November 14, 2018

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Otolaryngologists (ENTs) Enjoy Best of Both Worlds at ACMC


Both Dr. Jonathan Mellema and Dr. Jennifer Pesola, two Affiliated Community Medical Centers (ACMC) ear, nose and throat specialists (ENTs), started their careers with general practice in mind. Both, however, were drawn to the challenges of the operating room. During their residencies, each discovered a specialty that allowed them to pursue their two passions at once—ENT proved to be the best of both worlds.

At ACMC in Willmar, Minn., Dr. Mellema and Dr. Pesola again found themselves in a desirable position. The community was warm, welcoming and offered plenty to do… perfect for raising a family. There was also a need for ENT’s interested in a busy and active medical practice. It was the best of both worlds, again.

Discovering a Specialty
“Originally, I was interested in family medicine,” Mellema explained, “but as I went through my rotations, I realized that I really enjoyed surgery.”

Getting to work with his hands in the operating room, solving problems for his patients—potentially giving them a lifelong fix—inspired Mellema to think beyond family medicine. Still, clinical work was in his blood. His father worked for over 39 years as a family medicine physician with ACMC in Willmar. But the younger Dr. Mellema knew he had an interest in both practicing medicine in both the clinical and surgical settings.

Dr. Pesola also discovered a passion for surgical work, but her career grew from personal experience. As a child, she had been in and out of the hospital due to a rare bone disease. It’s what motivated her to go into medicine. Her own experiences as a young patient naturally moved her in the direction of pediatrics.

“I love kids,” Pesola said smiling, picturing her two young boys outside playing at their lakeside home in Spicer, MN. “I had long planned on becoming a pediatrician, but then I spent time during the last of my rotations with an ENT physician and quickly learned how much I liked the variety and challenges of surgery. I love working with my hands. Each case is unique… you’re not doing the same thing every day.”

The variety of an ear, nose and throat specialty proved to be the perfect combination of clinical work and surgical skills. And when it was time to choose where to practice, ACMC-Willmar and the surrounding communities offered the perfect setting for both career and family life.

Thriving ‘Big City’ Career Without the TrafficDSC_0034b
It’s rare to find a medical school outside of a busy metropolitan area. It makes sense—big cities give physicians-in-training exposure to a wide variety of patients. But that “big city” lifestyle isn’t every would-be doctor’s first choice when it comes to life after residency.

Pesola and Mellema feel fortunate to have found a community that matches the pace they wanted for their families, as neither were particularly enamored with the traffic and congestion they experienced throughout school and early in their careers.

“What I appreciate about this area are the values of the people here,” Mellema said. “I enjoy the diversity, the small-town feel and I don’t have to travel very far to hunt and fish. We live outside of town, so we’re able to do more outdoorsy things than we otherwise would. Plus, being close to grandparents has been good for everyone.”

Like Dr. Mellema, Dr. Pesola had strong family ties to Minnesota that drew her “home” after she completed her medical training. She was looking for a great community to raise her own family and a career opportunity that would allow her to strike that perfect balance between work and personal life.

“My family and husband’s family were both back in the Twin Cities,” Pesola explained. “We wanted to get back to Minnesota, but we didn’t want to deal with the traffic of a busy metro area. Willmar and ACMC seemed like a good fit for me and my family, and we’ve been here almost 12 years now.”

When her second son was born, Dr. Pesola found ACMC was more than willing to work out a creative schedule that gave her the time she needed with her newly expanded family… another example of those Midwestern values Dr. Mellema was talking about.

“I work part-time now, three-and-a-half days a week,” Pesola said, “so I still have plenty of time to be involved in my kids’ lives… volunteer with their school and be a part of their activities. ACMC gives me a lot of flexibility when it
comes to family.”

Best of Both Worlds

It’s rare to find real-world examples of having your cake and eating it, too, but in this case it’s fair to say both Dr. Pesola and Dr. Mellema are enjoying the best of both worlds… in more than one sense.

Their active ENT practices give them the opportunities to build one-one-one patient relationships which are so important, but they also get to challenge themselves inside the operating room. They weren’t forced to choose one career path over the other—they found one specialty that offered everything they wanted in a career.

ACMC provides outstanding healthcare services to diverse communities in the heart of
Minnesota, away from big city traffic and the headaches that go with it. There’s no shortage of patients, and the two doctors have established ENT practices that perfectly complement one another.

“There’s definitely a good balance between work and personal life here in Willmar and at ACMC,” Pesola said. “You have lots of flexibility in regards to how you want your practice set up and how you want your days and weeks to be. Plus, you’re not too far away from the cities, so you can still travel easily for all those big city activities.”

Dr. Pesola and Dr. Mellema are doing the work they love in a community that values their skills… and their need for an active family life. They found the best of both worlds in a supportive healthcare organization.