At the grand opening of West Fargo's new Sanford Clinic on Monday, Sept. 9, Dr. Jon Dangerfield greeted dozens of current and former patients and staff, many with a big hug.
“When people come here, they are made to feel like family,” the longtime West Fargo doctor said. “The nurses know their personal lives, their kids and family. When you have those smaller neighborhood clinics, those kind of smaller personal touches are a lot more obvious. This has always been a very busy clinic because people really enjoy coming to that environment."
The new clinic began seeing patients on Aug. 26. The former building was demolished on Thursday. With more square footage, the new two-story added two more family medicine and OB/GYN exam rooms, nine new pediatric exam rooms, two procedure rooms, a much larger ultrasound, lab and imaging areas and a new community education room. It also features a self-rooming system for patient privacy and to increase efficiency, according to Christen Rennich, Sanford Health media relations.
Dangerfield, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology and is now the Sanford OB/GYN department chair, has served nearly his whole career in West Fargo. He began his doctoral career in Michigan in 1995 before coming to the Southpointe Clinic in Fargo in 1996. In 1998, he transferred to the West Fargo clinic, where he plans to remain for at least 10 more years.
Longevity of doctors and staff is unusual for most clinics, but not in West Fargo.
Mary Jo Moorhead, who oversees the West Fargo Public Library's historical center, said the first clinic to be built in the city was opened by Dr. George Schatz in the former Martin Building on Main Avenue in the 1936. Schatz was well known throughout the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo community as he became one of the original trustees of The Village Family Service Center in southwest Fargo.
On Feb. 10, 1941, he was ordered into service in World War II, where he served in the South Pacific. After the war, he remained in the U.S. Army working for Veterans Affairs.
In 1948, Dr. Roy Kulland moved into Dr. Schatz’s former office and renamed it the West Fargo Medical Center, ”for the simple reason that I don’t like the term 'clinic.' "
In 1950, Kulland built the medical center on the south end of First Street, with offices on the first floor and the family’s residence on the second floor. In the late 1950s a second medical center at 401 Sheyenne St. was added.
Dr. Robert Geston, who would also become a well-known longtime OB doctor, joined the practice in 1961 and served at the facility that would become Sanford West Fargo Clinic on the corner of Sheyenne Street and 13th Avenue South.
That facility built in 1969 became a part of Meritcare Health Systems in 1995. In mid-2017, Sanford announced plans to build a $10 million, one-story expansion of the building, but by the time construction began in spring 2018, plans shifted to the two-story, 26,317- square-foot facility.
“The West Fargo clinic has a long history of caring for people in this area,” said Susan Jarvis, vice president of operations for Sanford Fargo, in a statement. “The new, beautiful facility offers the same services and providers people have known and trusted for years. We’re also very excited to add pediatric services in the new location, as well as walk-in care and same-day appointments.”
On Thursday, crews began demolishing the former building, which will allow for additional parking.
"I was a little torn just because you attach memories to old buildings and old things," Dangerfield said. "So it was a little bit of a challenge watching the last wall come down, but we're really excited about what Sanford is doing here, really expanding the services and keeping things as a neighborhood clinic. The success of West Fargo has always been the people, both the patients and the staff."
Along with Dangerfield, Dr. Erica Argall has served as the second obstetrics doctor at West Fargo for five years. Dr. Andrew Burgard, a family medicine doctor now at the West Fargo location, attended the clinic as a child patient.
Paulette Amundson, a former executive director at the clinic who is now a Sanford vice president, visited the clinic during the grand opening.
"It's beautiful," Amundson said. "I's been a long time coming for them, and they've been so patient."
Dangerfield said expansion plans had been discussed many times over the years to help better serve the patients that come not just from West Fargo but all over the region.
"This building is beautiful, but it's the people here that make it really special," Dangerfield said.