Dr. Mark Paulson, Perham Health family medicine physician, has been named chair of the Sanford Health Governing Board.

The 14-member board is comprised of community leaders, business professionals, physicians and others with diverse backgrounds.

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Paulson, who previously served on the MeritCare Board of Trustees and began his Sanford Board of Trustee membership in 2009 where he served as secretary from 2014-2015 and vice-chair from 2016-17, said what interests him in being a part of the governing board is being able to be a part of the bigger picture of healthcare. "As you get involved, you learn about national healthcare and how it affects local health care, how it affects Perham health, physicians, new technology, how we can take advantage of the changes and lead healthcare," Paulson said.

He added that being involved at that level is interesting and different because instead of being in a room managing the health of one person, it's an opportunity to manage the health of an entire region.

The basic function of the 14-member governing board is fiduciary responsibility for the entire health care system of Sanford Health, and the members come from all walks of life, according to President and Chief Executive Officer of Sanford Health, Kelby Krabbenhoft.

"The board naturally looks for an outside perspective, but Dr. Paulson brings some unique gifts and talents to the table that have inspired a lot of confidence in fellow board members to approve him as chairman," said Krabbenhoft.

He added that Paulson is part of a tradition now of leaders coming out of upper north central Minnesota.

Krabbenhoft said the partnership with Perham Health is a good one, and initiatives coming up will benefit the system as a whole.

"The added value that comes from our relationship in Perham is from some of our initiatives across the national platform, as well as the system as a whole, such as technology and genetics, the VA, the Good Sam Society merger, which will bring an expertise and add more strength to the operation of the nursing home in Perham," Krabbenhoft said. "All those kind of things are really a byproduct of the long standing relationship between the community, the hospital, and the physicians with Sanford."

Paulson added that Sanford has been instrumental in recruiting doctors to the area.

"When I joined there were three physicians here, and now we are 20 providers ... that's been huge," Paulson said.

When Paulson started out as physician, chairman of the governing board wasn't where he envisioned himself ending up someday.

"When I went to medical school I was going to be a small town doc in a little town in North Dakota, which is where I grew up in eastern North Dakota, and I practiced there for a few years until I figured I could live on a lake ... which is what brought me to Perham. So, I have been in Perham since 1991," he said.

Paulson stills sees patients everyday, and he said his wife helps keep his feet planted firmly on the ground.

"She's my anchor. I know this is an honor and it's only temporary, this isn't life," he said. "Our life is our family and our home."

The Paulsons have kids and grandkids in the area.

"That's what life is about is the grandkids. I tell people that's why you have the kids, to have the grandkids," he said laughing.

Paulson got into medicine after his eighth grade general business teacher challenged the class to decide what they wanted to do with their lives.

"All the other students were farm kids, so they were mostly going to take over the family farm. My dad was a pastor, there was no way I was going to take over the church," Paulson said. "So I really spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do, and I decided I wanted to be a doctor."

He said after that, the rest of his path was spent working towards that goal. In college, Paulson worked as an orderly at the local hospital. He changed bedpans and did the work taking care of patients. He credits some "amazing" RNs with teaching him the necessary nursing skills, and he did that until he was accepted into medical school. "My path was dictated after that. One of my mentors was a local doctor who retired on Big Pine Lake, Jim Little. He was my doc when I was a kid, he's who I wanted to be. That was my vision for a long time - not to be a chairman," he said with a laugh.