Michelle Stadstad Honors Son’s Memory with Midlife Career Change

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 >>

Returning Patients to the Game of Life – Jeremy Gardner, MD

700x700_Dr GardnerAs a kid, Dr. Jeremy Gardner of Altru Advanced Orthopedics dreamt of being a football coach. Today, he helps patients return to the game of life after injury.

“I’m most motivated by watching patients improve. I love seeing them be able to return to work or other activities that they were unable to do before.”

Dr. Gardner’s areas of interest include disorders of the shoulder, knee and hip. He performs hip and knee replacements, as well as shoulder and knee arthroscopy.

“My personal approach to care is to work with the patient,” he explains. “I strive to be sure that my patients are fully informed of their available options. In general, I focus on starting with the least invasive treatments and progressing toward surgery only when needed.”

In his free time, Dr. Gardner enjoys fishing, golfing, going to the lake and traveling. For the past year, he and his wife have also been involved with the CVIC fundraising program for a new women and children’s shelter in Grand Forks.

“The children in these situations are often quite vulnerable. So, we want to provide them an opportunity to escape to a safe place.”

Dr. Jeremy Gardner – a true Face of Altru.

Faces of Altru profiles Altru Health System physicians and staff who live the organization’s mission at work and beyond the walls of Altru; they set the standards for Improving Health, Enriching Life.


Now is a time to reflect and appreciate those people and things in our lives we are thankful for. When we thought about all the staff who make the magic happen behind the scenes at Altru, we were inspired to create #AltruThanksU. We visited fourteen departments and snapped photos of a few employees to thank them for the job they do. Last week, we shared these on Facebook. All Altru employees contribute to ensuring our patients and fellow staff members have a positive experience during their time with us. The employees we met are shining examples of how our mission, Improving Health, Enriching Life, is carried out day-to-day.

Behind the Scenes
Many of the departments featured work behind the scenes. They don’t always have contact with our patients, but their jobs are vital to providing excellent patient care. Linen services make surgery packs and ensure clean linens are distributed throughout Altru. Grounds workers take care of Altru’s eighty acres of land and clear all the snow during the winter. Security services train officers for patient and staff security. Sally Stocker, a messenger in the mail room not only distributes mail; she mends and sews doctor and nurse uniforms.

9 Sally Stocker

Positive Attitudes
All of the employees we talked with had similar reasons about why they enjoy their jobs: their co-workers provide joy. Leah Grovum in linen services said, “I love the people I work with. I like that everyone is friendly. Even passing people in the hallways, they are all very friendly, always have a smile on their faces and always say hello.” Our values shine through. We work to meet the needs of our patients and work as a team with honesty and respect. (Learn more about Altru’s Behavior Standards.)

16 Leah Grovum

Altru employees contribute to a positive atmosphere by working hard and having positive attitudes. This includes an occasional joke or two. Julie Walberg, bio-medical secretary, attests to her co-workers’ positivity. “I love the people I work with. They make me laugh every day. They are so funny. If anyone ever has a bad day and needs a laugh, come to Bio-Med.”

19 - 20 Julie and Quinn

While speaking with Patty Nordin, catering food service worker, she added humor to our conversation, “Why have I worked for Altru for 30 years? I stayed around for the blue stone you receive for fifteen years of service! Just kidding, really I am a people person, so working in catering allows me to interact with people.”

10 Patty Nordine and Mark Brousseau

Thank You
We would like to thank all of our employees for the work they do. We would also like to thank all of those who participated in #AltruThanksU.

  • Debbie Abar, human resources supervisor
  • Melissa Arnold, human resources specialist
  • Sandy Bates, Supply revenue and reimbursement coordinator
  • David Bergstrom, staff chaplain
  • Jason Breitwieser, groundskeeper
  • Abby Jo Brown, patient access representative
  • Quinn Eggebraaten, biomedical technician
  • Mark Ellingson, pastoral care manager
  • Leah Grovum, linen associate
  • Johanna Heier, greeter
  • Roger Herlickson, greeter
  • Carlos Hidalgo, hospice chaplain
  • Beverly Jung, pastoral care department assistant
  • Kathy Langowski, learning coordinator
  • Matthew Mayes, staff chaplain
  • Penny Millspaugh, infant/child bereavement and holistic care coordinator
  • Jennifer Neis, website coordinator
  • Julia Nieuwsma, food service worker
  • Patty Nordin, catering food service worker
  • Clarence Reed, security supervisor
  • Kerwin Sletto, staff chaplain
  • Sally Stocker, messenger
  • Tim Vangrinsven, security access control coordinator
  • Julie Walberg, biomedical engineering assistant

#AltruThanksU is for all of our kind, compassionate and hardworking providers and staff. This holiday season, we would like to thank you for all the work you do to improve health and enrich life across our region. Your dedication shines through your service to our patients.

Interested in joining our great team? Learn more >>

Passionate about Patients – Greg Lapp, MD

450x450_Dr LappGreg Lapp, MD, FRCSC, is known for his compassionate and understanding attitude toward patients. When asked about his approach to patient care, Dr. Lapp shared that he makes recommendations to patients as if they were a member of his own family. His own children are both a motivation and inspiration for what he does. “My children teach me patience and forgiveness that can benefit all relationships, patient or otherwise.”

Profession in Pediatrics
Specializing in ear, nose and throat (ENT) and otolaryngology, Dr. Greg Lapp is passionate about providing exceptional care, especially to children. “The pediatric aspect of ENT was one of the main reasons I was drawn to the field initially, and it is still one of my favorite aspects of providing care,” shared Dr. Lapp. He is also proud that Altru ENT was the first in the state to offer Minimally Invasive Parathyroidectomy, an endoscopic surgery for patients with primary hypothyroidism. Dr. Lapp expressed that it is satisfying to bring the highest standard of care to the Grand Forks region.

Patient Praise
In summer 2015, Dr. Lapp received a letter from a patient, thanking him for his outstanding care. The patient had received news from Dr. Lapp that a nodule found on her neck tested positive for thyroid cancer. The patient wrote, “Dr. Lapp, being the most caring and efficient doctor I have ever worked with, remained on the phone with me and was able to calm me down enough to talk to me and reassure me that things were going to be okay.” After the patient’s surgery, Dr. Lapp made an effort to visit her every day in recovery. “He is a wonderful doctor and truly cares about his patients,” the patient expressed.

This letter of gratitude is not the only form of praise Dr. Lapp has received. He has been the recipient of the University of North Dakota Outstanding Block Instructor Award for the past four years, and has also been the topic of discussion on a private social media group, where moms praised the care provided by Dr. Lapp. When shown the social media comment thread, Dr. Lapp was moved beyond words. “The kindness of their descriptions of the care I had provided actually brought me to tears. My mother had just recently died of cancer, and I found their confidential posting quite uplifting during a difficult time.”

When he’s not seeing patients, Dr. Lapp can be found outdoors or exercising. He enjoys windsurfing at the lake in the summer and downhill skiing in Montana in the winter.

Dr. Greg Lapp – a true Face of Altru.

Faces of Altru profiles Altru Health System physicians and staff who live the organization’s mission at work and beyond the walls of Altru; they set the standards for Improving Health, Enriching Life.

Treating You as She Would Like to be Treated – Laura Andreson, DO

Specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, Laura Andreson, DO, truly enjoys what she does and is inspired by the partners working alongside her. Dr. Andreson especially enjoys taking care of women through the span of their lifetime and sharing in special moments with patients and their families. She also enjoys the surgical aspect of her field and is excited about the advancements made in minimally invasive surgery.

Disney Marathon 01.2015-min

In regards to how Dr. Andreson practices medicine, she shares, “I approach patients as individuals and follow the rule of treating them as I would like to be treated. I believe patients and healthcare providers need to function as a team to provide optimal care.”Q & A Anderson

Dr. Andreson is originally from Sawyer, ND, and has fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a doctor. She is a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and is board certified by ACOG.

In her spare time, Dr. Andreson enjoys spending time with her two boys, shopping, and staying fit. She has run 12 half marathons and is learning to love full marathons: she has completed four already!

Dr. Laura Andreson – a true Face of Altru.

Faces of Altru profiles Altru Health System physicians and staff who live the organization’s mission at work and beyond the walls of Altru; they set the standards for Improving Health, Enriching Life.

Your Physician for Life – Heidi Philpot, MD

Being a great doctor requires more than years of medical education and thousands of hours of residency. Being a great doctor requires trust from patients and colleagues.

Heidi Philpot, a family medicine doctor, is known for the caring and competent manner in which she cares for her patients. On the journey that is life, Dr. Philpot makes quite the travel companion.

“I approach caring for my patients as though they were one of my own family members,” she said. “I strive to provide care that is knowledgeable, compassionate and present through all the different stages of life.”

Q & A PhilpotsThrough her work at Altru Family Medicine Residency, Dr. Philpot is known as an excellent teacher and is continually shaping residents to be great physicians. She is recognized by fellow physicians as a team player, always ready to step up and one who can save the day.

When not delivering a baby, taking care of a hospitalized patient, going to the nursing home, teaching a resident or providing preventative health care, Dr. Philpot enjoys spending time with her family, cooking for others and running.

Dr. Heidi Philpot – a true Face of Altru.

Faces of Altru profiles Altru Health System physicians and staff who live the organization’s mission at work and beyond the walls of Altru; they set the standards for Improving Health, Enriching Life.

100 Years of Nursing History in Grand Forks

Kolody-Norman, Frances 1914In the early 1900s, Frances Barbara Norman convinced her father to allow her to leave the farm and get an education. She had dreams of being a nurse.

At the end of her first year of training, Frances went home on vacation. The sisters at St. Michael’s Hospital told her if she had any other sisters at home to bring them to school. She brought back her sister, Julia.

In 1914, exactly 100 years ago, Frances graduated from St. Michael’s School of Nursing. St. Michael’s was one of the very first hospitals in Grand Forks, and where Frances’ nursing legacy began.

First RN in the State
When Frances passed her state nursing boards in the 1920s, she was issued the very first nursing registration card in North Dakota. “Not too many people can claim having the #1 license,” chuckled her son, Gene Norman.

Gene, who now resides in Quincy, Calif., stopped by Altru this fall while visiting family in Grand Forks. After seeing the history wall in the corridor between the hospital and clinic, he generously left a packet of photos of his mother and aunt.

Chosen by Mayo
Fast forward 30 years to the 1940s.

After World War II, Mayo Clinic specialists visiting Grand Forks needed a talented, compassionate nurse to care for local wounded veterans. They handpicked one of the best nurses in town: Frances.

“From what I heard, the doctors couldn’t praise her enough,” beamed Gene. “She was a lovely lady, mother and nurse.”

Complete Caregivers
“Back then, nurses were expected to care for patients in a variety of ways. As caretakers, they even had to learn how to cook and clean on the job,” explained Gene.

Beyond being an excellent nurse, Frances had 12 children. Two daughters, Dorothy and Gertrude, followed in their mother’s legacy as registered nurses, attending school in Grand Forks in the 1940s. Four of Frances’ eight sons, including Gene, married nurses.

Norman, BarbaraOut of 32 grandchildren, two became nurses. Shirley Norman worked at Valley Memorial for many years. Barb Norman, Gene’s niece and Frances’ granddaughter, works at Altru today as a nurse practitioner in psychiatry.

“I entered nursing at age 17, as a nurse’s aide at The Rehab [now Altru Rehabilitation Center],” said Barb. “It felt right.”

“I remember Grandma Norman’s uniform was always starched white, long sleeves with white nylons and a nursing cap she carried in a bag. She worked into her mid- to late-70s. She would often comment how she didn’t care for ‘the aging process.’ She died at the age of 94 and was quite active until she died. Nursing served her well.”

Altru's Roots

Over the years, multiple organizations have worked together to meet the needs of patients in the Red River Valley. The full story dates back to 1892, when health care was established in Grand Forks. 

Celebrating Our People: Altru Achievement Awards

Do what you canWhether directly caring for our patients, or caring for the people who care for our patients, our people do amazing things every moment of every day.

We recognize the dedication and hard work of physicians and staff through yearly Altru Achievement Awards and the Robert M. Jacobson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Altru Achievement Awards
Altru Achievement Awards are peer-nominated and given to employees who exemplify the values of Altru Health System, commit to serving others, and go above and beyond their everyday responsibilities.

This year, we had five recipients, representing a variety of departments across the health system. In no particular order, they include…

Jim Abar | Maintenance Supervisor

  • Ensures Altru’s grounds provide a welcoming environment for patients and staff
  • Works closely with the Professional Nurse Committee on their Potato Bowl float
  • Takes great pride in Altru’s campus and treats it as if it were his home

Dan Beauchamp | Facilities Manager

  • Meets the needs of his customers while being mindful of the organization’s resources
  • Managed countless renovations and moves, including private room conversions
  • Instrumental in retrieving and restoring historic statues from St. Michael’s Hospital

Shannon Hansen | Infection Control Coordinator

  • Takes her work long past regular hours and responsibilities
  • Early advocate for staff flu vaccine requirements, directly contributing to patient safety
  • Known for her ability to catalyze successful change and “get things done”

Alissa (Ali) Hohmann | Licensed Practical Nurse (Parkwood Senior Living)

  • Someone who residents, families and staff rely on for expertise and guidance
  • Works well under pressure and never makes others feel like she has limited time
  • Calm and reassuring demeanor provides comfort and healing for all

Audrey Lorenz | Strategic Planning Lead

  • Guides senior leadership and board of directors with strategic planning and execution
  • Positively impacts our communities through her work on community health assessments
  • Cares deeply about the Altru brand and embodies the Altru Promise

Achievement Awards

Robert M. Jacobson Lifetime Achievement Award
The Robert M. Jacobson Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have made ongoing and lasting contributions, enhancing the culture and services provided by Altru Health System.

Dr. Siegel Award

The son of a prominent physician in Los Angeles, Dr. Mark Siegel wasn’t expecting to find his life’s work in North Dakota. That all changed when a “practice interview” in 1978 turned into a 36-year career in Grand Forks.

At the time, the Grand Forks Clinic and United Hospital were beautiful new facilities standing on the edge of town. There was plenty of work and opportunities to practice the surgery that he loved.

Surgical Pioneer
Dr. Siegel brought new skills and abilities to medical care. Just a few of the many innovations he helped to launch included minimally invasive and endoscopic surgery, access lines for renal patients and the concepts of modern surgical critical care. Surgery was undergoing a rapid evolution, and Dr. Siegel stood at the forefront of that change.

Early in the 1980s, Dr. Siegel was directly involved with the Mayo Clinic, through the North Central Treatment Group. Working with Mayo, he helped bring the first portacath for a cancer patient to United Hospital.

Natural Leader
Beyond surgery, Dr. Siegel is a natural leader. One of his proudest accomplishments was the creation of the surgical residency program with UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Grand Forks-trained surgeons now lead some of the most prestigious surgery programs in the Upper Midwest and the nation.

Dr. Siegel has served as Chief of Medical Staff for United Hospital and President of the Grand Forks Clinic. It was during this time that leaders of the hospital and clinic decided to bring these organizations together in what we know today as Altru Health System.

In his current role, Dr. Siegel serves as Medical Director of Care Management, molding Altru into a model system. Physicians and residents still frequent his office seeking advice. A thoughtful teacher, he listens, asks questions and offers support.

Dr. Siegel’s legacy will be the difference he has made in the lives of others through his kindness and compassion. Thousands of grateful patients and co-workers, hundreds of residents and students, colleagues and many others owe something of what they have become to this great healer and human being.

Congratulations to all recipients. Thank you for your dedication to making Altru a better place. Leave your congratulations to this year’s recipients in the comments below.

Donating Life, Remembering a Life

Organ donation directly influenced Ashley Peterson’s decision to become a registered nurse. At only 14 years old, when faced with a family tragedy, Ashley watched nurses care for her brother with sincere kindness and empathy.

Today, Ashley volunteers for LifeSource and serves as co-chair of Trails4Transplants, a long-distance, multiple-week horse trail ride to promote awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation.

Blake - Senior PhotoIn her career as a nurse, Ashley listens to heartbeats regularly. None are as distinct as her brother Blake’s.

Ashley’s Story
On June 11, 2000, my family and I faced the unimaginable death of my 19-year-old brother, Blake Allen Johnson.

The Accident
Blake, my mom, dad and brother were celebrating at a wedding the night of the accident.  Blake’s vehicle was in an area where many minors had been consuming alcohol. Fearful something could happen to Blake’s pickup or someone would attempt to drink and drive, my mom decided the vehicle needed to be moved to a safer area. Blake watched from afar as my mom proceeded, and he became angry because she did not ask to move it.

Blake jumped on the running boards and began to argue through the window. They slowly drove down the rural blacktop road, with my dad and oldest brother following behind. A car came up behind my dad and brother, passed them and then proceeded to pass my mom, with Blake on the running boards. Blake looked down, became disoriented and fell, hitting the back of his head. My mom jumped out of the pickup to hold him. Blake looked up into the sky, called “Oh, God” and then lost consciousness.

Sunday Mourning
After returning home from summer camp, my uncles took me to the hospital that Sunday morning. When I arrived, my parents and my brother were still in their wedding outfits from the night before. They trembled with tears when they saw me.

My parents escorted me in to see Blake. The first thing I saw was the ventilator. I sat at his bedside and prayed. I laid my head against the crisp white sheets and listened to his strong heartbeat.

Blake’s doctors came in and explained his condition. He had a severe traumatic brain injury, and if it wasn’t for the ventilator, he could not breathe on his own. The words shattered our lives.

Discussing Donation
Shortly after they confirmed Blake’s death, a hospital liaison from LifeSource discussed our options. She stated he would be a candidate to donate his organs and how organ donation can help save other lives. As she was explaining the options I thought, ‘What in the world is happening? Why is she talking to us? Is this really happening?’

Her compassion and sorrow for our loss was truly genuine. Then, she asked, “Do you think organ donation is something your family would like to do?” Hit with the harsh reality, somehow the answer ‘yes’ came from my mouth.

My parents decided the decision would have to be unanimous. We had until the next day to decide.

Saying Yes
We went to my sister’s apartment and discussed the donation option. One of Blake’s good friends told us they had been out one night at a friend’s house and everyone threw their wallets on a coffee table. They were looking through each others’ wallets and noticed Blake was the only one with ‘organ donor’ on his license. We looked through Blake’s belongings and sure enough, he was a donor. The answer was clear.

We returned to the hospital to say our final goodbyes. We prayed over him and praised God for his life. I laid my head on the crisp white sheets to listen to his heart one last time. I’ll never forget leaving that hospital room. Ever.

Blake was always a giver, even up to his last breath. He was the 19th donor from North Dakota that year. The gifts of his heart, liver, pancreas and kidneys saved four lives. His liver went to a 10-year-old girl in a neighboring hometown, whose mother worked with my mom. And, his heart went to Herb.

John and Ashley 2013

Meeting Herb
In September of 2011, our family drove to Iowa to meet Blake’s heart recipient. What a joy it was to see John ‘Herb’ get to watch his children and grandchildren grow, celebrate holidays and his 50th wedding anniversary.

Herb’s family wrote us Father’s Day cards before we met. Blake was killed on Father’s Day that year, and they knew because of Blake’s gift, they get to celebrate their dad. We had an instant connection.

Herb’s story picked up where ours had ended. It was exhilarating to hear the rest of the story from our traumatic loss to the renewal of Herb’s life. At the end of our first meeting, I finally worked up the courage to ask him if we could listen to his heart with my stethoscope. He responded, “Oh yes, please do.”

Listening to Blake's heart

 For the first time in 11 years, I got to listen to my brother’s heart beat again. It sounded exactly as it did the day Blake left us.

We have continued to keep close contact with Herb and his family. They are our family now, too.

Meeting Herb(Summer is Ashley’s older sister, and Darlene is John’s wife.)

Gifts of Life, Happiness and Comfort
The decision to donate brought back so much life and happiness to our family through such a dreadful time. Blake’s ultimate gift of life to others was also a gift to us. Because of the gift, our family has survived the unthinkable. It brings us much comfort to know Blake’s legacy will continue on through his decision to be a donor.

Our Living Legacy

Our Living Legacy donor wall dedication will honor donors like Blake who have shared the gifts of organ, tissue and eye donation. Learn more about this event on April 23. During National Donate Life Month, let life bloom by registering as a donor. 

Ashley Peterson works as a registered nurse at Altru. Originally from Warren, Minn., she enjoys dog training, hunting, gardening, volunteering for LifeSource and is an active church member.

North Dakota’s RN of the Year

We are proud to announce that Autumn Nelson, patient care supervisor of in-patient float pool at Altru Health System, was recently chosen as North Dakota’s RN of the year by the International Nurses Association. With this honor, she will be inducted into the worldwide leader organization.


Autumn Nelson, RN, BSN is being honored for her exceptional success in the nursing profession. Autumn has demonstrated the passion, dedication and enthusiasm for patient care necessary to be considered the Top Nurse in ND. Congratulations to Autumn for representing the nursing profession and the state of North Dakota.

Autumn at Altru
A member of the Altru team since 2009, Autumn started as a certified nursing assistant on the Cardiac Unit, then transferred into a nurse co-op position on the Women and Children Unit until graduation. She also completed her practicum in the ICU for three months. From 2012-13, Autumn was a bedside RN in the float pool, and later was promoted to patient care supervisor.

“I think it is wonderful when one of our own is nominated and recognized,” says Margaret Reed, Chief Nurse Executive at Altru. “Autumn is a bright young professional and will do well in her pursuit of being a nurse practitioner.”

When asked why she picked nursing, “I wouldn’t say I picked the nursing profession; nursing picked me,” Autumn explains. “I have always been passionate about caring for people and making a difference in the word. Nursing is such a rewarding profession, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Making a difference, here and beyond
In addition to her work at Altru, Autumn is currently in graduate school at the University of North Dakota for her master’s degree for Family Nurse Practitioner, where she teaches undergraduate nursing students. She also serves on the Nurse Practice Committee for the ND Board of Nursing and Health Policy Committee for the ND Coalition.

Congratulate Autumn on this achievement by leaving a comment below.