After 34 years of serving the health needs of the people of greater Morrison County, Little Falls family practice physician Michael Neudecker, MD, retired from CHI St. Gabriel’s Health and Family Medical Center, effective March 31.
Joining the Morrison County medical community was a good fit for the southwest Minnesota native.
“I was born and raised with one brother and six sisters in Sleepy Eye,” Neudecker said. “I followed my older sister to St. Cloud State University. There, I met some very interesting and exciting professors who wanted to start a biomedicine program. Their passion was contagious and led me to apply to medical school.”
After medical school, he considered pursuing infectious disease as a specialty, “but the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Medical School had a fervor for family medicine and I was easily swayed,” he said
The residency program at UMD led him to Little Falls.
“I went to Little Falls for six weeks to ‘get a feel’ for the town and one year later I would call it home,” he said. “My wife (Helen) and I both graduated from St. Cloud State University and we wanted to stay near family and friends. We drew a circle with a 100-mile radius around the Twin Cities and started looking at communities within that region. We had good friends living in Rice and they convinced us to look at the Medical Center (the clinic name at the time, now Family Medical Center), which was located in the Buckman Building.”
The decision to come to Little Falls felt comfortable for Neudecker from the start.
“When my wife and I moved to our first home in Sobieski, our neighbor’s daughter was working for the Record and stopped by while we were working outside and took our picture for the paper,” he said. “Another neighbor showed us how to plant a garden and butcher chickens, things you don’t learn in medical school.”
Practicing medicine in 1982 was quite a bit different from today.
“The most senior partner in our clinic was Dr. Sid Watson from Royalton,” Neudecker said. “He would sit in our miniature coffee room in the back of the Buckman Building and tell stories of his dad traveling in a horse-drawn sleigh through a snowstorm, delivering babies at the patient’s home. Clinic records had been kept on 5-by-8-inch index cards noting your name, diagnosis and charges. We worked shoulder to shoulder so we knew everybody from the front office to the back closet.”
Neudecker is one of two remaining Family Medical Center physicians (Dr. Thomas Stoy is the other) who practiced in the Buckman Building and moved to the current location adjacent to St. Gabriel’s Hospital.
“We merged three family clinics into our current building in 1990,” he said. “We had plenty of space then, but not enough now. Computers entered the scene about eight years ago and have provided information at our fingertips but are also somewhat intrusive in the doctor-patient relationship.”
In addition to his family medicine practice, Neudecker served the health needs of the community in many other ways as well. He was a charter member of the Morrison County Child Protection Team and served as medical adviser to the county emergency medical services board for approximately 25 years. He was medical director of the Pierz Villa for over 25 years and served on the Home Health Advisory Councils for both Horizon Health and CHI Health at Home (formerly Unity Family Home Care).
Neudecker said he is thankful for many things over his career.
“I would like to thank my nurse, Carol Maurer, for her kind and caring dedication to our patients for my entire career at the Family Medical Center,” he said. “I’ve made friendships with many of the doctors who are my colleagues. I wish to thank all of them for their collaboration, knowledge, expertise and teamwork in serving our patients. Our staff at the clinic and our nurses at the hospital are the best. The OB nurses have been instrumental in assisting with some difficult deliveries. There is a prayer to St. Gabriel that hangs over the scrub sink at the hospital that I would reflect on just before delivering a baby. I am grateful to the person who hung it there which has provided reassurance.”
The thankfulness extends to his patients who have helped Neudecker appreciate the “circle of life.”
“My patients have taught me how to grow old gracefully and I thank them for that,” he said. “They have also taught me that retirement can be fun and fulfilling. They have shared that family traditions and caring for family members are very important. Many of them have dealt with serious illness in a way I wish I could emulate. It has been great to serve their health needs for 34 years because you get to serve generations of families and sometimes even get the opportunity to deliver babies of those patients you originally delivered.”
Family Medical Center and CHI St. Gabriel’s Health are hosting a retirement celebration in Dr. Neudecker’s honor Thursday, from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. in the Family Medical Center lobby. Patients and the public are welcome to attend. Refreshments will be served.