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Clinics look forward to growth

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BAXTER — With an established patient base in the Brainerd lakes area, constructing a Cuyuna Regional Medical Center Clinic in Baxter may be considered a bit of a house call.

In this case, the doctors made a move to be closer to the patients.

“Patients have been asking for this for a long time,” said Dr. Bradley Peterson, one of the primary physicians at the new Baxter clinic. Peterson said the impetus to expand the Crosby-based medical center at this time came as the right location and the right partner aligned.

The Cuyuna Regional Medical Center (CRMC) Baxter clinic shares the building with the Minneapolis Heart Institute (MHI), a full-service cardiology clinic staffed by six cardiology providers who offer a full range of outpatient cardiovascular services and testing. The Baxter heart clinic is part of the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, part of Allina Health.

The CRMC and MHI clinics in Baxter are separate entities but share the building, continuing a long-standing collaborative relationship.

Cardiologist Dr. Timothy Dirks, MHI, said the heart clinic’s move — just a few blocks from its previous offices — is creating greater visibility both from Highway 371 and through the construction project.

The outpatient clinics, a partnership venture with CRMC, Allina Health and MHI, opened in December. While MHI has been part of the Brainerd lakes region for many years, located earlier inside St. Joseph’s Medical Center and more recently just north of Wal-Mart in Baxter, the new clinic setting is allowing a more visible presence.

Dirks, who makes his home in Brainerd, said MHI cardiologists are continuing their working relationships with medical providers in the region and see inpatients at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd.

For CRMC, the Baxter clinic is an expansion from the medical center’s hospital in Crosby and its clinic in Longville. Peterson and Dr. Janna Vilen are the two primary care physicians with family medicine practices. Vilen also has a sports medicine specialty. In addition, Jenna Roberts, physician assistant with a family medicine focus, is based at the Baxter clinic. Plans are to add a third family medicine physician this summer.

The CRMC Baxter clinic includes a full laboratory and radiology. Peterson said the Baxter clinic also offers the opportunity to partner with numerous specialities.

Crosby physicians in obstetrics and gynecology — Dr. Leigh Bauer, Dr. Michael Cady, Dr. Rachel Cady and Nurse Practitioner Donna Claypool — will be supporting the primary doctors at the Baxter clinic. Dr. Leo Chough, an orthopaedic surgeon from the Minnesota Center for Orthpaedics, will see patients in Baxter. In addition, doctors with specialities in podiatry and urology will also see patients at the Baxter clinic.

Existing patients whose primary care physician continues to be based out of Crosby may also utilize the Baxter clinic services leaving it up to them whether they want to drive to Crosby or Baxter.

“We can save them time and I think that’s important,” Peterson said.

Now Peterson tells his patients to put him on the list perhaps nestled somewhere between an oil change and a haircut as they plan their shopping trips to Baxter.

“We are drawing people to this area as well,” Peterson said.

In addition to existing patients, Peterson said the clinic has been attracting a steady flow of new patients since it opened on Isle Drive. Walk-in appointments are available.

Technology provides opportunities to link facilities and physicians. Peterson said with a high-speed CT scan, he can be looking at an image at the same time as consulting specialists in other cities are viewing it.

“That’s amazing to me,” Peterson said.

Vilen works with athletes and people who are working for a healthier and active lifestyle whether its jogging or recreational tennis. She networks with personal trainers and sports teams in the region. Her fellowship in sports medicine came after an additional year of medical training. She works with patients on using exercise to stay healthy and be easy on joints. Peterson said it’s nice to have Vilen’s abilities with concussion management and sports physicals.

Vilen is also active CRMC’s community health initiative. As part of the initiative, participants are asked questions aimed at gauging their eating, sleeping, activity and other habits in order to compile a score from zero to 100, creating a baseline.

The shared medical office building is 22,000 square feet with room for expansion up to 60,000 square feet on the site. The CRMC clinic doesn’t have a pharmacy as there are numerous others nearby from big box outlets to smaller drug stores in Brainerd and Baxter.

“It’s been a great start-up. We have great nurses here and we are going to add more and more doctors here — no doubt,” Peterson said.

“We aren’t owned by anybody, that is unique,” he said, adding that allows CRMC to pick the best hospital or specialist that will work for a patient’s needs. “Ultimately the patient has a real voice.”

On the other side of the building, the MHI clinic serves as a hub for the region with its other clinic locations in Crosby, Aitkin and Little Falls. The Baxter clinic allows collaboration with CRMC in Baxter and shared space such as the CT scan. The greater visibility with the heart clinic, which is part of Abbott Northwestern Hospital, has proven easier for patients to find. Others have told clinic representatives they didn’t realize the heart institute was in Baxter before this clinic’s construction.

Windows on the medical building bring in abundant sunshine. The heart institute construction used materials to bring in the opposite effect from a cold environment with a focus on inducing patient calmness. The clinic has wood floors, nine exam rooms and two procedural rooms.

Dirks said the most commented architectural feature has been the sliding doors on rooms, which allow for more efficient use of space. The institute has a room for pacemaker checks and includes, nuclear technology for heart function tests, echo cardiograms and exercise stress tests. The CT scan is in a shared space with CRMC.

A Brainerd Lakes Chamber Business After Hours event is scheduled at the clinic on Feb. 11.

Back in Crosby, the medical center is planning a year-long renovation to expand its surgery capacity by 45 percent to include seven new operating room suites.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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