By Scott Tedrick
News Editor, Advocate Tribune
There is a tangible and mindful, brief but focused, build-up that seems to precede every thought that Dr. Darrell Carter takes the time to put into words, and it seems as if at some level he is ensuring that nothing leaves himself unless his heart, mind and spirit are in accord.
“It’s always been kind of a goal to try and not waste what God gave me to work with, and not for my benefit,” the doctor says in response to the question of what drives him? “For me to be well known or successful monetarily, that’s insignificant. It’s about where can you make somebody else’s life easier, better. It’s hard some times when you’re tired and overstressed, and it’s hard to stay on track, but that’s what I try and come back to.”
Growing up within the Red River Valley on a farm north of Ada, North Dakota, Dr. Darrell originally did not perceive the practice of medicine as a viable reality. “You viewed physicians as a people who had to come from families where medicine was a part of their family growing up, not the kind of background we had, which was strictly rural,” he said.
He credits his brother, Dr. Ken, with shattering these pre-conceptions and, in reality, the work ethic and values that would be instilled in both of them by their parents within their rural upbringings proved to be ideal to prepare them for the rigorous dedication that their education and subsequent practices would require.
Originally, Dr. Ken was set to go into veterinary medicine before a change of heart altered his path. He would go on to receive undergraduate and medical school degrees from the University of Minnesota in 1964 and 1968, respectively. Three years behind, Dr.
Darrell would follow in those same footsteps.
After a stint in Clinton, Dr. Darrell would eventually join his brother in Granite Falls, where they now exist as cornerstones in what has come to be known as the most famous rural hospital in Minnesota.
Dr. Darrell said the benefit of his brother’s mentorship cannot be understated in the context of his growth in development, and that the same could be said for Dr. Carl Lundell and Dr. Paul Schmidt, too.
“I’ve really felt fortunate to be in this setting, where I’ve been allowed to learn from Ken and the other doctors … I always thought that they had an extremely well informed medical practice that was far better in my observation than what was practiced in other communities.”
The brothers would develop their own style and skill set that worked not in competition, but as complements. “Some prefer him, some prefer to see me and that is just fine, neither of us could take care of everything,” he said.
Given the level of time commitment they have dedicated to their roles within the community, such collaboration was essential. “I’ve felt very accepted by the community and the patients that I see and it’s been a good feeling and good relationship that I’ve enjoyed. It’s demanded an awful lot of hours, an awful lot of time, sometimes away from family. To say early on medicine was my life, very much that was true.”
Dr. Darrell credits his wife, Hazel, a now retired RN of the Granite Falls Hospital, for making the dedication he has supplied to his patients possible and is effusive with appreciation. Now 66, he admits that he makes an effort to spend additional time with his wife and their two daughters, Sheila and Dawn, and their grandchildren while doing the things he loves, like gardening and travelling.
If there is one issue that lingers, it is the future of the community medical practice, which is in dire need of a few doctors to join Dr. Art Rillo in filling the void that will be left by the Carters’departures.
“It’s a missing piece, having somebody else step into a great practice that can take care of the people that I’ve grown to be very concerned about and love very much … They are people I’ve known for decades. They are not just the next person on the schedule, they are friends. I may have cared for three or four generations of their family, so that’s a concern––how they’re going to be taken care of when I’m not capable of doing it. And that time will come.”
Looking back he is able to hold an inner pride in regards to the life he has lived, and it permits him to carry around a lightness that is palpable.
“We take our God given talents and use them the best we can,” Dr.
Darrell said. “To the degree we do is life’s greatest success.”