“Nominees in this category will be individuals who have consistently demonstrated outstanding leadership in the community and/or leadership in advance of community projects throughout the years.”
Arnold Potek, M.D.
Forestry’s loss; our gain
This year we would like to present the Cornerstone Award to a very deserving man, Dr. Arnold Potek. There is probably not a person in this room that has not benefited from Dr. Potek’s medical care. He is truly a family physician at heart and one of a dying breed of general practitioners who live and work for rural communities such as Osceola.
Dr. Potek was born in International Falls, MN and his family moved to Minneapolis when he was in first grade. His father was a physician and with only a short time thinking about being a forest ranger, Arnie knew he was going to be a physician. He attended the University of Minnesota and graduated from the medical school there in 1970. He then did an internship year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was drafted in the US Navy and was sent to San Diego. After his enlistment ended, he moved his family to Lamberton, MN to practice at a University of Minnesota Rural Clinic. Lamberton was not a good fit for him so after seeing a Minnesota Monthly ad that Osceola, WI was hiring a physician, he and his wife Nancy came for an interview with Dr. L.O. Simenstad. Dr. Potek said it was a sunny October day and they drove down the hill on 243 and saw the river valley. He knew he was home.
He joined Dr. L.O. and Dr. John Simenstad in 1975 at the clinic and hospital. He was young and inexperienced. He clearly remembers his first night taking emergency call by himself. It was an extremely busy night and he learned a lot that night. His education would continue over the years with two high quality physicians acting as his mentors.
Dr. Potek and Dr. John worked many years as the only physicians here. They worked long hours in surgery, the clinic, the hospital and ER. They saw just about everything and they tried their best to treat as many people as they could here in Osceola. In 1984, Dr. Potek and his family moved to Israel, returning to his Osceola practice in 1985. The St. Croix Regional Medical Center and Osceola clinic merged in 1985. The merger did not last. However, the Osceola clinic began to grow and was able to attract more physicians. In 2009, the new Osceola Medical Center was opened south of town. Dr. Potek left OMC in November 2014. He currently works for HealthEast in White Bear Lake.
The Poteks have three children and four grandchildren. Dr. Potek’s hobbies over the years have included playing recorder, beekeeping, maple syruping, avid reading and bicycling.
Dr. Potek’s volunteer work included acting as Polk County Coroner for several years and helped found the Mental Health Task Force of Polk County which has grown tremendously over the years and serves many people with mental illness. Dr. Potek takes great pride in serving as medical advisor for 10 years for “Caring Group.” This group was a mix of professionals from around the county and met monthly to review family case histories and brainstorm and develop a plan to help them. He saw first-hand how the group made a difference in children’s lives.
Dr. Potek reminiscences about “the good old days” and how his general medical practice was the way medicine should be: taking care of people and the community. He estimates he delivered about 500 babies. Dr. Potek still lives by some long ago advice from his friend and colleague, Dr. John: “Be nice to people and answer the phone.”
When asked what he sees as the biggest change in medicine since he has been practicing, he responds, “The way people are cared for. Health insurance and policies have greatly changed how medicine is practiced in our country.”
Dr. Potek said his reward for his years of general practice has been that he has had the privilege of taking care of people.
We’d say OUR reward is that we had a fine physician such as Dr. Potek taking care of us. Thank you, Dr. Arnie.