November 25, 2017

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A Homecoming for ACMC-Litchfield’s Dr. Cassandra Bulau

Dr. Cassandra Bulau, ACMC-Litchfield, Family MedicineGrowing up in Litchfield, Dr. Cassandra Bulau—like many high school students—never imagined she’d be back. After high school she left for Boston, where she received her undergraduate degree in biology and history at Boston University.

Dr. Bulau always had an interest in medicine; the sciences were her favorite in high school. So it was no surprise when she chose to pursue medical research in college. But once she began doing lab work, she realized how much she missed making a connection with others. That’s why she chose pre-med.

Coming Back to Minnesota

And when it came time to make a decision about medical school, Dr. Bulau came back to Minnesota.

“I knew I didn’t want to practice, or even go to medical school, in Boston. I loved living there, but it wasn’t a great place for primary care,” Dr. Bulau said.

After applying across the nation, she decided on the University of Minnesota. “It turned out to be a great choice. I was here for some really important family events that I would have missed out on if I had studied anywhere else. It was where I needed to be then, and where I want to be now.”

The University of Minnesota also offered a unique opportunity to learn in a rural setting through the Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP). Dr. Bulau saw it as an exciting chance to learn and get more first-hand experience in medicine.

“I think it was a little surprising how much I enjoyed my rotations during RPAP. I thought I’d get to learn a lot more on rotation than my peers in larger cities would on their rotations, and I definitely did. But what I wasn’t expecting was how much I loved practicing here. It was really cool to be able to experience medicine in a community where I got to know the people I saw—and that was only over a nine-month period,” she said.

Throughout medical school she thought she wanted to focus on geriatrics. But after her RPAP rotations with ACMC-Willmar family medicine physician Dr. Michael Nicklawsky, she realized she loved the variety of family medicine. Her residency confirmed that and also gave her a new love—obstetrics.

Settling Back in to Life in Litchfield

Looking back, Dr. Bulau is thankful the decisions she made led her back here. Had Dr. Bulau chosen any other medical school or done rotations in a larger city, she may not have reconnected with the man who is now her husband.

“When I left Litchfield I lost touch with most people from high school; my husband was one of those people. My dad loves to remind me that he brought us back together again so to speak,” Dr. Bulau said. “We reconnected at a farmer appreciation dinner when my dad pointed him out and got us chatting. After five years of dating long-distance—with me in training and him farming back here—we got married. Now we’re finally living together in the same place for the first time since we started dating.”

With Dr. Bulau’s husband farming in the area, it made sense to come back home. As she began searching for a place to establish her first practice, she quickly discovered there was no place else she would rather be than her hometown.

Though she’s loved getting to know her patients, perhaps the most exciting part of setting up her practice in Litchfield is being near family again and getting to enjoy things she didn’t have time for in medical school.

The couple loves getting active outdoors, and Litchfield gives them the chance to enjoy the great outdoors. They love kayaking and biking. And though Dr. Bulau admits she doesn’t enjoy the cold, now that winter’s here, she and her husband will be trying out cross-country skiing. When they get an itch to get away, there’s always traveling. They spent time in Europe, and Dr. Bulau traveled to Ireland and New Zealand last year before she started her practice in Litchfield in October.

“Litchfield’s home. Since leaving and coming back, I’ve gained a new appreciation for my hometown and all it has to offer,” Dr. Bulau said. “I’ve loved living in those big cities, but I never felt like I belonged there. I belong here.”

That’s certainly true for Dr. Bulau in her new practice.

“I love working with patients I know, caring for them and their families. I also like getting to know them in different ways and really connecting with them,” she said.

And word has gotten around Litchfield about their hometown girl turned physician.

“I love that small-town atmosphere Litchfield has. As the doctor, I’m taking care of people, but they’re doing the same thing for me—just in a different way,” she said. “You don’t find that kind of thing everywhere you go.”

Yet it’s just the kind of thing you’d expect in Litchfield. Welcome home, Dr. Bulau.