January 17, 2019

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Embracing the Rural Lifestyle: A Love of Pediatrics and the Great Outdoors

It’s no wonder Dr. Michael Hodapp decided to pursue a career in medicine; it runs in his family. One of his grandfathers was a founder of the Willmar hospital; the other practiced in Omaha. His father, Dr. Robert V. Hodapp was one of the founding physicians at Affiliated Community Medical Centers (ACMC). His brother, Dr. Robert E. Hodapp practices family medicine: first at ACMC-Willmar and now at ACMC-Benson. And he also has uncles, a brother-in-law, a niece and a sister all involved in medicine in some way or another—from a dentist to an orthopedic surgeon and even a physiatrist.

“My dad was a pediatrician for 30 years and ultimately that helped shape my desire to enter the medical field and influenced my decision to follow in his footsteps,” said Dr. Michael Hodapp.

“When my dad practiced medicine, it was a different world. It seemed like he was always on call. I remember him being really busy. Fortunately for me, that’s changed a little. But I always remember how much he enjoyed what he was doing and working with kids. I liked going to the hospital with him when he’d go to check in on patients. I’d sit back and take it all in. That’s where my interest first began.”

Dr. Hodapp’s interest grew while taking classes in science and math. When it came time to apply for medical school, he was put on a waiting list. “It’s a very competitive field to enter. If you’re looking to get into medical school Bs and Cs aren’t going to cut it. So you have to really work hard for it from the get go. I actually started medical school at the University of Minnesota a week late. It was interesting going to the same medical school as my dad and learning from many doctors that he trained with when he was going through medical school,” Dr.Hodapp said.

Making ACMC-Willmar Home

More than 30 years ago, Dr. Michael Hodapp began practicing medicine as a pediatrician. In 1986, he made the move to ACMC in Willmar, where he’s been ever since.

Every physician finds their own joy in what they do, and while all pediatricians have at least one thing in common – their love of caring for children – each has distinct interests within the pediatric field. Dr. Hodapp enjoys providing relief for children and their families, practicing acute care and sick child medicine. “I like the pace of acute care and sick child medicine. I think as a physician, I get more out of it. I’m old school. I grew up in the days of really sick kids who didn’t have access to the kinds of vaccines we have today. It’s always such an honor to be able to make a difference in a child’s life, but there is something even more special about helping sick children get better.”

Over the years Dr. Hodapp has seen his share of patients, but what he likes the most about practicing in pediatrics is getting to see his patients grow up. “Being a part of the Willmar community is great in so many ways. You really get to know your patients and their families individually. Most patients will continue to see you until they are 18. It’s fun to be able to follow their lives for that time,” said Dr. Hodapp.

And Willmar has been an ideal community for Dr. Hodapp to practice in – from the lifestyle of a rural physician to everything the community has to offer. “If you don’t enjoy what you do or where you work, you won’t do it for long,” said Dr. Hodapp. “ACMC supports its providers as physicians, and we’ve built up an easy camaraderie and working relationship with the other specialties. We have such a great team of providers at ACMC from mid-levels to physicians. We’re constantly building that team. The nature of medicine has evolved over the years in so many ways – from the technology available today to the amount of time you have to spend on call. It’s really become much more family friendly.”

“I love seeing younger physicians coming back to the area to establish their practice. It’s exciting that we have this great opportunity to recruit younger pediatric providers to complement the pediatric coverage our community offers.”

Along with his passion for taking care of children, he’s also an avid outdoorsman. When he’s not in the clinic he likes to take advantage of the outdoor opportunities the community has to offer—from hunting to fishing to sports in the great outdoors.

“I really like to fish, but hunting, particularly bird hunting, is my favorite. As a hunter and fisher, I feel like we are really fortunate to have so many great lakes and hunting opportunities out here. What’s even better is that many of my partners don’t hunt so it makes it easier to get away during hunting season. We hunt around the area, but my brother, some of our friends and I also enjoy getting away and hunting in Canada, South Dakota and North Dakota,” said Dr. Hodapp. “Practicing in a more rural area makes it possible for me to do things like this.”

From his passion of caring for children to his love of the outdoors, when it comes right down to it, the Willmar area and ACMC have been a perfect fit for him.