October 22, 2017

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Dr. Ronald Holmgren Building a Legacy of Leadership at ACMC

Dr. Ronald Holmgren Family Medicine ACMC-Willmar

Retired ACMC-Willmar Family Medicine physician Dr. Ronald Holmgren with his wife and two of his grandchildren.

Family medicine physician and ACMC president and CEO Dr. Ronald Holmgren always planned on setting up practice in a more rural area. He had spent his Rural Physician Associates Program (RPAP) experience training in Clara City. As part of his rotations during RPAP, he became more familiar with Willmar, traveling to Rice Memorial Hospital to provide inpatient care everyday. But he didn’t know when he started at ACMC in August 1977 that he’d still be here nearly four decades later.

And what a great 38 years it’s been.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been so long. A lot has changed since I first started my career at ACMC,” Dr. Holmgren said, smiling, “though sometimes it feels like just yesterday that my interest in medicine first began.”

An Early Interest in Family Medicine

Dr. Holmgren grew up in Litchfield as the second of eleven children—five brothers and five sisters. His father worked at Land O’ Lakes in Litchfield as a butter and cheese maker.  Dr. Holmgren’s father worked hard to provide for their family and taught him the value of a strong work ethic and caring for others.  So it wasn’t really a surprise when he decided that he wanted to be a physician.

“My family doctor had a huge influence on me. What impressed me the most was the respect he had from my parents and the community. I knew I wanted take care of the people in my community like he did so I decided to become a doctor,” Dr. Holmgren said.

Dr. Holmgren went to St. John University in Collegeville primarily because of its strong track record of preparing and placing students with medical schools. In 1974 he received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School. He spent a year interning at St. Paul Ramsey Hospital and completed his residency at University of Minnesota North Memorial Family Medicine in 1977.

The Early Years at ACMC

Dr. Ronald Holmgren Family Medicine ACMC-Willmar

Retired ACMC-Willmar family medicine physician Dr. Ronald Holmgren with his wife Etta and long-time nurse Lori Nygaard.

Even during his residency he knew that a more rural practice would be a good fit for him. Perhaps it was Dr. Holmgren’s small-town upbringing in Litchfield, Minn. Perhaps it’s because he’s an avid fisherman and hunter and the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors are boundless in the west central Minnesota area. Or perhaps it was because his and his wife’s families were close by. But one thing was for sure, Dr. Holmgren’s always felt most comfortable living the lifestyle a smaller community offers.

Dr. Holmgren added, “I wanted to live in a smaller community where I could get to know my patients and really make a difference in their lives like my doctor did for our family.”

ACMC gave him an opportunity to lead the rural lifestyle he had always enjoyed right from the start.

“I’ve been so blessed to practice at ACMC for as long as I have. My wife and I love the area so personally it’s been a wonderful experience, but working at ACMC was the dream job I had always hoped for,” he said.

Dr. Holmgren has fond memories of his early years at ACMC. He was one of six physicians to join in 1977, and the only one still practicing. When he first started there were 34 physicians, and today there are more than 180 healthcare providers in our 11-clinic system.

“The facilities have always been excellent, but what I loved most about ACMC was that we were able to practice a full breadth of family medicine, but still receive support from the sub specialists within our system,” he said.  “In many ways that’s similar to what we’re still doing today though our practices and the technologies have evolved over the years.”

Leadership Roles at ACMC

Even with a busy medical practice, Dr. Holmgren quickly realized he wanted to be part of something bigger at ACMC. He wanted to get involved in the leadership team. In 1981 after an unsuccessful bid for the board of directors, Dr. John Meinert asked him to replace the then outgoing medical director Dr. Jim Tiede.  He eagerly agreed and served in the role until 1987. As medical director, Dr. Holmgren has been involved in leadership positions in some way ever since.

Six years after he became medical director, Dr. Holmgren was elected to the board of directors and was named vice president. He served three consecutive three-year terms. Though he would have continued on the board, the rules wouldn’t allow him to serve more than three consecutive terms. He solely focused on his practice for the next year before serving another five years on the board and becoming president and CEO in 2000.

After 15 years Dr. Holmgren is the longest-serving president and CEO in ACMC’s 44-year history.

“So many things have changed during Dr. Holmgren’s leadership at ACMC and even more so throughout his career here,” said ACMC’s Dr. David Newcomer, chief medical officer.

Dr. Newcomer added, “Under his tenure ACMC has become a leader in issues such as integrated care with area hospitals, common disease registries and interdisciplinary care through Medical Home as well as the development of electronic medical records.  With the growth of ACMC over that time, he has markedly improved access to much-needed care for our patients.”

As a part of his role on the leadership team at ACMC, Dr. Holmgren has had his hands in nearly every major initiative over the last 35 years.  One thing that personally stood out to him was the construction of an ACMC clinic located in Litchfield in 1988.

“It was especially satisfying for me because I grew up in Litchfield, and my hometown has a special meaning in my life. I knew ACMC could consolidate the two groups and bring quality care to the Litchfield area,” he said.

From building projects, facility upgrades, mergers with clinics in Redwood Falls, Marshall, Benson and Granite Falls, he’s seen ACMC’s tremendous growth over the years.

As Dr. Holmgren prepares for the next step in his career, retirement, he’s realizing just how much he’ll miss being a part of the leadership team at ACMC.

And ACMC’s leadership team realizes just how much they’ll miss him.

“Dr. Holmgren has created a culture that encourages change in a field where change can be very difficult.  He has always encouraged collaboration and open exchange of ideas, and he’s great at coming up with solutions to best serve our clinic system and patients,” Dr. Newcomer said. “He’s been an excellent leader at a time when we needed him most, and we’ll certainly miss him as we transition into 2016 with new leadership.”

Dr. Ronald Holmgren Family Medicine ACMC-Willmar_Dr. Amber Vick Family Medicine ACMC-New London Spicer

Retired ACMC physician Dr. Ronald Holmgren with his daughter ACMC-New London/Spicer family medicine physician Dr. Amber Vick.

On to Retirement

“I’m not sure I’m ready to leave ACMC entirely,” he said. “I’ve loved every part of serving the clinic and my community. It’s a very rewarding thing to be a part of. Etta tells me how lucky I am to have patients saying thanks every day.”

And working with the staff, administrators and his fellow physicians and advanced practice providers has made his job so much easier and more enjoyable.

Though Dr. Holmgren has hung up his white coat for the last time, he’ll always be an important part of ACMC’s history. And his children will carry on the family tradition at ACMC. His daughter is ACMC-New London/Spicer family medicine physician Dr. Amber Vick, and his son Dr. Aaron Holmgren is a rheumatologist who provides in-reach services to ACMC through Centracare. His youngest daughter, Britt, has a degree in business management and is now a stay-at-home mom to two of Dr. Holmgren’s seven grandchildren.

The success and growth of ACMC and the opportunity to help lead his fellow physicians has always been a goal of his leadership at ACMC. The friendships he’s gained over the many years is a lasting reward, and he’s grateful to his family—both at home and at ACMC.

“My success as a leader in this organization wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my wife, Etta, and the mentorship from so many individuals I’ve worked with throughout the last three-plus decades,” Dr. Holmgren said. “For that I’m so very thankful.”

And after 38 years, we’re thankful for the legacy Dr. Holmgren has built.