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Pat Traynor – North Dakota

President, Dakota Medical Foundation

Road to Greatness

As seen in Fargo Monthly

“I was charged with creating a strategy in regards to making a major impact on health and healthcare,” Traynor said. “I like to say that I’m a recovering lawyer – that is, I’m a lawyer who does not practice law. The part I loved about law was the client interaction, but I wanted to have a more wide-spread impact than just one or two or three clients.”

Traynor, who grew up in Fargo, said that he wanted to inspire people to live healthier lifestyles.

“The only way to have a healthy community is to have a bunch of folks who are revved up and excited about creating change,” he said.

“Essentially, we’re creating a culture.”

According to Traynor, Dakota Medical Foundation has invested over $72 million in grants to organizations in the region to fund a wide range of projects.

“We fund all sorts of projects,” he said, “from helping people who don’t have access to healthcare to funding low income healthcare clinics. We focus a large part of our efforts on preventing illness from occurring, especially chronic illness.”

Yet, Traynor said that it all boils down to having a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Great nutrition and physical activity, he said, are two behaviors that are important when aiming to live a healthy overall lifestyle.

“If you can change such behavior and culture in a way that dramatically impacts health,” he said, “you can change the lives of hundreds and thousands of people.”

Traynor grew up in a medically-centered family and remembers his father, a physician, going on house calls. However, he said that he believes the health and fitness community is less personal now than it once was.

“We have such big, systematic approaches today, with rules and regulations and red tape,” he said. “I think that those are some of the negatives that come with systems getting so large that they lose some of the personal touches we had when we were kids.”

In today’s society, Traynor said, obesity is still a very real problem. One of Dakota Medical Foundation’s more specific goals is to reduce obesity by 20 percent by the year 2020. Meanwhile, encouraging people to choose an active lifestyle can be difficult.

“Sedentary lifestyle is, apparently, now the new smoking,” he said.

Traynor said that, despite such changes, he likes to focus on all of the positive effects modern healthcare has had.

“The cures and technology that exist today are astounding and incredible,” he said. “We’re creating a much healthier culture here — it’s slow, but I really feel like it’s moving. You can see some of the momentum and, to me, that’s exciting.”

One of the main advantages that Fargo-Moorhead natives have, he said, is that they live in a community that gets along well and works together.

“There are groups of people here that are willing to help their neighbors and work across different lines, whether they’re socio-economic or business or government,” he said. “We’re not working by ourselves because that would be ineffective. Our goal is to be nothing short of the healthiest community in America.”

Traynor believes that this goal is not as unreachable as it may seem.

“I’m quite optimistic, because I do feel that we’re starting to see the shift in behaviors towards more active lifestyles and healthier diet choices,” he said. “But it’s like moving an ocean liner; you can’t just move an ocean liner on a dime. It takes time.”

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