Making an Impact on Heart Care | Hayan Al Maluli, MD

Faces of Altru - Published on February 24, 2017

We proudly welcomed Hayan Al Maluli, MD to the Altru team in June 2016. While only here a few months, he has already made a big impact. We sat down with Dr. Al Maluli to get to know him a little better and understand his approach to care.

Q: What is your area of specialty?
A: My practice focuses on Pulmonary Hypertension and Cardiovascular Imaging, such as advanced echocardiogram, cardiac CT and nuclear cardiology.

Q: What is your approach to care?
A: First, I listen to my patients. And not only to their concerns, but also their expectations. I try to be as detailed as possible, and patients never complain about that. A doctor is obligated to provide the highest standard of care which always requires three essential components: treat each patient as a unique individual, make your patient your partner in making decisions involving his or her life, and finally, be the best doctor you can by constantly setting higher standards for yourself.

Q: What motivates you?
A: I enjoy problem solving. It makes me happy to break down complex cases and simplify them. Every patient presents a new challenge, whether the condition is medical, social or psychological. I try to do the best job I can each and every time I meet with a patient.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
A: Making patients feel better. People are generally apprehensive when they meet a cardiologist. I enjoy reassuring patients and families that I understand what is going on, what they are going through and that I can try to help them.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I enjoy reading about history, playing soccer and table tennis, and spending time with my kids. I would love to learn how to fly at some point.

Q: Where would you most like to travel to?
A: Argentina. My mom is from Argentina and her family is there. For me, it is the most beautiful country. It is vast and rich, and most importantly, the people are very friendly. The food and wine is something I personally find unparalleled.

Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I attended medical school in Damascus, Syria, another beautiful country with friendly people. I did my training in medicine and cardiology at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Q: What do you like about Grand Forks?
A: It is a small community that is friendly and safe. People work hard and appreciate hard-working people. I felt welcome from day one.

It’s Not Just Blood Work: Phlebotomists Fill a Crucial Role

It's Altru - Published on February 16, 2017

Phlebotomist-career-healthcareYou’ve encountered them. They’re the people who draw your blood for tests and make it possible for you to donate during potentially live-saving circumstances.

To each other, they may joke about being “blood suckers” or “vampires,” but to others they’re phlebotomists, and their role goes beyond just sticking a needle in your arm.

To be a phlebotomist requires detailed knowledge and care for people. It’s knowing the right type of tube to use, the perfect vein placement, the correct way to draw blood and the right time to clot. They are the calming voice that explains the draw and the reassuring smile to an apprehensive patient. They are calm, kind and cheerful.

But their job doesn’t stop after the draw.

Phlebotomists must do several more steps before the lab can assess the results of the blood drawn. Timeliness is key. Phlebotomists rush samples to the lab so physicians can get results as quickly as possible.

The job requires precision and attention to detail. Phlebotomists must be extremely accurate and careful as they scope out a patient’s vein—some may be hard to find, while others may be easy targets.

If taken lightly, errors can occur, leading to contamination, inaccurate labeling and haemolysis—the destruction of red blood cells. If compromised, an accurate diagnosis is almost impossible.

Lab-blood-work-career-healthcareThough the act of drawing blood has been practiced for centuries, most people don’t understand how crucial it is in establishing a patient’s medical condition. And not just that. Phlebotomy can prevent a serious illness from progressing further. The ability to obtain a blood sample can literally save a life.

It’s an important job that often gets overlooked. Phlebotomists play a major role in medical diagnosis, preventive healthcare and the treatment of diseases.

Phlebotomist employment is projected to grow 25 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Applicants only need a high school diploma or GED; on-the-job training is provided.

To fill a crucial role as a phlebotomist at Altru Health System, apply at

The Dark Chocolate Debate: Is It Actually Healthier?

Enrich - Published on February 3, 2017

chocolate-health-debateEvery year, my parents visit during Thanksgiving, and each year we hit the nearest Costco for black Friday sales and large amounts of almond butter. As we went to check out this year, with our cart nearly overflowing, my dad made a point to walk through the snack aisle. He placed two large bags of dark chocolate pretzel crisps in the cart. Half a second later, he added two more bags, then two more…then two more.

As he was about to transfer bags number nine and ten, I stepped in with my hands in the air and said, “What are you doing?! Do you really need TEN bags?” With enthusiasm, he replied, “Well they’re on sale, and they’re healthy!” as he pointed to the words “dark chocolate” on the bag. The dietitian in me quickly replied, “Just because it says dark chocolate, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.” After a short pause, my dad looked at my mom, looked back at me, and very slowly put the bags in the cart, then took off running toward the register with the biggest smirk I’ve ever seen, and, his ten bags of “healthy” dark chocolate covered pretzels.

So, was he right to think dark chocolate is healthy? Or is it just another deception by food manufacturers to trick us into thinking it’s a healthy product? Today, I’ll uncover if that dark chocolate bar is your friend or foe.

Chocolate Basics
A delicious piece of chocolate all starts with the cacao tree. The tree, pod and bean are referred to as “cacao,” while “cocoa” is reserved for the bean once fermented, dried and roasted. After roasting, the nibs (meat of the bean) are finely ground into cocoa liquor (or cocoa mass), which is pressed to eventually yield cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

Dark vs. Milk vs. White
The difference all comes down to one or two ingredients. Dark chocolate requires only cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. Add milk powder and you’ve got milk chocolate. Keep the milk powder and take away the cocoa liquor and you’ve got yourself sweet, creamy white chocolate. Since white chocolate contains no cocoa liquor, some do not consider it true chocolate.

Chocolate Math:
Dark Chocolate = cocoa liquor + cocoa butter + sugar
Milk Chocolate = cocoa liquor + cocoa butter + sugar + milk powder
White Chocolate = cocoa butter + sugar + milk powder

Understanding Percent Cacao
Before we dig in, it should be noted that regardless of the percent cacao, chocolate is relatively high in calories, sugar and fat. As cacao percentage increases, total fat and saturated fat increases, while carbohydrates and sugar decrease. This said, 60% dark chocolate has more sugar and carbohydrates than 85% dark chocolate, which has more fat (from the cocoa butter) and, therefore, more calories. Though various studies indicate that more than half of the saturated fat found in dark chocolate comes from stearic acid, a fatty acid that may help improve cholesterol levels, all fats are calorically dense (9 calories per gram) and should be accounted for.

More Chocolate Math:
Dark Chocolate = more cocoa butter → more saturated fat → more total fat → more calories
Milk Chocolate = less cocoa butter, but more sugar → less fat, but more carbohydrates → less calories

is-dark-chocolate-healthyWhat does this all mean? Well, if you’re watching your calorie intake, chocolate in general is not a low-calorie food, no matter the color or percent cacao. If you’re keeping an eye on carbs or sugar, dark chocolate is probably your best bet. If you are trying to keep fat or saturated fat to a minimum, you may be better off with a small piece of milk chocolate instead. 

Antioxidant Content
Numerous commercially available foods across the U.S. such as blueberries, wine and chocolate are being marketed for their antioxidant content. The cocoa bean is one of the most concentrated sources of flavanols, a subgroup of the natural antioxidant plant compounds called flavonoids. Typically, a higher cacao percentage (85% vs 60%) yields a greater antioxidant activity. This said, dark chocolate has substantially higher levels of flavonoids than milk chocolate. Additionally, the milk proteins and certain nutrients (calcium) found in the lesser dark chocolate can inhibit absorption of flavonoids and iron, therefore it is likely more beneficial to consume darker chocolate.

The daily antioxidant recommendation as issued by the USDA is 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC* units. Adding one fourth cup of blueberries to your oatmeal or yogurt can fulfill your daily antioxidant needs. The best diet, however, is one that is well balanced, combining multiple nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich foods to reach a minimum 5,000 ORAC units daily.

Back to the debate at hand, was my dad right to think his dark chocolate covered pretzels are healthy?

First, let’s talk about the pretzels. Though all foods fit, pretzels and other packaged snack foods offer little nutritional value compared to whole foods like fruits, nuts and seeds. So, you’re better off eating one to two squares of dark chocolate or drizzling a little melted dark chocolate over fresh fruit instead of going for highly processed chocolate-covered snack foods.

Second, it’s important to remember that although dark chocolate has some health benefits to offer, it is still a high calorie food containing noteworthy amounts of sugar and fat. Dark chocolate’s antioxidant content is no excuse to indulge in large amounts; it’s all about balance. Aim to consume minimally processed, antioxidant-rich foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes 80% of the time, and treat yourself once in a while with a piece or two of your favorite chocolate.

Finally, a piece of chocolate, whether milk or dark, isn’t going to make or break your diet. At the end of the day, it all comes down to quality, quantity and consistency. If you consume a calorie-controlled, nutrient-dense diet and complement that diet with an effective exercise program, a daily square of dark chocolate is an antioxidant-rich cherry on top.


Tips for dark chocolate selection

  • Read the ingredients: Look for chocolate made from cocoa butter instead of other fats like palm and coconut oil. Avoid “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils as they are known to negatively impact cholesterol.

  • Reap the benefits: If dark chocolate is your thing, look for ≥60% cacao. Most often, the darker the better. It’s the phytochemicals (flavonoids) in cacao that give chocolate its dark color. More flavonoids = more benefits.

  • Pair with purpose: Milk binds to the antioxidants in chocolate making them less available for absorption. Try a piece of fruit prior to eating chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth instead of overindulging in chocolate alone.

  • Choose quality: Support your local chocolatier for high quality chocolate. It’s likely less processed, and as a bonus you’re supporting a local business.

  • Control quantity: Quantity is just as important as quality, no matter what foods we’re talking about.

  • Enjoy mindfully: Take your time consuming your favorite piece of dark chocolate and appreciate its rich, savory taste. After all, it’s all about enjoying the little things in life.

Danielle RancourtDanielle-Rancourt is a performance dietitian with Sports Advantage powered by EXOS. She enjoys cooking, baking, working out and spending time outdoors to keep busy.

Another Good Reason to Sweat: Shed the Stress

Enrich - Published on January 31, 2017

You made it through the holidays! Relieved the busyness is done, it’s finally time to relax. You sit down to breathe and reflect and then...

Exercise-Shed-Stress-SweatBam! Reality kicks in. Deadlines at work are approaching! Your bank account is shrinking! Kids’ schedules are dominating your calendar! You’re trying to make positive lifestyle changes but suddenly, the stress is building all over again. How can one manage this stress rollercoaster?

Although exercise won’t make stress disappear, it can definitely prepare your mind and body to deal with its effects. 

Exercise encourages your brain to produce a special chemical messenger called norepinephrine. This chemical becomes especially abundant in the part of the brain that controls your emotions and manages your response to stress. Nobody knows exactly what message norepinephrine is sending, but the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that it could prime the brain to efficiently handle stress.

Exercise may also help the rest of your body respond to stressful situations. Consider how much a workout has in common with a stressful situation:  your pulse races, your breath quickens and your sweat glands work overtime. According to the APA, exercise is like a trial run for actual stress. The parts of the body that are sensitive to stress learn how to communicate and cooperate, leaving you much better prepared to face life beyond the gym.

I think we can all agree that exercise is important, but does the thought of adding regular exercise to your already busy life stress you out even more? Does the following sound familiar?

“I used to exercise four or five days per week, and I felt great. I had more energy. I was sleeping better.  I was more focused. Now, I haven’t exercised in so long because… I’m too busy; there’s no time; I can’t afford a gym membership; I walk outside but now it’s too hot/too cold/too wet/too dark, etc.”

It is hard to argue with the fact that our society has become way too busy. However, this is even more reason to find time to be active. You need balance.

So how can you fit activity into an already hectic schedule? Start slowly and don’t let missing a day or two discourage you. Being active will eventually become a stress reducer. Exercise should be safe, fun and rewarding. Combine these three elements with the following tips, and you’ll be in shape for the stresses that come your way.

Get rid of the rules. Forget about what you used to do for exercise or what the latest craze is. Let go of what you think you should be doing. Get rid of the “all or nothing” mindset. If you don’t have time to get to the gym, that’s okay, but take time to do something.

Do what you love. Find exercise as something enjoyable vs. another item on your to-do list. It’s amazing what can be accomplished if we change how we view things. Find your fitness personality.

Socialize on the move. Ask a friend to join you. Register for a fun event like a mud run or color run (or Run For Your Buns!). If family obligations prevent you from fitting in regular exercise, plan active outings with the family.

Make a plan. Spend time on the weekend planning the week ahead. Schedule exercise sessions just like a regular appointment. If you see your exercise plan, there is a greater chance that it won’t get missed. Need help adding activity to your day? Try these Workday Workouts.

Audit your schedule. How are you spending your time? It may seem like there’s no time for exercise but if we dig deep, we can usually find it. Can you limit screen time? How much time are you spending on Facebook?

Become a “tracker.” Wear a fitness tracker to monitor your daily activity or download an app to track nutrition and fitness goals.

Morning ExerciseRise & shine. For most people, the day only gets more demanding as it goes on. Exercising first thing in the morning will ensure you fit it in. Get ready the night before, physically and mentally.

Take a stretch break. Feeling stressed at work? Been working on your computer all day, trying to meet a deadline? Try these desk stretches for a quick stress relief.

Give yourself a break. You didn’t get to the gym or do your exercise video at home. Be okay with that. Some days it’s going to happen; just don’t let it ruin your week. Make a plan to fit it in tomorrow.


Rachel AureRachel 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 over 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.

10 Things to Know about Janice Hamscher, Altru’s Incoming Chief Nursing Officer

Faces of Altru - Published on January 27, 2017


Janice Hamscher, MSN, MBA, BSN, RN, is caring, compassionate and smart (did you see all those letters after her name?), and we are proud to introduce her as the incoming Chief Nursing Officer at Altru Health System.

Prior to joining Altru, Janice was the Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer of Penn Highlands DuBois of DuBois, Pennsylvania, since 2012. She also served as Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer of Saint Vincent Health System in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Beyond being a nurse, she’s proud to call herself a wife and a mom. Here are 10 things to know about Janice.

1. Janice’s first job at age 15 was as a waitress. It taught her many skills for her future in nursing, including organizing, prioritizing and giving people the best customer service possible.

2. Her favorite life quote is, “Never, ever give up.”

Hamscher-family3. When not at work, Janice can likely be found reading, cooking, gardening, going for a walk or playing the piano (for herself, not an audience).

4. Janice’s two young adult sons are both in the medical field—one as a nurse, the other actively pursuing medical school. She’s proud to watch them follow in her footsteps.

5. Janice and her husband, Bruce, have had many, many family pets throughout the years, and they currently have three cats.
6. Chocolate is Janice’s all-time favorite food. “If I had to think of one thing I wouldn’t be able to give up, that’s probably what it would be!”

7. If Janice had an extra hour every day to do whatever she wanted, she would spend it reading.

8. She credits her mom as being her main role model in life. “I just always wanted to be like her, and I think I’ve achieved that. My sister tells me I have.”
9. Being a nurse has always been Janice’s dream career. “I’m not sure why exactly—I just wanted to care for people.”

10. Janice is so excited to join the Altru team. “You can just feel the energy and passion here.”

As Chief Nursing Officer, Janice will serve as a member of Altru’s Executive Leadership team. She will be responsible for defining the highest possible nursing standards and ensuring quality patient care is delivered safely and effectively. Janice’s official start date is February 6, 2017.

Why Your Morning Routine Matters: Starting the Day with Less Stress

Enrich - Published on January 18, 2017

I have an occasionally stressful relationship with my keys. Years ago, when my now grown children were younger, I was alone with my two youngest and since I’m not a cook, we headed to Burger King where they played for quite some time in the indoor playground. Once done, we were heading home.

Only I had swapped cars with my eldest that day, had left the keys in the car and accidentally hit the automatic lock. So, the kids played longer while I waited for the lock expert. Fifty dollars later, the door was open. I hit the lock switch, paid the guy and shut the door. Collecting my kids from the playground, we went out to the car (have you guessed?) to find the doors locked again and the keys still in the ignition. Instead of unlocking I had locked the doors.

This is how I discovered there are two lock experts in town (I wasn’t going to call the first one back!). The story is funny—now.

good-morning-routine-coffeeLittle stresses like that add up. So when we face something bigger—sickness, finances or even death—we struggle more than we should.

One strategy to deal with daily stress is a positive morning routine. Whatever the rest of our day holds, nothing is as irritating as feeling unprepared or wondering what we have forgotten. Small stresses build into bigger ones. We become distracted, less productive and enjoy everything less.

So, how do we begin well each day?

morning-routine-closetStart the night before. When I go to bed I like to set out my clothes for the next day. I also think if there’s anything I need to especially remember and I put that with my clothes. When I neglect to do this, my morning is disorganized (and stressful).

Have a place for all your routine things. I keep a plate on my dresser for all the things I need daily. Because I have a number of items to remember (pager, phone, wallet, etc.), I have also started to count to “nine” out loud. I don’t have to wonder if I have remembered. I just remember nine. Among the nine are my blood pressure pill and a quick check of my daily calendar.

sleep-wake-morning-routine-tipsGive yourself enough time. I have learned that “hurry always hurts.” When we rush we often forget things, and we certainly don’t start the day confident and peaceful. An extra five or fifteen or thirty minutes can relax your morning and start your day well.

Leave the fun distractions for later. We like to check Facebook or play a game on our phone. If you have set aside some time for that, go ahead. But don’t we enjoy those things more when we know other little tasks are accomplished? Use those distractions when they can change the pace of a day for a moment, not to avoid starting right. Perhaps take a moment to practice being mindful instead.

Recognize what’s most important today. Is there a task at work, a special event or is it your anniversary? Take a moment to assess the day—what do you most want to get done, and are you ready to do it? Remember that these important things can sometimes get bumped by what seems to be urgent (like finding the keys!).

Stress is part of life and in right quantities helps us get our work done. But if we begin our day stressed by ordinary things, the feeling can be quite unenjoyable and overwhelming, and it can take a toll on our health.


Mark-EllingsonMark Ellingson, Altru’s Pastoral Care Manager, has lived in the area for 35 years as a local pastor and chaplain. He is married to Betty, a speech pathologist supervising in schools such as Hillsboro and Central Valley. They have five children and a couple of grandsons. Mark and Betty enjoy living in Grand Forks. Mark plays tennis, fills in at local churches for vacationing pastors and enjoys writing on his personal blog, Thoughts of a Hospice Chaplain.

SMART Goals Lead to Success | Here’s How to Make Them

It's Altru - Published on January 5, 2017

smart-goalsWhile intentions are good, broad goals and lack of planning lead to frustration and poor results. In order to successfully achieve your goals, they must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Anthony Morando, performance manager, and Danielle Rancourt, performance dietitian, of Altru’s Sports Advantage share the importance of a SMART goal, and how you can go about setting & keeping yours.

Setting SMART Goals


Define the specifics. What is your goal and how are you going to achieve it? It can also be helpful to include why it is important to you.

“Rather than your goal being to eat out less often, you could adjust it to packing your lunch four times per week,” explains Rancourt.


Creating a measurable goal allows you to track your progress, stay accountable and make adjustments as needed.

“A measurable goal typically has a number involved,” explains Rancourt. “For example, if you regularly consume soda pop, your initial goal could be to drink less than 3 cans of pop per week.”


Your goals should be challenging, not impossible. Once you determine your goal, write out the steps necessary to achieve that goal.

“If you’re starting something new, it’s important not to go from zero to sixty,” cautions Morando. “This makes your approach sustainable, and when it comes to fitness, safer.”


“When a goal is unrealistic, it can’t be controlled,” shares Morando. “Sometimes people aim way too high with no framework. You need structure in order to get to your goal.”

You should consider your individual needs, habits and happiness when making a realistic goal. Set a safe, reasonable goal, and once you achieve it, not only are you motivated because you’ve achieved something, but you are motivated to set and reach a new goal.


“I like to compare this to the expiration date on a perishable food item,” shares Rancourt. “The ‘consume by’ date turns into the ‘achieve by’ date. If you have a date assigned to your goal, you’ll have better structure for meeting it and evaluating your success.”

Tips for Achieving Your SMART Goals

If this sounds overwhelming, or you’re not sure where to begin, here are some tips to help you as you get started and keep going strong:

Set Mini-SMART Goals

You’re more likely to reach you big end-goal if you break it down into several smaller ones. For example, if you want to lose 40 pounds, focus on monthly or even weekly goal. Once you hit your mini-milestones, you can move on to the next.

track-your-goal-progressTrack Your Progress

“Tracking your nutrition and workouts through an app or journal can be especially helpful as you get started,” shares Rancourt. “Not only can it help you track calorie intake and macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat), it also shows you your eating habits and what you might be missing or eating too much of.”


If your goals are weight-specific, you’ll want to keep track of where you are at. Maintain a consistent, regular schedule for weighing yourself.

“If you keep your weight in check, you can catch yourself more easily if you start to slip,” explains Rancourt.

Try New Things

Many people think healthy eating is boring, but it can be very enjoyable. Try experimenting with new recipes or ways to “health-ify” your favorite foods.

“If you love mac and cheese, try making it healthier,” explains Rancourt. “Using whole-wheat pasta and Greek yogurt in place of some of the cheese or cream can create a tasty, healthier option.”

The same can be said for fitness – doing the same thing every day can not only get boring, it can also cause a plateau in your results.

Reduce, Don’t Restrict

Both Rancourt and Morando caution against goals that are too restrictive or hard to achieve. Rather than cutting out food groups or habits, set limits.

“In general, I recommend the 80/20 rule,” explains Rancourt. “Life is about balance, not perfection, so allow yourself to enjoy the things you love, just keep the ones that take away from reaching your goals to a minimum.”

Move Every Day

“Whether it’s a walk, light stretching, even cleaning house, make sure you move your body every day for at least 15 minutes,” says Morando.

Learn Something New, Write it Down

The right mindset can help you stay passionate about what you hope to achieve.

“Find a new book to read, or something positive that can shock your system,” says Morando. “Learn something new every day and write it down. You’ll be left with a chronological timeline of the knowledge you’ve taken in that you can refer back to.”

A Four Pillar Approach

At Altru’s Sports Advantage, the team of performance experts utilizes EXOS’ four pillar approach to help clients reach their goals. This approach includes mindset, nutrition, movement and recovery.

“If you don’t have the right mindset and attitude, you aren’t going to reach your full potential. If you don’t fuel properly or recover well, you won’t be getting the full potential out of your training,” Rancourt says. “They are very interconnected. So if you can master all four pillars, your performance is going to be the best it can be.”

For adults, ‘Rally’ group training through Sports Advantage offers bootcamp-style classes and supplemental support based on the four pillars. Additionally, initial assessments and consultations with the team allow the coaches to help you hone in on your goals, ensure they are SMART, and help you reach them.


For more information on Sports Advantage, or to sign up, call (701) 732.SPORT (7767) or visit

De-Stress, Re-Charge and be a Happier, Healthier You in 2017 (We'll Help!)

Enrich - Published on January 3, 2017

Stretching away the stressAs we kick off 2017, many of us look to become a better version of ourselves in the new year. There are resolutions to lose weight, save money, travel more, eat better - the list goes on. With all this focus on self-improvement, the ever looming burden of stress can get in the way. Beyond that, with resolutions often focused on one goal, the rest of our health & happiness picture sometimes fades, and we fall short of where we want to be.

To help you work toward whatever you resolve to do this year with a holistic, stress-free approach, we’ve called on experts throughout Altru Health System to offer up their tips and insight. So, when January becomes June and life gets a little crazy, you can easily find your balance and get back on track.

Here’s what you can expect from us this month.

Mindfulness – What is it, and how can it help your overall health?
Our health coaches will introduce you to the ancient practice of mindfulness, and how you can implement a mindful approach to many facets of your life to reduce stress and anxiety, prevent disease and live a more balanced life.

Coffee Window Book

Be Spiritually Savvy
Experts will weigh in on the importance of spirituality for overall health. We’ll include tips for taking time out of your day for reflection, the importance of spiritual self-care and more.

Dancing Together in Zumba

Sweat the Stress Away
The benefits of exercise go way beyond physical change. Our performance team and health coaches will share how exercise can reduce stress, help you focus and make more mindful decisions about other areas of your health.

raw vegetables and text mindful eating

Mindful Eating
How you approach food can make a big impact on your diet. Our dietitians will share tips and insight for appropriate food preparation, how to eat mindfully and learn to appreciate how you fuel your body.

Tired black woman sleeping and looking very comfortable in her bed

Catch Your Zzzzz’s
If you haven’t heard it yet, we’ll tell you – sleep is paramount for overall health & well-being. Poor quality or quantity of sleep can contribute to mental and physical health issues, as well as a cranky attitude. Altru’s Sleep Center team will offer fresh insight into how to catch the z’s you’ve been dreaming of.

Young woman drawing adult coloring book at home

Holistic Health & Happiness
We’ll wrap things up with an overview of how a holistic approach can help complete the puzzle of your health & wellness. The different parts of our body work very hard to keep us healthy. When we look at the whole picture and offer a multi-pronged approach to concerns, it helps keep your well-oiled machine working as it’s supposed to.

We’re excited to share our insight with you this month. Stay in touch with us on Facebook for access to videos, tips and articles from our experts on these topics. Happy New Year!

Altru's Top Ten Highlights of 2016

It's Altru - Published on December 27, 2016

HolidaySeason’s Greetings!

With the holidays upon us and 2016 drawing to a close, it's a great time to look back at a remarkable year. We are proud of the achievements made at Altru Health System, and how we've impacted healthcare and quality of life for our patients and our community.

To wrap up 2016, we took a look back at the highlights of the year.

1. Microbiologists in Altru's Laboratory isolated a new species of bacteria. The team was granted naming rights for the discovery and called it Pontibacter altruii species nova.

2. Altru Advanced Orthopedics is the first in the state of North Dakota to offer Partial Knee Replacement and Total Hip Replacement procedures performed using the Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery System.

3. In April, Altru announced its new accountable care organization health plan option, Altru & You with Medica. At least 12 organizations have elected to offer Altru & You with Medica as a health insurance option for their employee benefits.


4. Altru Clinic in Crookston broke ground on an expansion and renovation project that will offer patients expanded specialty care options, expanded radiology services, same day procedures, an operating room and renovated patient care rooms, infusion, laboratory and therapy spaces.

5. Altru Hospital was one of 223 hospitals nationwide to receive the American College of Cardiology's Platinum Performance Achievement Award for 2016. The award recognizes Altru's commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients.

6. Altru Health System received the Get With The Guidelines® - Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The award recognizes the hospital's commitment to providing the most appropriate stroke treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

7. We were one of 18 organizations throughout the U.S. recognized by The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Million Hearts® 2015 Hypertension Control Champion.

8. Altru Health System was one of 22 organizations named 2016 Most Wired™ Advanced Category. The survey examined how organizations are leveraging IT to improve performance for value-based healthcare in the areas of infrastructure, business and administrative management, quality and safety, and clinical integration.

9. We received a five star Home Health Compare Quality of Patient Care Star Rating from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This rating places Altru's Home Health in the top six percent of all home health agencies in North Dakota, and the top three percent of all home health agencies in the nation.

10. And finally, we had several successful fundraising events. The Altru Cancer Center Golf Tournament raised $101,000 for Filling the Gap, and Altru Health Foundation raised more than $300,000 at Altru's Gala to support Camp Good Mourning and Child Life.

We could not be more excited about what's coming up in 2017. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season with family and loved ones!

Lunn, Eric 4CDr. Eric Lunn is Altru’s President. Outside of the office, Eric can be found spending time with his seven grandchildren.






Dave MolmenDave Molmen is Altru’s Chief Executive Officer. In his free time, Dave enjoys music, wood-working and cycling.

Take Good Care, Before It Breaks | Lynn's Vascular Screening Story

Altru Moments - Published on December 12, 2016

Lynn in TractorWhen it comes to farm equipment, Lynn Niemann, of Crystal, N.D., has a general rule of thumb: Take good care of it before it breaks, and if it’s already broken, fix it. Lynn took a similar approach to his health this summer.

The oldest brother of five siblings, Lynn suddenly lost his two younger brothers at the ages of 37 and 48, both to vascular-related disease. After the second family loss this spring, and struggling to get his own blood pressure under control, Lynn scheduled an appointment with Altru cardiologist, Dr. Rabeea Aboufakher. Even though it was May, one of the busiest seasons for farmers, he knew this was his top priority.

Lynn and his wife, Annette, met with Dr. Aboufakher for a full examination, where he detected a slight heart murmur. He reassured the Niemanns that the murmur was faint but, because of family history, ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check Lynn’s heart’s electrical activity. Everything checked out fine, and Dr. Aboufakher referred Lynn to Altru’s Dr. Keith Swanson, vascular medicine.

Next, Lynn underwent lab work and a series of painless vascular screenings and ultrasound, focused on the neck and ankles, to check for blood clots throughout his body. While there were no signs of blood clots, Lynn discovered he has a slight vascular disease, as lab results detected a heterozygous gene that would’ve been passed down from one parent.

Tips for Preventing Blood ClotsAs an educator, Lynn’s wife, Annette, was impressed with the time Dr. Swanson spent educating them about the potential risks of blood thinner medication versus living with low-risk vascular disease. “Both doctors were so thorough at explaining the purpose of each test, talking through the risks and promoting prevention with healthy choices,” explains Annette. “They were personable, friendly and understanding of our concerns.”

Prevention for the Future

Because of previous leg swelling, Lynn wasn’t surprised with the diagnosis, and he keeps a positive attitude.

“I wanted to know what was going on,” explains Lynn. “If they did find a problem, I’d rather know and do something about it.”

Dr. Swanson recommended maintaining a healthy lifestyle through weight control, regular activity, eating right and wearing graduated compression garments. Lynn now wears compression stockings every day to prevent swelling and discoloration, and he continues to take his blood pressure medication regularly.

After losing about 20 pounds in the last year, Lynn’s goal is to maintain his weight loss by watching his diet and staying as active as possible. While he used to grab a pop and candy bar for the tractor, he’s now munching on almonds, dried cranberries and unsweetened iced tea during harvest.

Lynn and Granddaughter“Jumping on and off the tractor keeps me moving throughout the day,” he explains. “I try to get out and walk as much as I can.”

Similar to maintaining his farm equipment, Lynn believes in keeping his one and only body as healthy as possible. He continues, “If you can prevent something bad from happening, why not do it? I want to see my grandchildren grow up for as long as I can.”

With the help of Drs. Aboufakher and Swanson, when the small town family farmer celebrated his 60th birthday this fall, he could rest assured his heart and vascular health was in good shape.

Altru's Vascular Medicine specializes in the diagnosis and comprehensive treatment of vascular diseases of the circulatory system. For more information about Altru’s Vascular Medicine, schedule an appointment through MyHealth, or call 701.780.6400.

View More Posts from It’s Altru

Other Altru Blogs

Enrich  |  Altru Moments  |  Faces of Altru  |  It’s Altru  |  Modern Mom