150 years of health care in Fairmont

ABOVE: Medical director Kenda Kamlitz, M.D., cuts a ceremonial ribbon outside Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont on Thursday. The ribbon and the event itself commemorated 150 years since the first permanent doctor arrived in Fairmont.

FAIRMONT- On Thursday a celebration was held outside Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont marking 150 years since the first full-time doctor arrived in Fairmont in 1871 and 30 years since the creation of the Mayo Clinic Health System in 1992. The celebration was originally planned for 2021, but was delayed due to COVID-19.

In addition to staff and equipment from the Mayo Clinic, the event also featured displays from other community organizations including the Martin County Historical Society, Heaven’s Table Food Shelf, the Fairmont Community Hospital Foundation, the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, the Martin County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and Apple Tree Dental.

“When we think about the progress that we have made it really truly is inspiring. We’ve gone from having one physician in Martin County in 1871 to an entire medical center full of qualified professional caregivers,” said Fairmont administrator Amy Long in remarks to attendees.

Long was joined by medical director Kendra Kamlitz, M. D. She said the health system in Fairmont was working on improving patient care by implementing new technologies and methodologies.

“We want to become the most trusted partner for our patients when they’re seeking care both locally and if they need care beyond what we can provide at a local level,” said Kamlitz.

Kamlitz cited the health system’s expansion of telehealth services and its new mobile health clinic as two ways the system was improving access to health care.

“We’re certain things are going to change but some things are going to remain exactly the same. For us at Mayo Clinic that means our primary value is that the needs of the patient come first,” said Kamlitz.

According to Lenny Tvedten, executive director of the Martin County Historical Society, Dr. David Winslow Hunt was the first full-time permanent practitioner in Fairmont. Born in 1845, Hunt was a Civil War veteran who survived a lengthy stay in a Confederate prison before completing his medical degree the same year he moved to Fairmont. He performed the first surgeries in Martin County inside his patients’ homes while riding circuit. By 1882 he was unable to tolerate the Minnesota climate and migrated to California where he lost money in a series of unsuccessful business ventures before dying there in 1922.

In addition to their work as physicians, Fairmont’s early doctors worked in a variety of other fields; they laid out the town site of Fairmont, designed buildings, ran businesses and one served as the city’s mayor and state representative.

Fairmont’s first hospital was established in 1914 and had beds for up to 10 patients at a time. During its first two years doctors performed approximately 300 operations and did not have a maternity ward. It was originally staffed by just two doctors.

Fairmont’s second major hospital was opened in 1928 as a private venture which was later reorganized in 1956 due to rising debt. Amid rapid medical advances hospital administrators realized they needed more space in order to modernize their services and the facility was demolished in 1970 and replaced with Fairmont’s current facility.

The facility, which later became the Mayo Clinic Health System, first opened in 1971 as the Fairmont Medical Clinic. Expansions and renovations at the facility were completed in 1992 and the clinic merged with Mayo Clinic’s then-new network of regional healthcare facilities in 1994. The merger allowed the Fairmont facility to access Mayo’s larger body of specialists and resources. Since the merger the facility has constructed a new ambulance facility, opened a new cancer center and expanded its cardiac rehabilitation facility.


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