August 17, 2017

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Dr. Charles Ulrich on Bringing His Gasteroenterology Practice Back to his Hometown of Willmar

Even before I began my gastroenterology practice here, Willmar, Minn., has always been a part of me.  It’s where I grew up. I graduated from Willmar High School in 1977 when I left home for the first time to attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas. That was where I met my wife, Holly.  We met in a New Testament religion class.  We were two of five registered Lutherans on a Baptist Campus.  Holly and I like to joke that it was meant to be.

We were married in Houston before moving to Dallas, where I attended the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. We stayed through residency.  When it came time for my fellowship in gastroenterology, we packed up again this time back to Minnesota in Rochester. Our oldest son Charles III was born there.

After my fellowship, my research efforts lead us to the University of Cincinnati. We spent nine years there, welcoming our son Travis and enjoying a truly family-friendly city. It was also a big step for me professionally.  My colleagues and I built a multidisciplinary Pancreatic Disease Center that became the second largest autologous islet cell transplant program in the world.  An autologous islet cell transplant is a procedure to prevent diabetes or reduce the severity of diabetes after removal of the pancreas.  I also had NIH grants funding research in pancreatic cancer and hereditary pancreatitis.

All things change, and we returned to the Dallas area, where I was able to give back to Southwestern Medical School as chief of gastroenetrology and pancreatology for University Hospitals and assisting in the design and implementation of their same-day surgery center. While this was very rewarding, the long hours and time-consuming commute made it difficult to spend time with my family. Holly, under strict orders to shred all recruitment offers, discretely placed a mailer from ACMC on my mail stack. It sat there for several months. Eventually, after yet another overly long meeting, I called to inquire about the position. Six months later, my family and I returned to my hometown.

Building My Gastroenterology Practice in Willmar

I enjoyed raising my family where I grew up.  I have been able to spend more time with my boys as well as with my siblings and parents. My boys both earned their Eagle Scout badge from the Troop 224, the same troop my brothers and I earned ours from.  I had a front row seat to their accomplishment, working with as an assistant scoutmaster. Charles III will be graduating Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from the University Scholars program at Baylor University this May. Travis is studying East Asian History at Hamline. My wife has embraced living in Willmar, too.  Holly has worked as a pharmacist. She currently enjoys substitute teaching for the Willmar School District and volunteering at Calvary Lutheran Church.

As a gastroenterology doctor at ACMC, I enjoy taking care of patients and helping them improve the quality of their lives. It’s challenging and very rewarding at the same time.  I enjoy working at ACMC.  Their multidisciplinary approach allows for me and my fellow healthcare providers to change rapidly in the constantly evolving medical marketplace.

After seven years, I can truly say that it was absolutely the best decision I could have made for myself professionally and personally.  Of all our moves, it feels good to finally be home.