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Marilyn Hagerty: Dr. Brosseau looks ahead to retirement

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He's been a physician for almost 50 years. Forty of those years have been in Grand Forks. And patients of Dr. James Brosseau have received his letter saying retirement time is near. His last day at Altru will be at the end of September.

"Leaving my life's work is about the hardest thing I've ever had to do," he wrote. He is sad about leaving his patients behind. But he said the time has come for him to move on.

At this point, his mission is finishing up appointments. As he looks ahead, he thinks of part-time teaching. Maybe writing. Maybe a focus on diabetes, where he started with the late Dr. E.A. Haunz of Grand Forks.

Bittersweet

These days are bittersweet as he closes out a practice. But Dr. Brosseau says he will be staying in Grand Forks. He actually doesn't mind the cold days.

He was born Jan. 4, 1944, in Drayton during World War II. At that time, his father, the late Dean Brosseau, was overseas with the Infantry and won a Silver Star medal during the Battle of the Bulge.

His mother, the late Gladys Brosseau, always said she wanted one of her two sons to be a doctor and the other to be a lawyer. Jim helped fulfill her wish when he got his M.D. degree. Jon, who lives in Drayton, completed the wish when he became a lawyer. He also is a well known pianist.

Jim Brosseau attended the former two-year medical school at UND and went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota in 1968. From there, he went through a one-year internment at a county hospital in New Mexico. Then he was drafted to fulfill a four-year assignment serving at medical centers for Native Americans in North Dakota and South Dakota.

He finished a three-year internal medicine residency at Marshfield, Wis. He came back to Grand Forks in 1978.

One granddaughter

Dr. Brosseau and his wife, Jolene, have three children and one granddaughter. Their daughter, Carrie, and her husband, Josh Sapa, live in Grand Forks. A son, Ben, lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. Another son, Tom, a well-known folk singer, headquarters now in Salt Lake City with his wife, Elizabeth. Their daughter, Johanna, will be a year old in October.

As summer wanes and autumn approaches, Dr. Brosseau thinks of the years that have been and the changes ahead. He loves to read and write. He has been involved in state and city health issues. He is very interested in Medora, N.D., and enjoys visits there. He likes to teach.

He looks back on four decades with patients.

"I think all patients want to be understood and to be treated as individuals — not as a disease," he said.

Dr. Brosseau has devoted part of his practice to making rounds at nursing homes, and has served as medical director for Valley Eldercare. Although he is low-key about success, recognition and awards have come his way. Perhaps the highest honor was being one of only two in North Dakota named a Master in the American College of Physicians. The other recipient was the late Dr. Mack Traynor of Fargo.

Change is constant

Changes in medical appointments and practice have been gradual during the past four decades. With all of its advantages, the computer today seems at times like a distraction in examination rooms to Dr. Brosseau. Still he believes people are looking for the same care from their doctors.

"There are no bad patients," he says. "Everyone is doing their best. And everyone is waging a different battle."

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