September 20, 2018

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Dr. Joe Willett on 25 Years as an Internal Medicine Physician at ACMC-Marshall

DSC_5480cDr. Joe Willett
can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t interested in medicine.

One of his first jobs in high school was as a hospital patient aide. He often jokes that his role as a patient aide was really that of a glorified hospital orderly. When he graduated from high school, he went to undergraduate school at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul. It was a decision that would change his life. He not only met his future wife, Dr. Jane Willett—she was a Katie, and he was a Tommie—but an advisor who would introduce him to osteopathic medicine.

“Dr. Bland led me down a road that started my whole career. He grew up in Indiana and said I reminded him of his osteopathic physician. He thought that the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Mo., would be a good fit for me. I went for a visit and stayed for medical school,” he said.

Dr. Willett completed his doctorate of osteopathic medicine before completing his internal medicine residency in Columbus, Ohio, at one of the largest teaching hospitals.

“Because this was the era of HIV, many of the attending physicians were fearful of contracting AIDS. Often that meant the physicians were very willing to let the medical residents perform many invasive procedures,” he said.  “My residency was a very procedurally related experience. I did things most residents of today would never do unless they sub-specialized and completed a fellowship.”

It was during his residency that Dr. Willett’s interest in gastroenterology, particularly in endoscopy, grew.  It’s uncommon for a general internist to have as much experience in GI as Dr. Willett did.

Making the Move to Marshall

In June 1984 Dr. Willett and Jane were married. After finishing their residencies, they began to look at where they would settle down. They took a road trip across the Upper Midwest, meeting with prospective practices. By chance they met two physicians from ACMC at a special dinner in the Twin Cities. They convinced both of them to visit ACMC in Marshall.

From the start of their visit, both felt like they belonged in Marshall. It was a quick visit, but they learned everything they needed to know. They finished their residences and relocated to Marshall, where each has practiced for 25 years.

“The Marshall community was—and still is—a perfect fit for our family, and we have been happy here from day one. We’ve raised three children—Angie, Michael, and Brian— and established successful practices right here,” Dr. Willett said.

He adds, “I have enjoyed a wonderful rural internal medicine practice with a heavy emphasis on endoscopy. Approximately 75 percent of my practice is endoscopy-related, which is by far the most rewarding part of my practice.  In my 25 years in Marshall, I’ve realized that when a patient asks you to be their doctor, it’s almost like them asking for your hand in marriage. I’ve developed many very close, personal relationships with my patients. It’s a special thing to be a part of.”

One Big Happy Family

If there is one thing Dr. Willett knows for sure it’s that he loves practicing at ACMC and in Marshall.

“ACMC is just like family. It’s been wonderful, and I could never imagine working at another place. I have been very fulfilled in my career, and I have the best nurse, Carol Abels. She has with me from the very first day of my practice. She’s irreplaceable,” he said. “I am so blessed to have her by my side.”

And his involvement in the medical profession doesn’t stop at the clinic DSC_5435cdoors.

Through the years Dr. Willett has also gotten involved in a number of organizations. He is currently serving on the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice and has been for nearly 16 years.  His position is an appointment by the Governor to serve the citizens of Minnesota, protecting them from unscrupulous practitioners.

Outside of work they love spending time at their lake home and travel whenever they can. No matter the season, they’re cheering on at least one Minnesota sports team from the Wild in the winter and the Twins in the summer. And this fall will mark a new chapter in Dr. Willett and Dr. Jane’s lives. They’ll become grandparents for the first time!

“Family is the glue that binds us together and the measuring stick by which we measure our success,” Dr. Willett said. “That’s not only the family we raised here in Marshall, but the ACMC family who have been by our sides for the past 25 years. I look forward to the rest of my career working many more years right here in Marshall at ACMC. After all, it’s not work when you love what you do!”