Impacting Our Community through Healthy Encouragement

700x700-FB_impactImproving health and enriching life often starts in our own backyard. Everyone—our families, our friends, our co-workers and ourselves—could use a little healthy encouragement now and then.

It’s an honor and privilege to positively impact health and quality of life for our patients and our community. At Altru, we have been specifically focused on initiatives stemming from our 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment. Two top priorities include reducing obesity and increasing colorectal cancer screening rate.

Walking toward Wellness

As part of Healthy Choices Greater Grand Forks, we are inspiring adults and youth to make walking a daily habit. Together, we aim to create change in our community to make the healthy choice the easy choice for our community. Our overall goals include:

Throughout June, we’re promoting #30DaysofRunning, part of the overall Walking Challenge. Whether running, biking, walking or rollerblading, any kind of movement counts. (It all adds up in the fight against obesity.) So far, we’ve logged 100,280 miles in 2015, which is the equivalent of burning ~10,000,000 calories.

No Butts about It

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. When detected early, it is treatable.

One of our goals is to increase the proportion of the eligible population (ages 50-75) who have had appropriate colorectal screenings from 57 percent to 57.5 percent. And we’re making progress: In the first four months of the year, 59.5 percent of the eligible population was screened.

The average cost of a screening colonoscopy is $1,800. Last year’s Harvest Gala provided $260,000 of funding for Altru’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative. The amount will be increased by proceeds of this year’s Run for Your Buns 5K, held this past Saturday, June 13. By encouraging colonoscopies, we’re potentially saving lives.

Educate, Encourage, Enrich

The human body doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. Health information is readily available online—some good, some bad. We’re adding to the good information. Enrich is a new publication and online resource center that contains helpful tips and insights from leading experts at Altru. Filled with providers’ perspectives and national research, the articles can guide your pursuit of healthy lifestyle choices.

DR photoAs Chief Planning Executive, Dennis Reisnour leads the development of Altru’s strategic plan and directs the marketing, communication and overall management of Altru’s brand. In his spare time, he enjoys time at the cabin, culinary explorations and spending time with his granddaughters.



Introducing Altru Advanced Orthopedics

The Orthopedics service line is one of the more highly competitive services in our market. Even more, consumers have a much more active role with this specialty in choosing where they go for care because most of the procedures provided are elective. Upon research, we found we weren’t the top brand and knew a major change was needed. Guided by the directive of the Board approved business plan and in support of one of Altru’s strategic growth goals, Orthopedics has been refreshed with a new name, a new look and soon a new location: Altru Advanced Orthopedics.

As you can see by the logo, it’s bolder and much bigger. This image is one of the elements helping us elevate our Orthopedics team and related services to a higher level.

And later this summer, the team will head south to its new home base at Altru Professional Center. Altru Advanced Orthopedics’ 14,000 square feet of clinic space boasts seven cast bays, two x-ray rooms and 24 exam rooms. Even more, it will offer a new experience for our area with an innovative self-rooming process available to patients. At check- in, patients are given a badge to wear during their visit along with a room assignment. Providers and nurses are able to monitor all patient locations and wait times through their badges on multiple digital screens in private staff areas. The goal with this new process is efficiency and reduced wait times for patients.

As part of a comprehensive marketing plan, Altru has also produced two commercials featuring Altru Advanced Orthopedics. These commercials are now airing throughout our entire service area across North Dakota and Minnesota. Radio, online ads and billboards are also part of the marketing mix. Please take a few seconds to enjoy our newest ads:

Altru’s Behavior Standards: Meaningful and Team

Each one of us has the power to help patients get well. Patients need our knowledge and our emotional support throughout their time with us. They need to know they can trust us and depend on us. Living out Altru’s Behavior Standards is a good place to start. Making these standards part of how you live your life will take time. However, it will become easier with practice. The important thing to remember is that we treat the patient, not the problem.

Meaningful: We will provide an exceptional patient experience. 

  • I will treat each person as an individual and remember a healthcare experience is not routine or comfortable for everyone.
  • I will demonstrate that “I have the time.”
  • I will be mindful of my tone of voice and convey that I am trying to understand.
  • I will keep others informed.
  • I will be compassionate and recognize that everyone is important.

700x700_Treat Each OtherMeaningful in Action
A few months ago, Altru dietitian, Janelle Olson, gave one patient a day he will never forget.

An older gentleman came in for his regular dialysis treatment. The patient was a former farmer and wasn’t enjoying the long periods of sitting and watching TV. After getting to know him, Janelle learned of his love for farming. She purchased a custom combining documentary. He watched the documentary during his next appointment and told the nurses it was a highlight of dialysis!

Janelle acknowledged he was a person and not just a patient. She gave him a world-class care experience and changed his view of his dialysis appointments. Janelle demonstrated how to provide a meaningful experience.

Here are some other examples of meaningful:

  • Think before you speak. How will your words impact the person listening?
  • If you think a project will not be completed by deadline, update the appropriate person with your progress. Explain how you will work to accomplish the task.
  • Demonstrate compassion. If you notice a co-worker or patient is having a tough day, ask how he or she is doing. Be willing to listen, even if you have a busy schedule.

Team: We will work together to deliver world-class care.

  • I will be committed to the success of my team.
  • I will seek consensus with my teammates and openly support decisions.
  • I will display energy and enthusiasm and bring all my talents to the table.
  • I will be flexible when faced with change in my work environment.

The next behavior standard is team. Visualize the human body. Each part has a specific and important role. If one part suffers, the whole body suffers. Think of Altru in the same way. Each one of us is integral in the function of the system. If one of us doesn’t do our part, the whole system suffers. In the same way, if we each work together and support one another, the body prospers.

700x700-FB-_AmbulanceTeam in Action
In 2014, Altru’s ambulances responded to 7,335 calls for service, including the healthy delivery of four babies outside of the hospital. Responding to emergency situations requires excellent teamwork in the field and in the emergency room. In these instances, teamwork extends beyond our staff to include community agencies and other emergency personnel.

Here are some other examples of team:

  • If a co-worker has a new idea, support it.
  • During meetings, be excited and curious. When someone is speaking, show interest and nod. Show you are listening, not just hearing, by displaying attentive body language, providing feedback and responding appropriately.
  • Accept each other’s differences. Each person brings different talents and experiences to the table.
  • When something unexpected happens, take a deep breath. Think before reacting.

Each of us is important in a patient’s healthcare experience. Although some of us might not directly care for the patients, we still are important to the success of the team.

Learn more about Altru’s Behavior Standards.

See also:

Nancy HansonNancy Hanson, manager of patient relations, oversees service and the patient experience. Outside of the office, Nancy enjoys many different sports, photography and, when time, reading a good book. 




AudreyAudrey Lorenz, strategic planning lead within Altru’s Corporate Development, has been with Altru for 26 years. Within her role, she focuses on business strategic planning and brand management. During her free time, Audrey enjoys being with her husband, two daughters and 12 dogs. She enjoys running, decorating and doing yard work.  

Ready to Quit Smoking? Enlist Help from a Tobacco Cessation Specialist at Altru

700x700-FB_ready-to-quitAre you or a family member feeling the urge to snuff out that butt for the very last time? A certified tobacco cessation specialist may be the ticket to a smoke-free life.

Dependence on nicotine is an addiction, which often makes tobacco cessation more challenging than engaging in other behavior modifications, such as starting an exercise program or eating more fruits and veggies.

Amanda Dudgeon, NP and certified tobacco treatment specialist at Altru, shares real questions, real answers about quitting tobacco for good.

Why should someone seek help from a certified tobacco cessation specialist?

  • Certified tobacco cessation specialists understand the brain chemistry changes that are involved in addiction and have received special training to assist patients with conquering addiction. Assessing and understanding individual triggers is an important component of treatment.
  • At Altru, we create an individualized plan for each tobacco user’s unique situation and triggers, and provide the reinforcement needed to be successful. 

What methods do you use during treatment?

  • Using the cognitive behavioral approach to self-talk is key. Thinking or talking to yourself in situations that trigger you to use tobacco is a necessary component to get past those urges. Saying to yourself, “Smoking is not an option”, or “I can do this” may be the self-encouragement required to get past bumps in the road to ending your addiction.
  • Alter routines and use problem solving skills to identify situations that could put you at risk of relapse. Certain places and times of the day can create extreme urges to use tobacco. Breaking the old routine and making a new routine increases success rate.

E-cigs are popular right now. Are they a healthy alternative to smoking other forms of tobacco?

  • The compositions of e-cigs are all different. They are not regulated by the FDA and are known to contain additives and impurities. Some contain cytotoxins and carcinogens, as well as varying amounts of nicotine. I do not recommend them due to the lack of evidence for safety. 

Why quit?

  • The health benefits of quitting tobacco are endless. As a provider, I see many people suffering from COPD. The feeling of not being able to breathe can be terrifying. Quitting smoking reduces this risk. Many develop lung cancer as a result of smoking. These people often have a difficult time with treatment and suffer significantly. I also see cancer of the mouth, esophageal, gastric and other cancers. If I can help someone quit early, his or her risk of developing these diseases decreases significantly.

It’s never too late to quit. When you’re ready, we’re here. Smoking can lead to a number of serious health problems, from cancer to heart disease. Quitting the habit can foster both immediate and long-term health benefits.

Decide that you deserve to be healthy. Quit smoking aids are available to those who financially qualify through Altru Health Foundation. Request an appointment with a certified tobacco treatment specialist today for a smoke-free tomorrow. Learn more at 

Dudgeon, AmandaAmanda Dudgeon is a family nurse practitioner and certified tobacco treatment specialist at Altru Cancer Center. In addition to seeing patients for rechecks and tobacco cessation, Amanda implements the Survivorship Program. Outside of spending time with her husband and two children, she enjoys playing basketball and softball.

Celebrating 1,000 Cranial Shaping Helmets at Altru

1000th HelmetSince 2007, Altru’s Prosthetics and Orthotics has shaped the heads of 1,000 local babies.

Thanks to generous donor gifts, Altru Health Foundation provided funds for the purchase of a STARscanner™, the only one of its kind in North Dakota. The scanner quickly collects accurate head shape data for the creation of cranial shaping helmets, custom headgear that guides skull growth. About two weeks later, the helmet is ready for the first fitting.

Unusual head shape often appears in the first months of life. Causes include the position of the baby during pregnancy, the birth process or the baby’s preferred sleeping position.

Why are helmets necessary?
Cranial shaping helmets are not experimental or cosmetic. They are medically necessary. Improper head development can have lifelong effects including:

  • poor jaw function,
  • middle ear infections,
  • migraine headaches,
  • vision problems and
  • facial asymmetry.

“This is about as close to a ‘cure’ as we can get,” explains Steve Sattler, certified orthotist. Helmets are most effective during the first year when a baby’s head grows rapidly.

Photo Contest
Have you personally experienced cranial shaping helmets at Altru? From April 23-30, 2015, visit Altru Health System’s Facebook page to participate in the #1000Helmet photo contest. Here’s how it works:

One entry per person. We reserve the right to remove any photos we feel are inappropriate. By posting your photo, you are also agreeing to let us share it as the winning photo.

If you’re wondering if your child needs a helmet, discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor. To learn more about cranial shaping helmets at Altru, call 701.780.2424.

See also:

Looking Back: Making Healthcare History in Grand Forks

looking-backLast spring, we made history by opening the second hospital in Grand Forks since 1976: Altru Specialty Center. As we celebrate its one-year anniversary, let’s take a look back at the past year and forward into the future.

Altru Specialty Center, part of South Washington Medical Park, features four operating rooms and 45 private beds dedicated to elective orthopedic and podiatry surgeries, Joint Replacement Center and inpatient rehabilitation. The 91,042-square-foot space is the only hospital of its kind in eastern North Dakota to offer single specialty care under one roof.

It’s All about Our Patients
We brought together rehabilitative services and orthopedics care in a dedicated facility to meet the needs of our patients. Altru’s Joint Replacement Center has impacted our patients’ lives for the better: Ralph went deep sea fishing with new shoulders; Dan enjoyed hunting season with a new knee; Sandy reenergized her teaching career with a new knee.

Other patients shared these comments:

  • “The new space is beautiful. And the people here—they’re just wonderful.”
  • “It feels like more of a hotel stay than a hospital stay. I loved it.”
  • “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the excellent care, compassion and outstanding care you gave.” 

Space to Grow and Heal
Moving specialties to South Washington Medical Park freed up space at Altru Hospital on our Columbia Road Campus. Additional space allowed us to provide for more patients and complete our conversion to private (and some semi-private) rooms. Private rooms promote healing by offering a more comfortable environment.

Currently, five of 11 operating rooms in Altru Hospital are temporarily closed for remodeling as we upgrade technology and equipment. Having additional operating rooms available in Altru Specialty Center has helped us to continue serving patients in a timely fashion. Because of this, patients will not notice a delay in surgery time.

New space has also allowed us to accommodate physician growth and offer expanded access to specialized services. For example, Dr. Jeremy Gardner, through the Joint Replacement Center, is the first in North Dakota to offer anterior approach to hip replacement. This alternative technique reduces pain and minimizes muscle damage, resulting in a swifter recovery and shorter hospital stay. Additionally, Dr. Darin Leetun offers cartilage restoration as an alternative option prior to joint replacement (read about Sydney’s experience here).

Looking Forward
Altru Advanced Orthopedics will complete its move to South Washington Medical Park in late summer, when our new orthopedic clinic opens its doors in Altru Professional Center. We look forward to future growth of our orthopedics programming.

See also:

Brad WeheBrad Wehe is Altru’s Chief Operating Officer. In his free time, Brad enjoys fishing, hunting, skiing and racing.

Altru’s Behavior Standards: Acknowledge and Respect

Consistently applying a single set of behavior standards at Altru is an essential part of achieving our vision of world-class care. We reveal our culture through the experience we create for our patients and their families.

See Altru’s staff demonstrate behavior standards through a series of selfies. (Thank you to all employees who contributed to this video!)

Let’s take a closer look at two of the most basic standards: acknowledge and respect. 

Acknowledge: We will create a welcoming, healing environment.
Everything we do is about creating an exceptional experience for our patients. That means treating everyone well—including our co-workers. Our actions create ripple effects, and whether positive or negative, the ripples can be felt throughout the organization. What kind of ripple are you creating?

  • I will promptly greet people with a smile, give eye contact and use proper names.
  • I will walk a patient or visitor to where they need to go.
  • I will use AIDET – Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, Thank You.
  • I will be sure all my interactions focus on the patient or visitor.

Thank you

Here are some examples of acknowledge in action:

  • Paraphrase what the person just said to allow the person to be heard.
  • When you have someone’s time and attention, honor it with your presence.
  • Give others hope and inspiration through encouragement.
  • Stop talking about yourself. Instead, ask people about their lives.
  • Remember: the little things make a difference. Write the thank you, say good morning, give the compliment, flash the smile.

Respect: We will treat others with respect.
Webster defines respect as a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good or valuable and treating them appropriately. Every human wants to be treated as good or valuable. In a healthy workplace, respect should be given unconditionally, without regard to position, credentials or job title.

  • I will maintain confidentiality in all my interactions.
  • I will think before I speak and consider the impact of my words and actions.
  • I will be on time and be prepared.
  • I will always be polite and kind.
  • I will respect everyone’s differences.


Here are some examples of respect in action:

  • Encourage co-workers to express opinions and ideas. Use these ideas to change or improve work.
  • Listen to what others have to say before expressing your viewpoint.
  • Praise more frequently than you criticize.
  • Understand your triggers. Knowing what makes you angry enables you to manage your reactions and respond better.
  • Provide people with the tools, resources, training and information they need to be successful.
  • Demonstrate thoughtfulness, empathy and kindness.

In the coming months, stay tuned for additional examples of Altru’s Behavior Standards in action. Learn more about Altru’s Behavior Standards. 

See also:

Margaret ReedAs Chief Nurse Executive, Margaret Reed, RN, ensures standards of care and scope of practice for the entire health system, as well as operational responsibility of inpatient operations. In her free time, Margaret reads, oil paints and spends time with her family. 




Nancy HansonNancy Hanson, manager of patient relations, oversees service and the patient experience. Outside of the office, Nancy enjoys many different sports, photography and, when time, reading a good book.

Staying On Course: Tips for Golfing with Joint Pain

Staying on CourseProfessional golfer Phil Mickelson was preparing to compete in the 2010 U.S. Open when, unexpectedly, his joints started to ache.

When the tests came back, Mickelson learned he had psoriatic arthritis. Genetics, the environment, viruses and the body’s immune system are all factors that might cause psoriatic arthritis. Mickelson has been back on his professional golf game for several years, thanks to early diagnosis and treatment.

Many golfers are playing with pain, such as tendinitis, sore muscles and arthritis. Swinging a golf club requires moving at a very high speed in a short amount of time, increasing the risk of injury. We called on Dr. Jeremy Gardner of Altru Advanced Orthopedics to teach us where golfers are feeling the pain and how you can prevent it.

Golfing affects the entire body. Improper form can affect multiple joints, with special consideration for the lead wrist, elbow, shoulder, lower back, hips and knees. Swing alterations, such as a shorter backswing or proper weight shift, may decrease wear and tear on the body.

Keep in mind: it’s important to properly stretch and warm up before and after a round to reduce pain and injury. Stretching and strengthening can help keep you healthy and improve your game.

Here are some other injury prevention tips for different body parts.

Avoiding Common Golf Injuries

(Click to view larger.)

Next Steps
If you’ve tried these techniques and are still experiencing pain, it might be time to visit Altru Advanced Orthopedics. Altru’s experienced orthopedic providers can work with you to understand what’s causing your pain, and how to fix it. This might include physical therapy, or it could be time to consider joint replacement.

Altru now offers anterior approach hip replacement, which allows for a smaller incision and less damage to muscles, resulting in less pain and faster recovery. With proper recovery time and physical therapy, you can get back to the links sooner.

If your pain is shoulder-related, check out Dr. Leetun’s upcoming event on rotator cuff treatment options. Learn about options available to alleviate pain and help get you back in the game, April 27 at Choice Health & Fitness. Remembering the importance of swing plane (the angle at which you take back the club) can make all the difference. Dr. Darin Leetun will share specific golf-related technical tips to keep you swinging pain-free.

Rotator Cuff Injury Event

Golf is a great way to stay active. It’s beneficial for strength, balance, coordination and range of motion. If walking is a possibility, aerobic exercise improves the heart, lungs and muscles and helps with weight control, mood and sleep.

See also:

Dr. Jeremy GardnerDr. Jeremy Gardner is an orthopedic surgeon at Altru Health System. Board certified in orthopedic surgery, he specializes in joint replacement, including direct anterior approach to hip replacement, osteoarthritis, rotator cuff surgery and sports medicine. Outside the office, Dr. Gardner is an active golfer, runner and scuba diver. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and archery. 

2 Hours + 5 Recipes = Freezer Full of Altru Dietitian-Approved Meals

Collage - Freezer Friendly MealsI love food. If I had extra time in my day, I would probably spend it cooking for my growing family. However, as a full-time working mom, some days it’s a challenge to get a healthy supper on the table by 6 p.m.

With my first pregnancy, I was much more organized. I planned freezer cooking weekends and prepared about 20 meals for maternity leave.

Now, with a busy, bubbly toddler, life is a little different as we await the arrival of our second child. When I heard about Freezer Friendly Meals with Altru Dietitians, I jumped at the chance to check “stock the freezer” off the baby to-do list.

Then vs. Now
Last time I did freezer cooking on my own, it was a tedious, well-thought-out process including:

  • Pick recipes
  • Create detailed shopping list (warning: this involves some math)
  • Grocery shop (don’t forget the disposable foil pans for easy heating)
  • Prepare ingredients and plan the day’s order of events
  • Find a free morning or afternoon to assemble meals
  • Last but not least: do the dreaded dishes

Needless to say, it’s a full Saturday project. In comparison, here’s all I had to do for Freezer Friendly Meals:

  • Spend two hours having fun with friends while assembling my family’s meals

That was it. All shopping and prep work was done before arriving at class. I didn’t even have to clean up!

Bonus: the meals were approved by Altru dietitians. Rather than serving my family processed foods like boxed mac and cheese and frozen chicken nuggets, I can serve whole grains, lean meats, calcium-rich dairy and just enough veggies to sneak past my picky three-year-old.

There were no “cream of” soups, which I so often find in favorite comfort foods passed down for generations. White pastas were replaced with healthier whole wheat. Some of the cheese was reduced fat, which we won’t even notice. The menu consisted of things my family will love, including:

  • Slow Cooker Chicken Philly Sandwiches
  • Taco Stuffed Shells
  • Ham and Cheese Sliders
  • One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
  • Pizza Stromboli

I went home with 50 portions split into 10 meals. (A single person or larger family could portion the meals differently, depending on their needs.) Cost of the class, including food, was around $200. Having healthy meals in my freezer ready to go without all the hassle: priceless.

April’s workshop theme will be International Delights, featuring a variety of exciting ethnic dishes. Registration is required and available until Friday, April 17, at 5 p.m. Backyard Picnics is the theme for May (see the menus here). 

To register, call the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics at 701.732.7620. For future class dates, visit 

See also:

Angie LaxdalPart of Altru’s public relations team, Angie Laxdal grew up on a farm near Crystal, ND. An advertising graduate of NDSU, she specializes in writing and social media. Beyond the office, Angie enjoys reading, running and dreaming up home DIY projects.

What if you had Hepatitis C and didn’t know it?

Hepatits C“She turned bright yellow,” he said. “It was the scariest thing I’d ever seen.”

Gerald “Jerry” Kagg first learned about Hepatitis C when his then-girlfriend was diagnosed. Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that causes the liver to swell and prevents it from working well. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, dark urine, nausea and loss of appetite, and as Jerry had witnessed, yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes.

Treatment was sought from Kamrin Macki, NP with Altru’s Gastroenterology. During treatment, Jerry’s relationship ended. A friend suggested Jerry get tested for Hepatitis C. “He said, ‘Do you realize what she had? You could have it too.’ I felt fine, though. I told my friend that if I turned yellow, I’d go in.”

Scary advertisement
Working in construction, Jerry often flew to various job sites. In one in-flight magazine, Jerry saw an ad that showed a person with bruises and the words: “You might have this and you don’t know it.” Further review of the ad showed it was promoting Hepatitis C screenings.

“It kind of dawned on me,” said Jerry. “Maybe I should go in and get tested.” He did so upon his return to Grand Forks. Five days later, he received a letter stating he tested positive for Hepatitis C. Immediate treatment was recommended.

“Five days after I got the letter, I was headed to a construction site in San Francisco,” he recalls. “I was feeling great and wasn’t showing any symptoms. I told myself I’d take care of it when I got back.”

Care planning
Time passes and Jerry starts having pain in his feet. He visits with a provider and in reviewing his medical history, it’s determined this joint pain could be related to Jerry’s Hepatitis C diagnosis. Jerry is sent to Altru where he meets with Kamrin.

“We sat down and she explained where things were at,” Jerry said. “She asked why when I had received the letter a few years ago I hadn’t come in for treatment. I guess I figured since I didn’t have symptoms, I didn’t need to be treated. I was wrong.”

Kamrin evaluated Jerry’s condition and established a care plan for him. “She wrote letter after letter for me, working with the pharmaceutical companies to get me the medications I needed,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“Hepatitis C is treatable with well-tolerated antiviral therapies,” explains Kamrin. “Current regimens offer 95-99 percent success/cure rates. About 25 percent of people with acute HCV exposure fully recover from it, while the remaining 75 percent develop long-term or chronic HCV.”

Get tested
While Jerry’s Hepatitis C has been treated, the damage it caused to his liver will be life-long. “It’s not like a tumor, where part of it can be removed. It’s all over my liver,” he said.

“Hepatitis C is scary,” he continued. “The scariest part is that you might have it and not know it. It’s important that everyone at risk gets screened. And if you do test positive, listen to the providers and start treatment immediately. They know what they’re talking about.”

Hepatitis C: Should I get tested?

(Click to view larger.)