Living Life to the Fullest | La Royce’s Altru Advanced Orthopedics Story

Altru Moments - Published on June 10, 2016

karateWhen asked what she’s looking forward to in the future, La Royce Bathelor states confidently she hopes to have the strength in her senior years as the karate sensei’s she looks up to. One is 90 and still trains two hours a day, even after a knee replacement. One is 66 and recently beat throat cancer, a feat he chalks up to the physical and mental toughness he gained through karate.

“In karate, it’s necessary to lose yourself in it. Your mind is quieted, your body is completely engaged,” shared La Royce. “It’s extremely physically demanding. If you look into calories burned, it’s one of the top activities. It also provides an excellent recipe for vitality. In the years I’ve been doing karate, I have strength and mental focus like I’ve never had before. It allows me to approach situations that may cause panic with a level head and even hand.”

La Royce has a vibrant approach to life. Beyond being a black belt in karate, she teaches at UND and recently earned her PhD. She runs the karate dōjō in Grand Forks. She has two sons. She is busy. She is active. She is not willing to simply survive; she lives life to the fullest.

graduationOver the past 30+ years, La Royce’s knee got in the way of her life. In high school, she hurt it during cross country and was told that she couldn’t run anymore. At the time, the doctors didn’t offer an alternative. She quit running and did activities that didn’t bother her knee so much. But, the nagging pain and fear of further injury remained. When she found karate in her 30s, the pain seemed to go away. Something about the practice of karate, possibly a combination of the mental strength and muscles built through the activity, made the pain move to the background of La Royce’s life. Then, three years ago, she landed funny after a jump, and the pain was back. She tried braces and basic care, but it wasn’t doing the trick. So, she made an appointment with Dr. William Haug Jr. at Altru Advanced Orthopedics.

“Dr. Haug did the full range of tests on my knee, including an MRI,” shared  La Royce. “Afterward, he explained all of the things that were wrong with my knee – two tears in my meniscus, causing my knee to catch and click, bone spurs that were essentially chewing away at meniscus and a cyst that had formed to try to protect my knee from all of the damage. I had no clue it was that bad.”

They tried injections and draining of the knee for a short time, but shortly after Dr. Haug told La Royce this wasn’t going to cut it – she needed to have her knee fixed, and soon.

“I told him I did not have time for surgery,” shared La Royce. “I was preparing for nationals and my third degree black belt; surgery didn’t fit in my plan. So, he sat me down and we worked out a plan together. One that would allow me to accomplish the tasks I had before me, without causing further damage, then scheduling surgery so that my knee could be properly repaired. Dr. Haug worked out a timeline that would fit my life. That meant a great deal to me.”

In January of 2016, La Royce underwent surgery. Her knee was repaired, and she started the healing process.

“With every step, there was a detailed plan,” shared La Royce. “From surgery to recovery and rehab, I was given tons of information and a time table of the process. I was provided exercises and resources to help me recover my way. I don’t take medication, so my caregivers recommended alternative ways to manage my pain. To my surprise, the pain was minimal. Now, five months later, I am essentially back to full activity. I biked to work today – 7 miles. I feel great about that.”

See La Royce and other real patients of Altru Advanced Orthopedics loving the way they move.

Ironman & Handyman | Joe’s Altru Advanced Orthopedics Story

Altru Moments - Published on June 10, 2016

Joe VBy nature, Joe Vacek is curious. He spends his days as a professor in aviation at UND and works on cutting-edge developments with unmanned aircraft. He’s also a commercial pilot, and a lawyer. He’s by no means a lazy guy. He’d always been active, but had never been an athlete. He had many students who were athletes, and the concept piqued his curiosity.

“I decided to investigate the athletic mindset,” shared Joe. “I wondered, could I be an athlete? Could I run fast? Could I bike long distances? I decided that I thought I could, so I started training. I applied what I know from teaching into my training and was able to improve my fitness level rapidly.”
His training led him to join adventure races, often with his wife. These day-long challenges incorporated mountain biking, running, orienteering, sometimes even white water rafting. It was about completing a challenge as a team, and pushing himself through various physical and mental tasks.

Joe shifted gears when his wife became pregnant with their first child, Jonathan, who is now two. Joe decided to give individual competition a try and signed up for an Ironman race. It was during training for this that Joe injured himself.

Injury before Ironman
“I was running in the late winter, trying to jump over a snow bank,” Joe explained. “I hit the ground wrong and injured my leg. At first I thought it was a bruise, but the pain wouldn’t go away. So, I made an appointment at Altru Advanced Orthopedics. Turns out, I had a fracture.”

Joe was evaluated by Dr. William Haug Jr., a medical orthopedist at Altru Advanced Orthopedics. An athlete himself, Dr. Haug understood Joe’s mentality.

Joe 2“He knew it was important for me to keep training and to complete the Ironman in a few months,” explained Joe. “So we worked through treatment options as well as training recommendations. He allowed me to do any training where I didn’t experience pain, so that I could keep up with it. He also sent me for physical therapy, knowing that I’d commit to that the same way I had to my race, and that it would keep me pain-free for the long run.”

Through evaluation, Dr. Haug found the fall that caused Joe’s fracture was likely related to asymmetrical use of his leg. This led him to look into an old hip injury as a root cause. To ensure that Joe could return to racing without worry of future injury, Dr. Haug and his team at Altru Advanced Orthopedics provided thorough treatment for Joe’s leg, and his hip.

“Dr. Haug and his team, from those who completed an MRI on my hip, to the physical therapists and everyone else I encountered – they were all so friendly. They were laid-back and professional, and it made the medical experience a positive one. They helped return me to a pain-free, active life.”

After an MRI, injections and the recommended physical therapy, Joe was able to complete the Ironman without pain. And, he won’t stop there. Joe has plans to complete the Tour Divide – a mountain biking race from Canada to Mexico, along the spine of Rocky Mountains. Obviously, that’s not a feat for someone with a nagging injury. For Joe, receiving proper and continued care is worth it. To him, being active is who he is.

Active for Life
“I must stay active, because it allows me to continue being active,” shared Joe. “Being active allows me to live life to the fullest. By being fit and healthy, I can do awesome things. I can bike from Canada to Mexico, or compete in intense competitions. But, a fit and active life also provides me the endurance to do the normal things in life, like house projects. My wife and I are expecting our second child, and therefore making room in our home. I’ve been installing drywall, painting, redoing a bathroom – and I can do that without getting tired. Because I’ve made an active life a priority.”

See Joe and other real patients of Altru Advanced Orthopedics loving the way they move.

A Passion to Be Fit | Jim's Altru Advanced Orthopedics Story

Altru Moments - Published on June 10, 2016

Jim FairclothJim Faircloth has lived a life chock-full of activity. He started disciplined activity to prepare for the military, and he never let off the gas. For 35 years, he ran every single day.

“I have a passion to be fit,” shared Jim. “Fitness has provided me with a way to maintain mental balance in my life. It’s a way for me to challenge myself and keep a sense of discipline. At this point, I’ve been active for so long I don’t even question it anymore. It’s a huge part of who I am.”

Jim’s activity level is not in the “light-to-moderate” range. Those around his age may consider a 20 minute walk as their daily activity, while Jim prefers to compete in intense biking races. Though many may have told him to slow down after dealing with a back condition that caused his disc to displace 50 percent of the time, that was not in the cards for Jim. But, after struggling through a cross country ski race in Wisconsin a few years ago, he decided he’d have to seek a medical solution.

“Going into it, I was skeptical that someone in the medical profession would understand the level of activity I hoped to maintain, and support it,” explained Jim. “I felt that I was more likely to be encouraged to reduce activity and prepare for a more sedate life.”

Luckily for Jim, that was not the case. He met with Dr. William Haug Jr. of Altru Advanced Orthopedics, who led the team approach to help deal with Jim’s condition and help him maintain the activities that are such an important piece of his life.

An athlete himself, Dr. Haug understood Jim’s mindset. He knew that he’d be willing to put in the work, through treatment and physical therapy, to improve his condition and allow him to be active.

“Dr. Haug’s past experience with the USA ski team helped me to develop a rapport with him,” shared Jim. “He was familiar with the athlete mindset so I could share my goals and wouldn’t be critiqued for pushing too hard. He wanted to do what was in my best interest, what I wanted  to do, not just what would keep me alive. I felt like he was on my team.”

With treatment and continued care, Jim is able to do the things he loves. He continues to bike and cross country ski, he enjoys spin classes and yoga at Choice Health & Fitness, and looks forward to trips to Colorado to ski and hike. Dr. Haug continues to check-in with Jim on a personal level.

“After a race in 2015, Dr. Haug asked me to call him and tell him how it went. He has a vested interest in my success. I can tell that for him, being a doctor is about building relationships, not simply completing transactions. He epitomizes what a doctor should be.”

See Jim and other real patients of Altru Advanced Orthopedics loving the way they move.

Always Lending a Helping Hand | Brad Meland, MD

Faces of Altru - Published on June 1, 2016

Dr. Brad MelandBrad Meland, MD, a hand surgeon with Altru Advanced Orthopedics, has worked with Altru for the past seven years. He’s helped many patients get back to the lives they enjoy through his love for surgery and his passion for helping people improve their well-being. We sat down with Dr. Meland to get to know him a little better and understand his approach to medicine.

Q. What is your specific area of interest in your field? Do you have any procedures that you focus on or conditions you treat most often?
A. Though I have practiced both hand surgery and plastic surgery, I am currently solely focused on hand surgeries, including surgery for arthritis, hand traumas, tumor removal, nerve surgery and beyond. I see many patients with carpal tunnel and offer treatment with endoscopic surgery.

Q. Outside of the operating room, what are some of your professional achievements?
A. I am a member of ten different scientific societies. I am the past president of the American Association of Hand Surgery, and was previously the chief of hand and upper extremity surgery at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. In my 16 years with Mayo Clinic, I spent quite a bit of time teaching. I gave lectures and taught courses throughout the world. I have also published 75 articles and 11 chapters for medical books.

Q. Did you enjoy your time teaching and lecturing? Is that something that you are passionate about?
A. I did enjoy it, and continue to be interested in teaching. In fact, if I was not a surgeon, I would like to be a teacher or a coach.

Q. What is your personal philosophy of medicine?
A. I strongly believe that the patient comes first. I make it a priority to be honest with my patients and explain their options and what’s going to happen during surgery. I do all that I can to improve my patients’ well-being and help them to be productive in their lives.

Q. What motivates or inspires you to do what you do?
A. Simply put—I love surgery and the practice of medicine.

Q. What do you like to do in your free time?
A. I enjoy being at the lake and taking part in water sports like sailing and fishing. I also enjoy golf, traveling and being involved with my church.

Q. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go, and why?
A. China. I have always wanted to walk the Great Wall.

Q. Where are you from, and where have you lived?
A. I was born nearby in Northwood and went to school at UND, so I am a proud North Dakota native. Medical training brought me to Michigan and Florida, and I lived in Rochester, Minnesota, and Scottsdale, Arizona, during my time with the Mayo Clinic. I was happy to return to North Dakota in 2009 when I started working for Altru.

Hear what one of Dr. Meland's patients, Justin Kiesow, had to say about the care he received:

See also:

Dancing Through Graduation and Life | Alyssa’s Altru Advanced Orthopedics Story

Altru Moments - Published on May 26, 2016

AlyssaAs Alyssa Amundson looks forward to college at NDSU this fall, she has a lot to figure out—what classes to take, where she’ll live, if she’ll find a part-time job. But there is one thing she knows for sure: she wants to continue dancing.

Alyssa, a senior at Red River High School in Grand Forks, has been involved with dance since she was six years old. She’s taken part in every form of dance offered at her studio—from jazz to tap, ballet to hip hop. It is a part of her life that she never wants to give up.

“I have always loved music, and music is always incorporated into dance,” shares Alyssa. “I enjoy the musicality of dance, and how it allows me to express myself. Plus, if I am stressed out, with dance I can just let loose and have fun.”

“Ever since Alyssa was two years old, she could be found dressed up in a costume, high heels, singing and dancing around the house,” remembers Alyssa’s mom, Julie. “Dancing puts a smile on her face!”

A Pain in Her Foot
A few years ago, Alyssa started to notice pain in her foot. She dances three to five times a week, and the consistent use of her foot made the pain get worse and worse. Though she tried to dance through it, eventually it got to the point where she wasn’t enjoying dancing because of the constant pain. So, she decided to seek care.

Julie made an appointment for her with Dr. William Haug Jr., an orthopedist at Altru Advanced Orthopedics. She was comfortable with Dr. Haug and knew he’d do what was in Alyssa’s best interest to help her get back to dance safely.

“I work at Altru in information services, and I got to know Dr. Haug through my work,” shares Julie. “He is patient and has a very calming way about him. After Alyssa had been struggling with her sore foot for quite some time, she asked if I would schedule her an appointment to have it checked out. I immediately thought of Dr. Haug.”

The Diagnosis
Through an MRI, Dr. Haug determined that Alyssa had a stress fracture in her foot. She was instructed to rest and take a break from dance, and was given a boot to help stabilize her foot and aid in its healing. Dr. Haug also recommended orthotic inserts in her shoes to help support her foot and avoid irritating the injury.

“Dr. Haug did an excellent job of explaining things to me,” shares Alyssa. “He explained the injury and the treatment plan, and how my pain would diminish with wearing a boot and resting up. He was always kind and patient, and took an interest in helping me get back to dance.”

“We are so thankful for Dr. Haug,” shares Julie. “He made Alyssa feel comfortable, and he reassured her she would be dancing again soon.”

Alyssa took a break from dance for about eight weeks while her foot healed, focusing her attention on her other artistic hobbies—singing and drama. After the wait was over and Alyssa was pain-free, she was back on the dance floor, just in time for her recital.

See Alyssa and other real patients of Altru Advanced Orthopedics loving the way they move.

Farming with a Fixed-Up Shoulder | Andrew’s Altru Moment

Altru Moments - Published on May 4, 2016

GrottesWhen Andrew Grotte isn’t driving tractor near Thompson, N.D., he can often be found snowmobiling, hunting or riding motocross. But in the fall of 2015, Andrew’s motocross fun landed him at Altru Advanced Orthopedics in the care of Dr. Darin Leetun.

“I misjudged a jump and fell off my bike, landing on my shoulder,” explains Andrew. “I could immediately tell something was wrong by the pain I felt. It appeared to be misshapen compared to my other shoulder.”

During his initial appointment, Dr. Darin Leetun presented Andrew’s options and shared the pros and cons of each.

Joint Separation
“Dr. Leetun was very knowledgeable about my injury, which was a grade three acromioclavicular (AC) joint separation in my dominant shoulder,” explains Andrew. “My ligaments were torn, so the bones in my shoulder were no longer held together as they should be.” In other words, Andrew’s collar bone was separated from his shoulder blade.

“Once I decided to go through with surgery, Dr. Leetun encouraged me to do it as soon as possible in order to get the best outcome.”

“The nursing staff were all caring toward me and my wife,” shares Andrew. “They made us feel comfortable and checked on us often, both in the emergency room and on surgery day. Dr. Robin Severud, my anesthesiologist, was good at explaining each type of anesthesia I would get, how it works and what to expect.”

Back in the Field
A local potato, sugar beet, wheat and soybean grower, Andrew likes (and needs) to stay active. “I was told my recovery time would be about 12 weeks, and that the outcome would be better than with a nonsurgical route. I chose to go through with the surgery to enable me to continue working and doing other activities I enjoy for many, many years to come.”

Celebrating 35 Years of Advanced Orthopedic Care – Robert Johnson, MD

Faces of Altru - Published on April 1, 2016

Dr. Johnson - Retirement CakeDr. Robert Johnson has been an orthopedic surgeon for the past 34+ years. A few months before his 35th anniversary in the field this June, he’ll be hanging up his white coat. Dr. Johnson retires this spring. Before he leaves Altru Advanced Orthopedics and the profession he’s dedicated his life to since 1981, we asked him a few questions about his career, the things he’ll miss and the things he’s looking forward to in retirement.

Q: What is your specific area of focus in your field?
A: I am a general orthopedic surgeon, so I’ve done a wide variety of procedures and treatments for patients over the years. I’d say that I’ve enjoyed hip and knee replacements the most.

Q: Have you worked for many health systems over the past 34 years?
A: I’ve practiced in Grand Forks for my entire career. I started at the Orthopaedic Clinic in June of 1981 and spent 14 years there. Then, I joined the Grand Forks Clinic, which merged with United Hospital to become Altru Health System and have been here ever since.

Q: In reflecting on your career, what stands out as a highlight?
A: I’d say a personal and professional highlight was when my son, Alan, joined the physician team at Altru. Having him follow in my footsteps to pursue a career in medicine (he is an ENT physician) and join the team at Altru was very special for me.  

Drs. Robert and Alan Johnson

Q: What will you miss most about your career at Altru after you retire?
A: I’ll miss my patients and my team. It’s somewhat unusual, but I’ve had the same team working with me for most of my career. Liz Brekke, my nurse, has been with me through my entire career. Bill Janzen was with me for 30 years until he retired, then Suzie Benjamin replaced him and has been with me for the past several years. It’s pretty amazing to be able to work with the same great people for so long.

There are many long-time patients that I’ll miss seeing regularly. I have treated them for years as well as their children.

Q: What are you looking forward to in retirement?
A: I have a number of interests. I enjoy working with computers and might take some courses at UND in computer programming. I’d also like to get back into flying, which is something I’ve done before but haven’t had much time for in the past years. And of course, I look forward to more time with family. My grandkids are here in town, and I will be able to spend more time with them.

Q: Flying and computer programming – that’s impressive. Do you have any other hobbies?
A: My wife and I will be restoring our cabin, which combines a few of my hobbies. I enjoy woodworking, as well as electrical and plumbing work. I look forward to using those skills to work on our cabin. I also enjoy being active and spend a lot of time at Choice Health & Fitness. I am a strong supporter of Choice and the impact that it has on our community.

Q: If you find time to travel in retirement, where would you like to go?
A: It would be fun to travel to Norway. My wife and I are both Norwegian and have family there. I’d also like to see Alaska and possibly tour the National Parks.

Q: What message would you like to send to the patients you’ve cared for over the years?
A: I’d like to thank my patients for their trust and confidence in me. It makes my day when patients do well and can return to doing what they like to do.

A Mother’s (and Doctor’s) Perspective: 6 Things You Might Not Realize about HPV Vaccine

Modern Mom - Published on March 30, 2016

HPV - Young GirlYou can’t protect your kids from everything, but you can protect them from HPV-related cancers. I've known families that have lost loved ones from cervical cancer and cancers of the mouth and throat. I'm delighted there's a way that we can protect our sons and daughters from these horrible diseases. My son was immunized as soon as he could be, because I know it's safe and effective.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus passed from person to person through sexual contact. It can be spread even without intercourse. Here are 6 things you may not realize about HPV vaccine.

1. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. More than 40 types of HPV exist that can infect the genital area, mouth and throat. Some cause health problems, including genital warts and cancers. HPV can affect both men and women.

2. Age 11 or 12 is the best time to vaccinate boys and girls against HPV. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls at age 11 or 12, so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than in older adolescents. 

3. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males and females through age 26. So, if you did not get vaccinated when you were younger, do it before you turn 27. HPV vaccines are given in three injections over six months, but being late for the second or third dose does not mean starting the series over.

HPV vaccine timeline - for web

4. In the U.S., one person is diagnosed with HPV-related cancer every 20 minutes. HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.HPV - Young Girl Standing

5. HPV vaccine is safe and effective.
The vaccine has been studied in thousands of men and women around the world. In the four years after the vaccine was first recommended in 2006, the amount of HPV infections in teen girls decreased by 56 percent in the U.S. The HPV vaccine offered through Altru is 99 percent effective. Nearly 86 million doses of HPV vaccine were given in the U.S. from June 2006 through September 2015, and there have been no serious safety concerns.

6. Giving your child the vaccine does not give them permission to have sex. In fact, the opposite is often true: When parents and doctors talk to kids about sex and values, they actually increase the odds that the child will delay sexual relations. Think of the HPV vaccine as an opportunity to start or continue the conversation on this sensitive topic. 

Talk to your child's primary care provider today about vaccinating your child against HPV any time after age 11. To learn more, visit


Joanne Gaul, MD, a family medicine physicianGaul, Joanne caring for patients of all ages, enjoys encouraging and watching patients make changes in their lives that add up to better health. In Dr. Gaul’s personal quest for a healthy lifestyle, she runs half marathons, triathlons and countless shorter races. She also enjoys reading, knitting, quilting, playing flute and cooking. She serves on the Community Violence Intervention Center board and has performed with the city band and symphony.

Top Baby Names at Altru in 2015

Modern Mom - Published on December 23, 2015

Baby sticking out tongueFrom January through November 2015, Altru’s Family Birthing Center delivered 1,617 sweet bundles of joy. Here are the top 10 most popular baby names for boys and girls at Altru Health System in 2015.


  1. Alexander
    (Greek for “defender of men.” Ranks #8 in U.S.)

  1. Liam
    (Shortened version of William. Means “strong-willed warrior and protector.” Ranks #2 in U.S.)

  1. Elijah
    (Hebrew for "Yahweh is God." Ranks #11 in U.S.)

  1. Hudson
    (Originally a last name meaning "son of Hudde," a medieval first name and a nickname for both Hugh and Richard. Ranks #80 in U.S.)

  1. Mason
    (Traditionally used in the Middle Ages by stoneworkers. Ranks #3 in U.S.)

  1. Owen
    (A traditional Welsh name meaning "young warrior" or "noble." Ranks #36 in U.S.)

  1. William
    (Means “strong-willed warrior.” Ranks #5 in U.S.)

  1. Easton
    (Scottish origin, means “from East town.” Ranks #83 in U.S.)

  1. Isaac
    (Means “he who laughs.” Ranks #31 in U.S.)

  1. James
    (A classic boys' name derived from the Hebrew name Jacob. Means “one who follows.” Ranks #9 in U.S.)


  1. Ava
    (Means “bird.” Ranks #5 in U.S.)

  1. Avery
    (Means “wise.” Ranks #13 in U.S.)

  1. Harper
    (Originally a last name meaning someone who plays the harp. Ranks #11 in U.S.)

  1. Addison
    (Originally a last name derived from the name Adam. Ranks #24 in U.S.)

  1. Aubrey
    (From the Germanic name Alberic, king of the elves in German mythology. Ranks #20 in U.S.)

  1. Emma
    (Means “whole.” Ranks #1 in U.S.)

  1. Olivia
    (A feminine form of Oliver, meaning "olive tree." Ranks #2 in U.S.)

  1. Paisley
    (Related to a Scottish town, a richly patterned Indian fabric and a popular country singer named Brad. Ranks #53 in U.S.)

  1. Amelia
    (Means “industrious” and “striving.” Ranks #14 in U.S.)

  1. Aria
    (Italian for “air.” Ranks #31 in U.S.)

Altru's Family Birthing Center is honored to be a part of your birthing experience. Learn more about our highly qualified physicians and nursing staff >>

Michelle Stadstad Honors Son's Memory with Midlife Career Change

Faces of Altru - Published on December 22, 2015

Michelle BlogEight years ago, at age 46, Michelle Stadstad left a decades-long career behind, gave up a job she loved and said goodbye to coworkers who had come to feel like family. She knew in her heart it was the right change at the right time. Learn what drove Michelle to become a nurse >>

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