June 27, 2017

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My First and Only Practice, ACMC-Benson Where I Wanted to Be

Dr. Richard Horecka, ACMC-Benson Family MedicineThough my wife Anita and I had begun dating several months before while I was finishing my family practice residency in St. Paul, I moved to Benson in 1983 a bachelor. I was 31 at the time. It was my first—and as it turns out, only—medical practice after finishing my formal medical training.

From the Twin Cities to ACMC in Benson

I knew about Benson as I had spent my third year of medical school here as a Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) student. I had thoroughly enjoyed my year on the western Minnesota prairie and was seriously interested in returning when I had completed my training. Though I did look at a few other practices, all in Minnesota, Benson was where I wanted to establish my practice. In 1982 ACMC (then the Willmar Medical Center) assumed responsibility for the practice, and, in August 1983, I joined Dr. Roger Bauer and Dr. Steve Honebrink. We became the Benson Medical Center, later becoming ACMC-Benson.

Anita and I continued a relationship by long distance.  She did most of the commuting to me because of my busy schedule. When she risked her life that Thanksgiving holiday driving to Benson from St. Paul in the middle of a severe blizzard, I figured she must be pretty serious about me.  I proposed, she said yes and we were married in Benson the next August. Benson was half way between my family in Owatonna and hers in Aberdeen so it was sort of the same level of inconvenience for all. I am sure Anita hated the first six months or so, moving to the sticks from the big city with everyone knowing her as the “doctor’s wife.” She developed her own identity very quickly, and she became “Anita” to all but the oldest, most traditional patients in my practice.

Making Our Life in Benson

Dr. Richard Horecka, ACMC-Benson Family Medicine

My wife and I with our kids and grandkids.

We enjoyed a very busy life, both here in Benson and those spent in the Twin Cities to keep up a few of the old connections. Our first born, Laura, arrived in 1988, and, within a few years—and in a variety ways—we soon had five children: three girls, two boys. Anita worked full time at home.  She was a cook, laundress, housekeeper, taxi driver, hockey mom and professional volunteer. I’m sure more than once I had stated that she “did not work,” but it didn’t take me long to realize how many full time jobs she had—especially as the wife of a busy doctor. In a three-doctor practice, every third weekday night and every third weekend I was on call, while trying to be a contributing member of the community through various civic and charitable activities.

We quickly realized just how much Benson has to offer. Benson was, and still is, a very nice community to raise a family in. We have excellent, well-funded schools with a dedicated teaching staff. Our schools prepared our children well for college. The cost of living is reasonable with many excellent job opportunities.  We loved that we could let our children go to the park and play outside without the great concern one would have for their safety in many larger cities.  There have always been an abundant number of opportunities in extracurriculars such as sports, drama, academic interest clubs and music.

Benson has a vibrant economy with a progressive government whose goal is to maintain the best quality of life it can for its citizens. It is close enough to the Twin Cities and Fargo to enjoy a day at the theater, a concert or a college or professional football game and sleep in your own bed that night. Having the University of Minnesota campus 25 miles away in Morris, offers family excellent educational opportunities.

Practicing Medicine at ACMC-Benson

Benson offered, and still offers for me, the type of medical practice I have always wanted. I see all age groups of patients and get to do the full breadth of what family practice is. I delivered babies, took care of those babies as they grew up and then delivered their babies. I have had the pleasure of caring for multiple generations of the same family and their extended families. And I have cared for many patients as they lived well into their 90s—I’ve even cared for a few over 100. These people are more than just patients; they are my friends, too. Living among them lets me know about them and their lives at a much deeper level than I could in an urban practice. And having my friends trust me with the medical care of their children is the ultimate compliment.

I have a wonderful, modern and financially secure hospital to work out of and a new clinic facility that is state of the art and very beautiful to work in. As our practice grew, our current call arrangements allow for opportunities to develop interests outside or medicine. Working for ACMC means I work for a clinic that is managed by physicians like me. It has allowed me to be involved in the governance of the clinic, because I have a vested interest in our organization’s well being. My colleagues who are not as interested in being involved realize that the decision makers for the group are just like them, not the corporate types whose motivation is the benefit of themselves and the stockholders. Being a member of a group this size allows benefits for me personally; things like a full range of employee benefits and an outstanding retirement plan.

On average, young physicians move twice in the first 10 years of their medical practice. I have never seriously considered such a move. After 31 years, it’s safe to say my decision to start a practice in Benson was the best move I could have made. I’m thankful to have had so many years serving a community I chose to call home.