The Prairie Doc Perspective

An example of grace

By Richard P. Holm MD

While I was in college, and at a pre-med club meeting, plans were made to invite a speaker to tell us what’s required for getting into medical school. Guess who volunteered to find the expert?

After calling the medical school, I was connected to Dr. Karl Wegner because he was one willing to do such a thing. I must say, I have never before or since met a more gracious man, and that evening he presented to our little premed group the details of applying to medical school with a helpful and thoughtful way. It was there I heard for the first time one of the great lecturers of my lifetime experience.

A few years later after acceptance into medical school, I was one of a group of innocent, empty-headed, sophomore students trying to absorb everything about pathology from Dr. Wegner and his wondrous crew of physician teachers. Up to that class, we had learned about normal healthy anatomy and physiology, but it was in pathology we learned about the cause for each and every illness; basically what can go wrong in the human body.

At the time, Karl Wegner was the chair of the department of Pathology, and later became the dean of the school, serving during the tough transition time when our med school moved from a first-two-year program to a full four-year M.D. degree-granting school. There was some heavy lifting during that time, and the people of the State of South Dakota owe a great deal to Dr. Wegner, and other grand leaders who had the foresight to get that done. But he did it with his usual graciousness. Grace is a word that reflects not only elegance in movement, but also in kindness, politeness, and goodwill shown for others.

Each of you certainly can name a few teachers that made a difference in your life. Perhaps it was one or both parents who gave you a sense of worth and of the value of honesty; or a third grade teacher who showed you how “you can do it” and how to help others; or a high school teacher who taught you toughness and not to give up; or a college professor who helped you achieve a creative and academic challenge.

Dr. Karl Wegner was, and still is, a teacher who has made a big difference in my life, and many lives, teaching not only what can go wrong with the human body, but also how to face difficulty with grace.

Dr. Rick Holm wrote this Prairie Doc Perspective for “On Call®,” a weekly program where medical professionals discuss health concerns for the general public.  “On Call®” is produced by the Healing Words Foundation in association with the South Dakota State University Journalism Department. “On Call®” airs Thursdays on South Dakota Public Broadcasting-Television at 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain. Visit us at 

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