Altru’s Diabetes Center Offers Legislative Health Screens for Sixth Consecutive Session

On January 20-21, 2015, Dr. James Brosseau, Ann Mason, Susan Streitz, Renee Barry, Jill Kroke and Janet Sherette represented Altru Health System at the State Capitol in Bismarck. The group of six from Altru’s Diabetes Center provided free health screenings for North Dakota legislators. This is the sixth time Dr. Brosseau and his team have provided health assessments.

Legislative health screenings

“I got interested in doing this about 12 years ago, when I volunteered to be Doctor of the Day during the state legislative session,” explained Dr. Brosseau. “Doctors from around the state were on call for legislators who became ill during sessions. There were very few calls, so I thought it would be a good idea to start screening people for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. It has become more popular each year.”

This year’s health screenings included:

  • Height/weight
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Lipid panels

From this data, health risk assessments for each individual were calculated and printed within 15 minutes of registration. The group screened more than 140 people, consisting of mostly legislators and elected officials.


“A great big thank you to Dr. Brosseau and the staff from Altru,” exclaims Courtney Koebele, executive director of the North Dakota Medical Association. “The free health screenings were talked about all over the chambers. Thank you for your great work and for volunteering your time!”

Dr. Brosseau concludes, “When I started the program, I never thought it would develop into something like this. We have already been invited to return in 2017.”

Dr. Eric Lunn shares: What it takes to deliver world-class care

This guest blog post was written by Dr. Eric Lunn, president of Altru Health System.

excellWhen I was in the eighth grade, I decided I was going to be a doctor. There was no pivotal life moment that drove this decision. I just knew I wanted to be a pediatrician.

It was my dream.

Two years later, as a sophomore in high school, I returned home from school one day—completely devastated. I had taken an aptitude test, and my high school guidance counselor told me I wasn’t smart enough to be a doctor.

My dream was crushed.

Through hard work and determination, I graduated high school, then college, then medical school and graduated with honors. When I returned home, my mom marched into that high school guidance counselor’s office, laid my freshly printed diploma on his desk and said, “Never, ever, ever tell another student he can’t do something in life.”

Altru’s Dream
Delivering world-class care to the residents of our region is Altru Health System’s vision. World-class care doesn’t mean providing good or great care. It means getting an A+ from patients and families 100 percent of the time. Every experience with every person in the health system must be spot-on. People have a tendency to remember the negative, so even if 9/10 encounters are great, the not-so-great one is often what’s remembered. Being world-class means being consistently great.

Pair this with the future of health care: decreasing reimbursement for services rendered. This national trend will continue for the next several years. The key for Altru will be to maintain, or improve, our excellent quality and service, while being paid less for what we provide. Delivering world-class care, at a lower cost, will undoubtedly be a challenge.

Like the aptitude test I faced as a sophomore in high school, along the journey there will be setbacks. It’s our job to continue pressing forward. I’ll leave you with this quote from Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

As we journey toward world-class care, 2015 will be filled with opportunities, thanks to Dr. Casey Ryan’s 17.5 years of leading Altru Health System. It is a privilege to follow in his footsteps and continue on this journey to world-class care.

What does world-class care mean to you? Leave a comment.

What it means to say: I AM ALTRU

When you stop by Altru’s coffee kiosks and order your morning cup o’ joe, do you expect your vanilla-double foam-extra shot-soy latte to taste the same every day? Of course you do. It’s your drink. Have you come to expect friendly service with a smile? Absolutely.

These are standards. We expect the same level of attentive service and wake-you-up quality brew time after time.

I am AltruAt Altru, we aim to create a similar type of experience. In order to establish trust with our patients, every encounter needs to adopt certain standards of behavior.

Because every circumstance is different, there’s no exact cookie cutter approach to creating exceptional experiences for our patients. However, consistently applying a single set of behavior standards is an essential part of achieving our vision of world-class care. They replace several sets of standards, including the Altru Experience, that have been developed over the years.

Introducing Altru’s Behavior Standards
The day we accepted a position at Altru, we became a visible representative of Altru Health System. We contribute to our culture each day and demonstrate that culture through the experience we provide our patients and their families.

We are pleased to introduce Altru’s Behavior Standards created by employees and leaders and represented by the letters “I am Altru.”

Each letter of “I am Altru” is the first letter of a word that represents a category of behavior standards. Each category has a “We” statement and several “I” statements that speak to what we will commit to as an individual and as a team. These standards are excepted behaviors for all Altru employees.

It’s Not ‘Just a Job’
Our responsibility to our community is not only to be here, day in and day out, like this is just another job. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of behavior, including:

  • Integrity: We will always do the right thing even when no one is watching.
  • Acknowledge: We will create a welcoming, healing environment.
  • Meaningful: We will provide an exceptional patient experience.
  • Accountable: We will accept responsibility for our actions and behaviors.
  • Listen: We will listen and seek to understand.
  • Team: We will work together to deliver world-class care.
  • Respect: We will treat others with respect.
  • Understanding: We will seek to understand and respond genuinely.

See the complete list of Altru’s Behavior Standards as well as Frequently Asked QuestionsAnd, hear Dr. Christopher Boe, emergency medicine, explain behavior standards at Leadership Development Institute last fall:

We are a community of more than 4,000 joined together with one core purpose. No matter our role, we are here to improve health and enrich lives. Individually, we can proudly say: I am Altru.

Just like your favorite friendly barista can brighten your day, you also have a corner of the world to positively influence. None of us are in this alone. Whether in the conference room, in the checkout line, in the arena, in the pew or in the parade—we are Altru. 

Show us how you display any of these qualities. Submit your photo for the I am Altru selfie contest for your chance to win! 

See Also:

Our Journey to World-Class Care | LDI Update

Last spring, we shared our vision for the health system:

We will deliver world-class health care to the people of our region. 

This means providing the best health care anywhere: the best quality, the best service and the best outcomes. Our aim is to make sure that we deliver nothing but the best, without exception, in every single patient interaction.

To start, we have been putting the right fundamentals in place. Over the last year, physician and senior leadership, managers and supervisors have been attending Leadership Development Institutes (LDI). Here, they have been learning Evidence-Based Leadership (EBL) practices. This model has led to the adoption of enhanced patient and employee rounding. Patient rounding has helped increase patient perception of care scores in many aspects and helps us continue to improve and better understand the needs of our patients. Through employee rounding, we’ve implemented the use of stoplight reports. In addition to enhancing communication between leaders and employees, we’re learning your ideas on how to improve the health system and continue on our journey to world-class care.

Last week’s Leadership Development Institute led to further EBL engagement in must-haves (thank you notes, rounding, stoplight reports) and introduced new concepts that your leaders will begin to implement. Read on for a brief run-down of each.

Behavior Standards
A key part of creating a culture that consistently delivers high quality and reliable care to our patients is having a core set of behavior standards. These standards, which we all understand and live by, ensure we consistently deliver world-class care.

Altru’s Behavior Standards have been created by employees and leaders at Altru and are represented by “I am Altru”. Each letter of “I am Altru” is the first letter of a word that represents a category of behavior standards. Each category has a “We” statement and several “I” statements that speak to what we will commit to as individuals and as a team. These standards are expected behaviors for all. (Your leader will visit with you specifically about the behavior standards where you can discuss any questions you have, understand their importance, and visit about standards that may be easy to attain and those where additional guidance is needed.)

Goals/90-Day Action Plans/Monthly Meeting Model
Altru’s Strategic Plan continues to drive us forward. It is the road map that outlines the organization’s goals and measurable outcomes organized in pillars: People, Quality, Service, Finance, Growth and Community.

Last fall, every leader defined goals for their department which will support these strategies. The next step in aligning our efforts is for managers and supervisors to establish 90-day action plans to help achieve these goals. Breaking down the work into quarters helps us see if the steps we are putting in place are making a difference or if we need to adjust processes along the way. Further, managers learned of the Monthly Meeting Model process to structure meetings and ensure we remain accountable to our action plans and goals.

To keep the organization’s and your department’s goals top of mind, this spring each department will receive a communication board where the goals and progress toward those goals will be displayed.

Our journey to delivering world-class care is far from finished. As we adopt more Evidence-Based Leadership practices and hardwire our efforts, we’ll continue to improve the care we provide our patients and go even further on our journey to achieving our vision. If you have any questions about this journey, behavior standards, the organization’s goals, or your department’s goals, please visit with your manager. Be sure to continue watching the Green Cross for more updates along our journey together.

Get Moving and Stay Moving with an Activity Tracker

Benefits Activity TrackerIt’s that time of year again. Time to recommit to living a healthier lifestyle. What’s your goal for 2015? Eat more fruits and vegetables? Drink more water? Spend at least 15 minutes a day relaxing? Exercise more?

Making fitness or weight loss related goals is pretty common, and actually pretty easy to do. The hard part can be staying motivated day after day to reach those goals.

People are looking more and more to fitness trackers to do just as their name implies….keep them on track. Only 16.3 percent of American adults reach the recommended 10,000 steps a day. In fact, 36.1 percent of American adults qualify as sedentary, defined as less than 5,000 steps a day. While it’s always best to work with a qualified health and fitness professional and your physician when making changes, wearing a fitness tracker definitely has its benefits. Plus, how cool and powerful would you feel wearing a sleek and colorful wristband with flashing lights?

What is a fitness tracker?
Fitness trackers (or activity trackers) are worn on your wrist or clothing or can be carried in your pocket. They’re available with multiple features and various designs for every lifestyle and budget. There are even trackers for kids!

At their most basic, these devices are fancy pedometers, keeping track of how many steps you take in one day (activity tracker). In addition to steps, some devices also track your heart rate, how many calories you burn, monitor your sleep, suggest improvements in your lifestyle and even remind you to get up and move once every hour (fitness tracker).

What are the benefits?

  • Accountability and Motivation
    Wearing an activity or fitness tracker is a constant reminder of the goals you set. It’s almost like having Jillian Michaels right there with you!
  • Goal Setting
    Knowledge is power. Knowing your current activity or fitness level can inspire you to push yourself further.
  • Connect with Family and Friends
    Set up a friendly competition with people working towards similar goals. I’ve seen the benefits of this first hand between my father and our pastor. In the past, you would find these two sitting and talking about farming and the happenings of our small hometown. Now with activity trackers on their wrists, they walk and talk about the same events. At day’s end, they compare total moves (or steps). One goes to bed victorious, the other gets up earlier the next day to get a head start.
  • Discover More Opportunities to Move
    When you track your steps each day, you’ll recognize that taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking in the furthest spot from the door can make a difference. You’ll find yourself making choices just to improve your numbers. Heck, you may even discover a newfound desire to vacuum more spaces and unload the dishwasher, two activities proven to rack up the moves. (On second thought, maybe those chore-related activities can be saved for the kids!)

Which tracker is right for you?

Before purchasing a fitness tracker, go through this checklist:

  • What’s your budget?
  • What do you want to track?
  • Where do you want to wear it?
  • Does it need to be waterproof to track activities such as swimming?
  • Do you want the tracker to sync with a smartphone app or your computer?
  • Should it be compatible with other devices, programs or apps?

Once you know these things, do your research, read reviews and determine which is right for you. The perfect fitness tracker is ready to help you get moving and, more importantly, motivate you to stay moving.

Need extra incentive to get moving? Join the Healthy Choices Greater Grand Forks Walking Challenge. Together, let’s walk 1 million miles in 2015. 

Rachel - NewRachel Aure, Altru’s Health and Wellness Specialist, performs health risk assessments and fitness assessments, develops exercise prescriptions, provides medically supervised exercise sessions and applies behavioral and motivational strategies to support clients in adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyles. She is a Certified Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist and a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She has 15 years of experience in medical fitness and the health and wellness field. Outside of work, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Most Popular Blog Posts of 2014

Top Blog Posts of 2014Turning the calendar to a new year presents a perfect opportunity for reflection.

To wrap up 2014, we took a look back at our most popular stories this past year. Here are the top 10.

1. 10 Things to Know about Dr. Eric Lunn, Altru’s Incoming President

2. Anonymous Gift Delivered in the (St.) Nick of Time

3. My Weight Loss Journey by Joe Myers, RN

4. Celebrating Our People: Altru Achievement Awards

5. Making History at Altru Specialty Center

6. Whether Selling Cars or Healing Humans, Great Service is Great Service

7. Untold Stories of Local Runners, 2.0

8. 5 Things You Must Know about Ebola

9. The Newest Trend in Hospitals: Observation Units

10. 4 Nutrition Trends: Mythbusting with Altru’s Dietitians 

Thank you for reading along! We look forward to sharing more top stories with you throughout 2015.

What was your favorite story of 2014? Let us know.

Dr. Casey Ryan’s Top 6

Dr Ryan Top MomentsWow, 17.5 years goes fast.

In 1979, Grand Forks Clinic added six physicians, myself included, increasing to 45 physicians. Today, Altru Health System has over 210 physicians and over 70 nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

During my time as president, six things stand out as major successes for Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and the entire region Altru serves.

1. Twenty Grand Forks Clinic physicians and the clinic manager purchase land in 1970 to initiate medical park development. St. Michael’s Hospital and Deaconess Hospital become United Hospital in 1971.

2. Grand Forks Clinic and United Hospital merge to form Altru Health System in 1997.

3. Altru Health System becomes the first member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network in September of 2011.

4. Altru opens a second Grand Forks hospital on South Washington Street in 2014.

5. The culture of Altru becomes solidified around teamwork and “doing what is best for the patient.”

6. Altru pursues the vision of achieving world class care for quality and service in 2014. 

Altru’s strength is generated through all its employees. For all that Altru has accomplished, I strongly believe that its future will be even more successful in improving health and enriching lives.

-Dr. Casey Ryan

Dr. Ryan will retire as president of Altru Health System, effective January 1, 2015. He will continue as a practicing provider in internal medicine, diabetes and endocrinology.

5 Ways to Be Charitable This Holiday Season

GCW MagThis guest article was first published in the holiday issue of Grand Cities Woman Magazine. Stephanie DeJean, client communications director with Altru Health Foundation, shares ways to give back.

This holiday season, as I reflect on the things that are important to me and the things I’m thankful for, I’m inspired to look for ways I can be more charitable. When we focus on fulfilling our wants versus our needs, it’s easy to lose sight of being generous, appreciative and kind. When I take the time to focus my energy on these values, without fail life becomes more joyful and peaceful.

Here are a few ideas for how we can all do more to meet the needs of others this holiday.

1. Donate to your favorite organization. This may perhaps be the most obvious way to be generous. The old adage that “every bit counts” really does mean something when you look at some of the amazing philanthropic work being done throughout the Grand Cities.

2. Ask a local nonprofit how you can help. If you don’t have the means to make a cash donation, there are plenty of ways to help that don’t involve money. Volunteer your time to help your local hospital or food bank. There are hundreds of ways you can help—just ask how.

3. Use your talents to benefit others. Do you have a knack for knitting or quilting? Donate some of your work to a local homeless shelter or cancer center. If knitting isn’t for you, consider coaching a kids’ sports team, acting in a theater production or assembling a gift basket for a silent auction. Be creative with your unique talents!

4. Get in shape and support a cause. Winter makes it easy for us to go into “hibernation” mode. Break out of your rut by signing up for a bike race, marathon, triathlon or 5k walk that benefits a cause you’re passionate about.

5. Instead of buying gifts, donate. What do you buy for the person who has everything? Why not make a donation in their honor? Many nonprofits will send a letter to your loved one notifying them of your gift.

Whether it’s your time, talent or treasure, giving back can be done in big or small ways. This holiday, my husband and I will make a donation to Altru’s Camp Good Mourning in honor of our loved ones (sorry to ruin the surprise, mom!).

I challenge you to put some of your energy into being charitable this holiday season. You may be surprised at how much you get back in return.

Read the full article on page 12 of Grand Cities Woman Magazine. 

Will you donate to patients in need this holiday season? Click here to help.

DeJeanStephanie DeJean grew up in Burnsville, MN, and moved to Grand Forks in 2012. Although she completed her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Minnesota, she found her career in philanthropy as the client communications director of Altru Health Foundation. When she’s not fund raising for patient care, she enjoys volunteering at St. Michael’s parish, reading magazines, cooking, and spending time with her husband, Tony, and English bulldog, Lucy.

Walking through the Holidays after the Death of a Loved One

Walking through the Holidays“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas…” 

The opening lines from the holiday song “Silver Bells” can, for many, bring a touch of nostalgia and anticipation as we begin to look forward to the holiday season. However, if you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays may represent something very different. Instead of joy and family togetherness, holidays may now bring feelings of sadness, loss and emptiness.

Memories from past holidays may simply remind us of the one who is no longer here. While the media and those around us may have the best intentions, there is simply no such thing as “10 Easy Steps…” to change the way you are feeling. However, there are some things you can do to help cope with your feelings during the holiday season.

Death ends a life, not a relationship
Memories of parties and family gatherings will always hold special meaning to you. After the death of a loved one, it is important to remember those times. Talk about the memories with trusted family members and friends. Select people who will not judge you, but rather will honor your loved one by listening to your stories and fond memories.

Create new traditions
Traditions are important, but this can be a good time to reassess which traditions you want to continue, pass onto other family members or simply let go. This is also a good time to consider creating a new tradition that will honor your loved one:

  • Light a memorial candle as part of your holiday dinner.
  • Offer a toast to the love you still cherish.
  • Serve a favorite dish in their honor.
  • Purchase a memorial ornament.
  • Donate to a charity in your loved one’s name.
  • Hang a stocking and instead of treats, fill the stocking with notes of fond memories.

Honor your faith traditions
It is not unusual to feel a renewed sense of faith, or even discover a new set of beliefs, following the death of a loved one. Take time to honor these faith practices and surround yourself with people who will support you in them.

Respect your own needs and feelings
We grieve because we love; the deeper the love, the more intense the mourning can be. The feelings you have may leave you feeling fatigued. Don’t push yourself to do everything you’ve always done. Enlist help. Take time to rest and slow down. Allow yourself to decline some of the holiday engagements that may be too demanding this year. Be good to yourself. Be patient with yourself. Love yourself, and always hold onto hope.

Candlelight Memorial

On Saturday, December 6, Altru Health System will hold its annual Candlelight Memorial Service at 7 p.m. in the hospital lobby. This service is dedicated to all babies who have died shortly after birth or as a young child. This year’s service commemorates the 25 years infant and child bereavement services have been available at Altru Health System. Chaplin Toni Betting, the program’s former coordinator, will share her own personal story of loss and her memories of how bereavement services at Altru have grown through the years.

Penny MillspaughPenny Millspaugh is the holistic care coordinator at Altru. Penny is a certified Bereavement Coordinator, Healing Touch Practitioner(L-1) and Spiritual Director. She uses these skills, along with aromatherapy and guided imagery, to help patients and staff work through grief, anxiety and pain. In her free time, Penny loves to sing with the Twin Forks Sweet Adelines Chorus, volunteer at her church and enjoy time with her family. 

American Diabetes Month: Signs to Watch and Tips for Prevention

Diabetes-MonthOne in 11 adults in North Dakota has diabetes, and the rate keeps climbing. That’s almost 60,000 people—more than the population of Grand Forks.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, which usually develops in childhood; type 2, which is more likely in adulthood but is increasingly being diagnosed in children; and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.

Why does it matter?
Based on the statistics above, diabetes is more common than you might think. Undetected diabetes is also common—one in four people with diabetes don’t know they have it—and when you don’t know you have it, diabetes can quickly get out of control.

Over time, the disease can significantly damage your heart, eyes, kidneys and blood vessels, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputation. Gestational diabetes can cause birth complications, negatively impact the health of your newborn and increases your risk for type 2 diabetes. Detecting diabetes early is the best way to prevent painful, debilitating and costly damage to your body.

Dr. Eric L. Johnson explains, “Now is a good time to visit with your health care provider to assess your diabetes risk and to be screened appropriately for proper treatment and avoidance of future diabetes complications.”

What are the symptoms?

  • Increased hunger or thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Wounds that won’t heal
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Blurry vision
  • Sexual problems
  • Urinary tract and vaginal infections

Diabetes Symptoms

(Image source.)

If you have any of these symptoms, ask your health care provider if it might be diabetes.

How can I prevent diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that usually develops in childhood. Currently, we do not know of any way to prevent type 1 diabetes; however, we can prevent life-threatening reactions by catching and treating it early.

Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes can often be prevented by making positive lifestyle choices like eating nutritious foods, developing an exercise routine and working toward a healthy weight. Here are some other prevention tips:

  • Good fats, such as those found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds are excellent choices in small servings. Sub them in for saturated fats, which come mainly from meat and dairy and make our body work harder to control blood sugar.
  • With as little as a seven percent weight loss, you may be able to cut your risk of diabetes in half.
  • Skip the sugar. In one study, women who drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day had an 83 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than one per month.
  • Diets rich in natural, fiber-containing foods may help protect against diabetes. Substitute brown rice for white, use whole wheat pasta, and choose fruits and veggies for sides and snacks.
  • As little as 30 minutes of walking five days a week can help prevent diabetes.

Even with proper information, taking action and prioritizing change while maintaining happiness (and stress level) is no easy task.

Altru’s Diabetes Center serves patients, families and providers in our region through education, leadership, advocacy, and research in diabetes, health promotion and preventive services. It includes physicians, nurses and diabetes educators who help people diagnosed with diabetes manage medications and control the disease.

Altru’s Registered Dietitians are here to help you prevent or manage diabetes. Together, you can learn what changes might help you improve your energy level, feel better and prevent complications down the road. The perfect plan for wellness and prevention is not one you’ll find in a book. It’s the one you’re able to stick to and enjoy for the long run. Creating a plan that works for you—that’s what Altru’s dietitians are all about.

If you could benefit from meeting with a dietitian to prevent diabetes, or with any of the education center staff to expand your knowledge or get a fresh start with managing your diabetes, please don’t hesitate to call us or ask your physician for a referral.

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System.  He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.