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Two Perham Health doctors reach anniversary milestones

Dr. Blickenstaff. Courtesy photo.1 / 2
Dr. Stolee. Courtesy photo.2 / 2

Thousands of patients, of all different ages, have turned to Dr. Rand Stolee or Dr. Jeff Blickenstaff for medical care over the past few decades. This year, both doctors reached milestone anniversaries at Perham Health, with Dr. Stolee celebrating 25 years and Dr. Blickenstaff celebrating 35 years of practicing medicine.

"Dr. Blickenstaff and Dr. Stolee both have a great reputation for treating patients as individuals and treating their staff and colleagues with immense respect," says Chuck Hofius Perham Health CEO. "Dr. Blickenstaff kept the doors of Perham Health open when the hospital was down to only two physicians in the 1980's and early 1990's and has always had a strong commitment to growing his own skills keeping up on the latest trends in medicine. Dr. Stolee built the surgery department up from the ground floor and made it the strong and growing department it is today.

"Both doctors sacrificed a lot of personal and family time to make sure this community had adequate health coverage as the hospital has grown. Both have been very active in the hospital, the community and in their respective churches. We are very lucky to have Dr. Blickenstaff and Dr. Stolee as part of the Perham Health medical staff."

Dr. Rand Stolee

"I feel really grateful to reach my 25-year milestone here at Perham Health," says Dr. Stolee, a general surgeon. "This is such a good, supportive community. My wife, Becky, and I raised our kids here. I believe that one of the reasons they've had lots of opportunities in their lives is because they went to school in Perham and grew up here."

When his children were still young and he was just out of residency, Dr. Stolee recalls the Perham community coming together to bring him to Perham Health. He says the hospital board was extremely supportive right from the start, always making sure he had the equipment he needed and treating him with respect.

"For a long time, it was a challenge being the only surgeon in town because I was on call all the time," he recalls of the early days of his practice. "Having Judy Dahl, physician assistant, start working with me several years ago and now having a partner in Dr. Brett Glawe has lightened the load for me quite a bit. I believe that we are now well-situated for the next 25 years."

When asked how practicing medicine has changed over the years, Dr. Stolee says that today the focus has shifted to more laparoscopic work. "Hospital stays have also gotten shorter," he says. "When I was in residency, a hernia repair would require patients to spend three or four days in the hospital. Now they can go home the same day, often within hours."

He says he has also witnessed a tremendous amount of growth within the Perham Health community. There are now four or five times as many providers as when he first started. The new hospital building has also helped improve both patient and provider satisfaction.

"One of the things I enjoy the most about my job is helping people find solutions. I like surgery because many of the problems I deal with are problems you can see and find a solution to. Seeing direct, short-term results is a very rewarding part of what I do," he says.

When he is not working, Dr. Stolee stays active throughout the Perham area. He is involved with the Perham Rotary Club and an active member at Calvary Lutheran Church. He also enjoys supporting the Perham public schools and interacting with members of the community.

"When people look toward retirement, whether it's five or 10 years down the road, they start asking themselves if this is a place where they could retire. I think Perham is the perfect place to retire. For me, I can see down the road that this is a great community for all stages of my life," he says.

Dr. Jeff Blickenstaff

For the past 35 years, Dr. Jeff Blickenstaff has practiced family medicine at Perham Health. "There are some really big satisfactions in doing this," he says. "There are people in this clinic that I've seen for their whole lives. I have seen generations of families and it is such a privilege to do that. If you move every five years, you never get that continuity. I know my patients appreciate it too."

After having practiced medicine for a significant amount of time, Dr. Blickenstaff says he's started to notice that things change in cycles. For example, there are medications that go in and out of favor over time. He says sometimes it takes 10, 20, or even 30 years to notice some of these cycles. Having a long history in family medicine helps bring perspective.

"I have also noticed that the effort to define what good quality medicine is and to measure it has changed over the years. Now there is much more scrutiny and objectivity. This helps provide better care," he notes.

While advancements in medical technology are extremely valuable in many ways, he admits that it has been a struggle at times to meet the demands of the electronic record. There is also the constant need to keep up with the changes in medicine and the standards of treatment. He explains, "There isn't anything you can assume you know how to do just because that is how you've done it before. Experience is really good, but you still need to know the new things coming down the pike."

One of the things Dr. Blickenstaff says he appreciates about Perham Health is the hospital's association with Sanford Health. Sanford is currently pursuing research that he believes will produce exciting benefits.

He is also thankful for the positive environment he has found in the Perham community. "There have been a lot of changes, but all along there have been very helpful, supportive, friendly people here," he says. "Right from the start, Perham felt like my hometown."

With 35 years of practicing medicine behind him, Dr. Blickenstaff says he still enjoys the work he does and the people he meets each day. "I like the work I do and I just want to keep doing it. As long as I can keep up and do the work, I intend to keep working. I am thankful to the community that I've been able to work here," he says, adding with a laugh, "They've put up with me for a long time now."