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From the West Coast to Willmar: Dr. Katie Reigstad’s Road Back Home

Published in Heart & Vascular, Medical Professionals Author: Katherine Reigstad,MD,FACS

It has been nearly 14 years since Dr. Katie Reigstad graduated from Willmar High School. Since leaving her hometown, Dr. Reigstad experienced California, Ohio, and Utah before deciding there really was no place like home. Now, with medical school behind her and a bright future ahead, Dr. Reigstad has returned to Willmar to move forward in her career.

Here, There, Everywhere

Although Dr. Reigstad lived in Willmar most of her life, she spent part of her early childhood in Southern California where she was born. This was a small part of her decision to move to the West Coast and enroll at the Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA after graduating high school. “I wanted to go to a smaller school and it was a great place to earn my Bachelors of Science degree in Biology,” Dr. Reigstad said.

When the time came to choose where she would continue on to medical school, Dr. Reigstad found herself selecting a school much closer to home. “When I interviewed at different medical schools I found that I really liked the University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Minneapolis,” Dr. Reigstad said. “It wasn’t always my plan to move back to Minnesota, but I had definitely considered it.”

However, her move back to Minnesota didn’t last long. Once she completed her medical school course work, Dr. Reigstad headed to Ohio for her residency at Akron City Hospital. With her sights set on pursuing a career in surgery, Dr. Reigstad chose Akron for the hands-on experience she received in the operating room. She went on to complete her vascular surgery fellowship at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. It was during her time in Utah that Dr. Reigstad decided that her next and final move would be back to Minnesota.

“I didn’t really decide until my fellowship that I wanted to come back,” Dr. Reigstad recalled. “Of all the places I had lived, worked and gone to school, nothing compared to Willmar.”

No Place Like Home

There were many motivations behind Dr. Reigstad’s decision to build her medical practice in Willmar including family, friends, and the possibilities that ACMC Health had to offer her. Dr. Reigstad has several family members and friends who live in the Willmar area, including her parents. “It’s nice to be back and see people that I haven’t seen since high school,” Dr. Reigstad said. “I am able to spend time with my friends and family in a way I hadn’t been able to before.”

As for choosing ACMC, Dr. Reigstad says her decision goes back to her first summer job in the clinic’s ophthalmology department. Although she realized ophthalmology wasn’t her calling, she discovered how much she enjoyed the atmosphere within ACMC. “Through my interaction with the doctors and nurses I knew this would be a good system to work for,” Dr. Reigstad recalled.

Through the University of Minnesota, she also participated in the Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) as a medical student in ACMC’s Willmar clinic. Here she got to work one-on-one with providers and staff and she noticed how much they enjoyed their jobs.

Though her familiarity with Willmar was a large factor in Dr. Reigstad’s decision to return home, she says it can also be one of her biggest challenges. “It can be difficult when you know so many people. It’s not uncommon to run into one of my patients in the grocery store,” Dr. Reigstad smiled. “People will ask if I can fix their varicose veins while we’re standing in the check-out lane.”

Finding Her Passion

Although Dr. Reigstad now feels at home in the operating room, she didn’t always see herself as a surgeon. “I was initially thinking about going into primary care,” Dr. Reigstad recalled. “But during my time as an RPAP student I was exposed to a lot of experiences in the surgical setting and I realized that surgery was more for me.” She found that she enjoys the more technical and hands-on aspect that surgery offers.

During her time in Ohio she was also fortunate to be around some really good vascular surgeons. “I liked the procedures a lot,” said Dr. Reigstad. “I found vascular surgery to be an area that was really fascinating to me during my residency.”

Now, as a vascular surgeon at ACMC, Dr. Reigstad works side-by-side with four general surgeons who she considers her mentors. “Our department really gets along well which can be less common in surgery departments, unfortunately,” Dr. Reigstad explained. “At times surgeons may see each other as competition and I haven’t noticed that here at all. “

Dr. Reigstad admits moving to Willmar came with compromises. “There are adjustments to make no matter where you go or what you choose to do,” Dr. Reigstad said. “But you have to decide what your values are and what you are looking for in a practice.”

Dr. Reigstad feels as though she has found her place in Willmar. She has found her way back home.