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Rural Connections

Submitted by Renee Frahm

In May of 2021, a 2017 William Kelley High School graduate was honored to re­ceive the Kenneth Bray Scholarship from the University of Minnesota Medical School for the Duluth Campus. This prestigious award provides full tuition for four years of medical school (or two years if you move from the Duluth campus), and awarded to a student that shows great interest in rural family med­icine. Student’s do not apply for this schol­arship.

Recipient, Gunnar Frahm, graduated Sum­ma Cum Laude from UMD on May 8, 2021 with degrees in Biochemistry, Chemistry and Native American Studies. He was accepted into UMD’s medical program in March of 2021 before graduating from college. Gun­nar achieved a 3.97 GPA throughout college. He served as Vice Chair for the University of Minnesota Student Senate, and he was a member of the Biochemistry and Chemis­try clubs. During his senior year, he helped teach a Chemistry lab to freshman.

The scholarship he received was from the family of Dr. Kenneth Bray. Dr. Bray gradu­ated from Biwabik High School in 1927 and completed his pre-med at Carleton College in Northfield. He transferred to the University of Minnesota Medical School where he grad­uated in 1934. Dr. Bray had a tremendous medical career. He served as an Assistant Medical Director of Nopeming Tuberculo­sis Sanatorium. He was also active duty with the Army and served in World War II. He served as a physician for the Civilian Con­servation Corps until 1936, was the chief of the department of anesthesiology at the Vet­erans Administration Hospital in Columbia, SC, and worked at the Louisiana State Uni­versity Medical School. He opened a clinic in Park Rapids, MN and he retired as an as­sistant professor of surgery in 1975 and from active medical practice in 1976. Dr. Bray and his wife Florence (a registered nurse) recog­nized the need for family physicians in rural communities and wanted a scholarship to be their family legacy of serving others through medicine. His legacy lives on in the gifts his family passes along to students pursuing a medical degree, like Gunnar. Dr. Bray died in 1997.

During the first year of medical school, Gunnar was assigned to shadow Dr. Hanhan at Lakeview Medical Clinic in Two Harbors for one day a month. He was also assigned to a rural clinical rotation with Dr. Joe Bi­anco at the Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital in Ely, MN. For the past two years, he spent several weeks shadowing Dr. Bian­co. Gunnar first met Dr. Bianco at a 9th grade high school track meet where Wil­liam Kelley Track Coach, Rick Frericks, introduced them. Coach Frericks shared with Dr. Bianco that Gunnar was inter­ested in medicine. It was then that Dr. Bianco told Gunnar “If you decide that is what you want to do, let me know and you can shadow me. You even have a place to stay.” Dr. Bianco grew up in Silver Bay and graduated from William Kelley High School. In 1986 he grad­uated from the University of Minneso­ta Medical School. In Ely, Gunnar was also able to spend time with the other physicians, Dr. James Montana, Dr. Bri­elle Loe, and Dr. Joseph Schwingham­er, as well as Dr. Nicholas Cooley. He was very impressed with each physician he shadowed in their professionalism, their knowledge, and their work and care with patients. They will be hard acts to follow. The Ely-Bloomenson hospital in Ely and Lakeview Medical Clinic in Two Harbors both have a top-notch staff of nurses and physicians on duty. It is what every small community is lucky to have to help you stay close to home and get the care you need.

In the third year of medical school, students are assigned a hospital to perform their full-time clinical studies. Gunnar was selected to complete his clinicals at the Hennepin Coun­ty Medical Center in downtown Minneapolis, where he started August 28, 2023. Students often work up to 80 hours per week during their clinical learning experience. To do this, they must first pass the United States Medi­cal Licensing Exam. His first unit at HCMC was on a trauma team assigned to the surgery floor. It’s not an easy task, and he saw every­thing from gunshot & stab wounds, motor­cycle & vehicle accidents, and everything in between. He had dedicated and professional medical staff to show him the way.

During his first two years of medical school, Gunnar completed a research project with a Cardiac Anesthesiologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. In April 2023, he presented his research in Milwaukee at the Midwest Anesthesia Res­idents Conference (MARC) on transfusion guidelines in cardiac surgery and blood prod­uct usage, and he presented it again in May of 2023 in Portland, Oregon.

If it were not for (retired) Dr. Howard Jo­sephs and (retired) Dr. Debbie Allert of Lakeview Memorial Clinic in Two Harbors, as well as (retired) St. Luke’s Pediatricians, Drs. Ray and Maria Kundel, Gunnar may not have decided to pursue medicine. He had a connection with each of these doctors and realized that their compassion, intelligence, and drive helped them serve their patients and their communities with the highest integrity and patient care. They left a positive impres­sion on a boy and young man who broke his arms 3 different times, among other mishaps and ailments growing up. Dr. Josephs would speak to him about his own unconventional career path during check-ups, which was not the traditional “straight into medicine” route. During high school, Dr. Allert called him out of the blue one day and invited him in for a very thorough tour of the Two Harbors hos­pital. She took the time to answer his ques­tions. When he was very young, Drs. Ray & Maria Kundel recognized him in a store in Duluth and went out of their way to greet their patient that they only saw once or twice a year during well-child check-ups. (I’m sure they had a LOT of patients, yet they recog­nized him out of their office setting.) These were all lasting impressions that made a dif­ference to one child/student, which helped him decide his own future of wanting to help others.

For students pursuing a medical career, the University of Minnesota, Duluth, is an ex­ceptional place to learn. You can complete all four years in Duluth for rural medicine or choose to move to the twin cities campus for your remaining two years before being as­signed to a residency.

Gunnar is the son of Renee Frahm and the late Jeff Frahm of Silver Bay, the grandson of the late EJ & Marlene Frahm of Silver Bay and the late Floyd & Barbara Johnson of Schroeder.

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