Dr. Waldner's Career Path Leads Home to Redfield
Monday, November 30, 2020
Career choice is a matter of determination. We don’t often know at a young age what we want to be when we grow up. Our career choices are like that feather floating in the air at the start of the movie Forest Gump. It will land someplace, but we’re not quite sure where it will land. This was not the case for young Randall Waldner as he was growing up in Redfield, South Dakota. He knew where he wanted his feet to land, and at an early age he began putting himself in a position to make that dream happen. He wanted to be a doctor.
In the eighth grade, we had to do a career shadowing project, says Waldner. He chose Dr. Matt Owen. “Everyone as a kid wants to be a doctor or a lawyer or astronaut, and so I started shadowing him, did it again in high school.” Waldner admits that Dr. Owen didn’t take him too seriously to begin with. His persistence brought him back as an undergraduate student at South Dakota State University. “The older I got, the more successful I got, had shown academic success and the ability to continue to go on and pursue these dreams, he got more and more serious.” Waldner came back while he was studying at the Sanford School of Medicine in Vermillion, and he returned again, this time working for a month while he was in residency at Texas A & M.
Influenced by Dr. Owen, and inspired by what he learned and experienced working with him, Waldner decided that his medical training would lead him back to a small-town setting, and if all went well, it would be his hometown of Redfield. As his schooling and training progressed, Waldner says they reached a tentative agreement about five years ago “and then we finally made it official about a year and a half ago.”
“I will tell you,” admits Dr. Waldner, “I got a little skewed when I moved to Texas.” Living in the largely populated environs of College Station, where Texas A & M is located, had a lot of advantages that you don’t get in a small town, simple things like stores open after 10pm Dr. Waldner and his wife Stephanie (Steph) got used to the 24-hour convenience of large stores, every kind of restaurant imaginable, so when they moved back to Redfield this past July they knew it was going to be a drastic change, but one they wanted to make. “My wife and I both have grown up in the area, so being around friends and family made a big impact on that. They also wanted to get back to simpler living and being able to accomplish their goals without all the extra noise, plus, laughs Dr. Waldner, “I don't like to have any traffic.”
In 2020, the dream came true when the hometown Waldner walked into Redfield Community Memorial Hospital as an employee, as Dr. Waldner. Redfield CMH is a 25-bed critical access hospital, the only medical provider in Spink County. Dr. Waldner joins the practice with three other full-time physicians, and some mid-level providers. “We staff our emergency room, we do hospital care, we do a lot of clinic medicine, and a lot of otherwise community outreach things where a lot of nursing home care, home visits,” says the doctor.
Being a doctor in a small town brings its share of challenges. After years of training in large hospital settings, Dr. Waldner says his biggest challenge early on was getting used to kind of being on an island. “In my training, I had a nephrologist, an orthopedic surgeon, a cardiologist, all those things right down the hall. Here, I am all those things.” The challenge brings with it the rewards of living and practicing in a rural community, which brings the intangibles they don’t emphasize in medical school. “When you walk into a hospital or clinic setting, and you know just about everybody there, it makes the patient feel more comfortable, which is something you don't get in those big cities a lot of times.”
Dr. Waldner thinks that they do a better job of spending time with our patients, listening to them, advocating for them, being able to get a hold of all the other specialists or other health systems referrals as needed. He’s proud of the work done by nursing staff, and the front office staff in the short time he’s been at CMH.
“Personally, I think I'm most proud of having the option to continue to build a career. I'm just a small-town kid,” says Dr. Waldner. “I didn't have every opportunity in the world that a lot of urban centers have and a lot of urban kids get, where they have better science clubs or these extracurricular activities or options for them. I set a goal, and I've accomplished that goal so far.”
Dr. Waldner has more goals, and he hopes Redfield is the place where they will come to fruition, for his career and his family. Dr. Waldner’s wife, Stephanie Binger, a graduate from Tulare High School, grew up on her family farm outside of Tulare, where her father continues to farm and ranch. “I met my wife my freshman year of college at SDSU. We've been together ever since, and we just got married here in August of 2020.”
Dr. Waldner is thankful for the support from the Redfield community and Spink County for allowing him to come home to care for them, their friends, their family. He’s appreciative of the opportunities he’s had so far. “I’m looking forward to being a member of the community and continue making an impact around here.”