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Changing of the guard: As doctors at West River Health Services in Hettinger retire, 5 more physicians have moved into take their place

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn The West River Health Services clinic and hospital in Hettinger, shown March 6, has five new doctors after the retirement of a handful of tenured physicians.1 / 6
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HETTINGER — As older doctors have retired from West River Health Services in Hettinger, the clinic and hospital have been recruiting, and have found five doctors to fill some pretty big shoes, CEO Jim Long said.

And he hopes they fill them well.

The newest is Dr. Tracy Boschee, who practices family medicine.

Other new physicians are Dr. Joshua Ranum, internal medicine, and his wife, Dr. Carrie Ann Ranum, pediatrics.

Dr. Jennifer Sheffield and Dr. Stacie Wellman, who practice family medicine with an interest in women’s health. Sheffield also has an interest in dermatology and allergies, and Wellman specializes in obstetrics.

“That’s really typical of our physicians,” Long said. “Each picks a specialty area and then does additional education so they can provide it. For example, we don’t have OB/GYN. We have family practice physicians with a special interest in obstetrics.”

Those doctors have received additional training to deliver babies and do c-sections, but have not done the full coursework as a specialist, allowing them to see more patients with the family medicine designation.

Joshua Ranum grew up in Scranton, and, after working with West River Health Services during medical school, was excited to come back to his home area.

“It’s actually been really rewarding,” Joshua Ranum said of being a hometown doctor. “I’ve taken care of and run into a lot of people that I’ve known growing up and it’s been a very rewarding experience to help people out and come back and hopefully make a positive difference in the community.”

Carrie Ann Ranum grew up in suburban Stillwater, Minn., and Hettinger is a little more rural than she is used to.

“I knew a lot more people down here than she did,” Joshua Ranum said. “I think it’s growing on her and she’s getting more and more used to the community and the people.”

The Ranums were a bit of a package deal, but alternate travel days, so are rarely in the same building, Joshua Ranum said.

“I had a pretty strong feeling that I was going to work in a smaller area and probably here, and she was apparently OK with that,” Joshua Ranum said. “We both had a thought of doing a smaller community practice, so the odds of working for the same organization was going to be pretty high.”

The hospital serves about 20,000 square miles with patients coming from three states, Long said.

All of the new doctors are from the Midwest or West, so North Dakota winters don’t faze them the same way it has affected doctors in the past, Long said.

“There’s been other employees that have come through the system here that they go, ‘I just can’t stay. This is just too cold,’” Long said.

This year has been especially hard. Two administrators — one from Iowa and one from Nebraska — were almost froze out. There have also been a lot of retirements in recent years from West River.

“We’re kind of in that transition from Baby Boomers to the next group,” Long said. “A good share of our transition has been the earlier crew to today.”

The community has been welcoming to the new doctors, Long said.

“Our patients are just tickled pink with these new recruits, as are we,” Long said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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