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Nicholas Reuter, MD, Marks 50 Years of Practicing Medicine

Cancer Care
“As a physician, you’re not free to just say ‘I don’t want to do it today.’ You have to care for your patients if it’s the middle of the night or a weekend. It’s a challenge and a sacrifice. On the other hand, you’ll come to learn the hopes and dreams and disappointments of your patients.”

The world was rapidly changing in 1970. The United States lowered the voting age to 18, Simon and Garfunkel released their first album together and the world watched the Apollo 13 mission with bated breath. And that same year, a young Nicholas Reuter began his internship at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth.

This summer, Nicholas Reuter, MD, is celebrating something few physicians achieve. He marks 50 years of practicing medicine. As he looks back on 43 years of affiliation with St. Cloud Hospital, there are few aspects of the organization he has not been involved with at some point in his career.

Reuter was raised on a farm near Mazeppa in southern Minnesota. He was born with a cleft palate and a double harelip and endured 13 operations in his first 21 years of life. While these surgeries were taxing, the procedures gave Reuter a positive view of medicine. “My experiences were good experiences,” he said. “All of the providers were always looking at what would be the best result for me.”

As the oldest son in the family, Reuter had been earmarked to take over the family farm. But in high school, he realized he excelled at academics and wanted to attend college. With the encouragement of his mother and his high school principal, he pursued studies at Saint John’s University in Collegeville. Because of his speech impediment, he received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Vocational Rehabilitation that made college financially possible with one stipulation: that he wouldn’t pursue a career that would require him to work with the public.

At Saint John’s, Reuter was a science major with aspirations of being a county agricultural extension agent or an agricultural researcher. Believing a sociology class could be helpful, he enrolled in a class taught by Paul Marx, a Benedictine priest and sociology professor. Reuter was the lone science major in the class and was concerned when Father Marx asked him to stay after class one day. Marx asked Reuter if he had ever considered being a physician and encouraged him to take the MCAT. Reuter took him up on it and it changed the course of his life. “I would not have seriously considered medicine without his push,” Reuter said. “I got to thank him later in life and he jokingly said, ‘I should have told you to become a priest!’”

Dr. ReuterReuter joined the St. Cloud Medical Group as an internist in 1977 and has been affiliated with CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital ever since. He was drawn to St. Cloud in part because the medical community seemed open to new ideas and had a curiosity and willingness to try new things. This environment has allowed Reuter to be on the ground floor of several projects at CentraCare. He was a participant, along with Harold Windschitl, MD, in helping St. Cloud Hospital and St. Cloud Clinic of Internal Medicine become founding members with Mayo Clinic of the North Central Cancer Treatment Group, which brought clinical research and state-of-the-art cancer capabilities to Central Minnesota. And in 1979, Reuter was instrumental in helping develop the hospice program, where he still serves as associate medical director.

Reuter has spent his career bringing organizations together for the betterment of patients and the community. In 1990, he joined the oncology team at St. Cloud Clinic of Internal Medicine (later CentraCare Clinic) where he was a contributing force in establishing Coborn Cancer Center. Reuter has served as Chief of Staff of St. Cloud Hospital, been a Corporate Member of the board of St. Cloud Hospital and served as a board member of the CentraCare Foundation, from whom he received the prestigious Caduceus Award in 2009.

Dr. ReuterReuter has volunteered countless hours with the hospice program and donated medical care for Place of Hope. He and his wife of 52 years, Bernice, provide scholarships for students in the community and support many local organizations. And even though Reuter encouraged his children to pursue their own passions and dreams, all three of his children work in the health care field. Two of his children are physical therapists and his son, Nathaniel Reuter, MD, is an oncology surgeon at CentraCare Clinic.

What advice would Reuter give to a young person considering medical school? “It’s a calling. It’s a vocation,” he said. “It also comes with a really large burden of caring. It’s a burden of intrusion on your own life. As a physician, you’re not free to just say ‘I don’t want to do it today.’ You have to care for your patients if it’s the middle of the night or a weekend. It’s a challenge and a sacrifice. On the other hand, you’ll come to learn the hopes and dreams and disappointments of your patients.” It’s apparent that Reuter continues to find great satisfaction in helping and caring for patients and their families.