctor. They only find something that’s wrong with you.”

My grandfather’s assessment may be true, but isn’t that the precise reason we visit a clinic or emergency room, to see what is wrong with us?

Regardless of your feeling about visiting a health care facility, we in Minnesota should consider ourselves fortunate due to the relatively close proximity to some of the best hospitals and clinics in the country, if not the world.

Sure, not every town or even every county has health care options, but depending on where you live in the state, you may be an hour or two or a few from quality health care — either in the state or in nearby border cities such as Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D. There may indeed be health care deserts in Minnesota, but thankfully they are few.

Fortunately, I had never really given thought to our health care “luxury” in the state. That is, not until our daughter required eye surgery when she was 2 years old. We felt inconvenienced to have to travel two hours to a Fairview clinic and hospital in the Twin Cities metro area for appointments and the ultimate surgery.

On the day of the surgery, we soon learned that our inconvenience was pretty selfish and narrow-minded, as our daughter’s surgeon said he would also be operating on patients from the East Coast that same day. I’ll take that couple-hour drive vs. traveling halfway across the country.

We’ve also heard the stories of world leaders being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Even from the northwest corner of the state, residents are about a seven-hour drive from Rochester. Seven-hour drive vs. a flight or flights from the other side of the globe. I’ll take the drive.

Rural disadvantage

According to a 2021 report from the Minnesota Department of Health, 99% of Minnesotans live within 60 minutes of a trauma hospital, while 76% of state residents live the same distance of a Level 1 or 2 trauma hospital.

Obviously, these percentages are skewed due to the large population bases in the Twin Cities and other cities within the state.

That same report says people with rural zip codes on average drive 38 minutes for maternity or neonatal care vs. the statewide average of 21 minutes. For other medical-surgical care, rural residents travel approximately 60 minutes vs. a statewide average of 32 minutes.

There will always be those who criticize the health care that they themselves receive, or that a loved one receives or didn’t receive if it was felt the medical professionals could have done more. We all know of such cases, but my point is that we have a lot of options within reach, relatively speaking.

Affordable health care and affordable insurance are also concerns, but those are discussions for another day.

Comments? Send email to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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