Growing up in Norway, neurologist Kristoffer Hellum, M.D., heard stories about his family's influence on health care in faraway Wisconsin. Dr. Hellum, it turns out, is the great-grandson of Hans Christian Midelfart, M.D., a name familiar to those in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, area and a founder of what would become known as the Midelfort Clinic. Dr. Hellum recently got to see his family's influence firsthand, when he visited Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire — a descendant, you might say, of his grandfather's clinic.
The family's Wisconsin connection began in 1892, when Dr. Midelfart made a trip of his own from Norway to Eau Claire. According to ChippePedia (the Chippewa Valley's version of a free online crowd-sourced encyclopedia), the good doctor "eagerly set sail" for America after hearing that a doctor in Eau Claire "needed a year-long substitute for his practice." During his time stateside, Dr. Midelfart discovered that Eau Claire had a shortage of well-trained physicians — and an abundance of injuries from logging accidents. Recognizing an opportunity when he saw one, he returned to Europe "with a goal to learn as much as he could about surgery," then came back to Eau Claire to start his own medical practice.
Dr. Midelfart "believed in the synergism resulting from doctors joining together" (that sounds familiar) and partnered with Dr. Johan Mathiesen to establish what would become Midelfort Clinic. He also helped launch Luther Hospital and was the first physician to serve on the hospital's board of directors. Randall Linton, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System's Northwest Wisconsin Region, credits Dr. Midelfart with bringing "the concept of group practice" to the Eau Claire area. By the late 1920s, Dr. Midelfart had developed "a growing relationship" with two other pioneers of the group practice of medicine, Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo. "They had a high level of respect and a big influence on each other," Dr. Linton says, adding that collaboration among them "led to what is today the presence of Mayo Clinic in Eau Claire."
During Dr. Hellum's visit, he learned about his grandfather's work and got a close-up look at vintage newspaper articles, artwork and postcards of Midelfort history. He will take that history back with him when he returns home to Drammen, Norway, after touring both Mayo Clinic Health System and Mayo Clinic. He'll also take back ideas for improving patient care, as the hospital where he works is planning an expansion, and his visit was in part a "fact-finding mission for possible improvements to incorporate into the addition," according to WEAU 13 News. "It's amazing to think my family had this influence," Dr. Hellum tells the station.
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