Area Woman Apr/May '24

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co nt en ts on theCover aprmay 42 2024 [ aw ] Life, Amplified! The Story of Dr. Mel Fierstine by Dawn Duncan
40 10 42 62 40 26 34 16 20 22 30 36 54 56 60 features Sincerity in Service - Emily Althoff River Haven Counseling by Erin Foley Life, Amplified! - The Story of Dr. Mel Fierstine by Dawn Duncan On the Rise - Britta Sather by Devin Joubert style Area Style + Shop Local recipes Thai Quinoa Salad by Stephanie Disse Chia Pudding by Stephanie Disse
Wellness with Katie - and The Healing Power of Myofascial Release Therapy by Devin Joubert Just Keep Moving - A Knee Replacement Helps Karen Bolton Keep Doing What She Loves by Caitlin Pallai Lotus in Bloom - Kim Hobbs of Downtown Yoga by Dawn Duncan Just Move - Dr. Amy Zundel DC Living Your Best Life by Erin Foley Nourishment From The Inside Out Sara Tee of Inspire Nutrition by Devin Joubert
Books She Loves by Megan Elgin Events Calendar MSUM: A.I. in Healthcare Means Better Patient Care and Outcomes by Martin Fredricks 26 62 36 10


are the voice of Area Woman Magazine. They bring to life the Fargo-Moorhead area and the incredible stories of the women we feature. These are the talented contributors showcased in this issue. Learn more about these and our other contributors at

MEGAN elgin

Megan grew up on the family farm in small town North Dakota and graduated from MSUM. She is an artist and graphic designer who loves all things creative. She is passionate about reading as many books as possible and loves discussing them with others. Megan lives in Horace with her husband and teenage son.

ERIN foley

Erin is a retired business owner with a degree in Graphic Design. She lives her free-spirited, ‘Be real, not perfect.’, life in Detroit Lakes with her cat, The Dude. More often than not, will answer in movie or tv quotes and is a lover and advocate for all animals. She is an Artist for Lakeshirts and loves to garden, write, paint, and cook and bake for others. You will often find her at the local yoga studio, behind the apron, elbow deep in dirt or on the lake.


Stephanie Disse is a Certified Yoga Teacher and the founder of Mountaingirl, a women's adventure-inspired apparel and accessories company. Her passion for fitness and nutrition fuels her coaching business, helping clients to develop and sustain healthy lifestyle habits. She is a native of Detroit Lakes, MN and a married mother of two, grandmother of three, and consummate adventurer! You’ll find Stephanie cooking up new recipes in her DL kitchen, traveling around the country, enjoying live music shows, experiencing the outdoors, and spending time as a student and teacher of yoga.

[ aw ]
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DAWN duncan

Dawn is driven by creativity and sharing her passion for writing, art, and healthy living with the masses. She is from Fertile, MN and now calls Detroit Lakes her home, after living in Colorado several years. Dawn is a UND graduate and lifelong entrepreneur who is also a published children's book author. You'll usually find her hiking in the woods, dancing, sweating in the yoga studio, cooking or baking, or hanging out with her German Shepherd, Reva. She is a licensed XaBeat dance fitness instructor, sharing her love of dance with the masses. Dawn is a writer, artist, creativity coach, and class facilitator, specializing in teaching art as therapy. Follow her @yellowbrightinc. com

DEVIN joubert

Devin Joubert (pronounced "yo-bear") is a freelance writer and also a fiction author of all things romantic comedy, humor, and true love. Stories have always been at the center of her heart, believing they change lives. She lives in North Dakota with her husband and mini zoo, where the prairies and forests collide. When she isn’t writing or wrangling her pets, she loves going on road tripping adventures with her husband. You can find out more about her at

7 [AW] April / May 24 ::
celebrating 40 years publisher / art director KIP JOHNSON advertising AMBER BROCKOPP | 701.715.2488 RENEE REDENIUS | 701.212.7227 JERRY SHEA | 218.205.7454 REBECCA HAARSTAD | 262.994.8744 TERRI JO PEERY | 320.491.5618 photography JUSTIN EILER PHOTOGRAPHY read it online managing editor DAWN DUNCAN design AARON BURGENER find us Area Woman is a proud member of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. It is published bimonthly by Area Woman Publishing, LLC and printed in the U.S.A. ©2023 Area Woman Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from AW. Area Woman is a trademark registered at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Area Woman Publishing assumes no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or photographs and does not necessarily agree with content or advertising presented. See more of our feature article on Dr. Mel Fierstine page 42
9 [AW] April / May 24 ::

Serving people. That is what Emily Althoff wholeheartedly strives to do each and every day as a practicing addiction counselor since 2016, licensed mental health counselor since 2017, getting her start working for the State of North Dakota, and then opening her practice, River Haven Counseling, in July 2021.

In the beginning of her career when working for the State of North Dakota, she thought she was a lifer. She was loving the work, the population she served, and the community-based service. During the pandemic, she was pregnant with her son and working in a family therapy unit, which she enjoyed, but was struggling to see a future there. “I’m a ladder climber, and although I had plenty of room to grow, I really found myself questioning what I wanted.”

10 ::
I just found myself feeling so empowered; I got to serve the people whom I’m most successful with, work when I wanted, and make my own practice decisions without having to seek permission from anyone. It was just a cool feeling.
• Emily Althoff •

Right after her son was born, a friend of hers opened their own practice and they met to talk. “The opportunity arose for me to sublet her office in the evenings and dip my toe in the water of private practice.” That’s all it took. “I just found myself feeling so empowered; I got to serve the people whom I’m most successful with, work when I wanted, and make my own practice decisions without having to seek permission from anyone. It was just a cool feeling.”

Emily got her undergraduate degree in Psychology from NDSU. Initially, she wanted to go to graduate school right away, but ended up taking a year off, which was exactly what she needed. She then attended graduate school at University of Mary in Bismarck. After finishing her Master’s in Counseling, Emily immediately went back to get her Master’s in Public Administration, a business degree focused on government and non-profit business.

Emily is a devoted mother and wife. She and her husband Chris have been married for 4.5 years, and together for four years before that. They have two children; Donnie (3) and Madelyn (2). They also have two dogs, Bruce and Minnie, and a cat, Leonard. “Both of us also have all members of our families of origin living in various parts of the Fargo-Moorhead community which is really great!” Emily commented.

Finding balance between work and home life is a never-ending challenge. Just when Emily thinks she’s got it figured out, something shifts, and she needs to figure it out again, as many of us do. “For me, I still do crisis work for the State on top of running River Haven Counseling and oddly enough, this is the most balanced my work schedule has ever felt despite working more. Because it feels like my workload never ends, I have to be really diligent about ‘turning off’ my work brain, if that makes sense. I work a lot of hours so I don’t need to be thinking about more work during my off time.”

For me, I still do crisis work for the State on top of running River Haven
Counseling and oddly enough, this is the most balanced my work schedule has ever felt despite working more.
• Emily Althoff •

Doing things with intention is very important to Emily. It not only ensures time is set aside for family, but allows her to give her full attention to them without outside distractions. Emily and Chris make a point every day of asking each other how their day went. “This is a really important ritual of ours. It’s this opportunity to vent or share about whatever happened that day, and then we both turn it off and focus our time on our children.” They have also recently started limiting distractions like TV and phones during evenings with their kids. “I found that technology was really overstimulating for me (and my German Shepherd), distracting for my kids, and it only served as background noise and no one really paid attention to it. We will pop on an occasional movie, but it’s with intention and not just playing in the background.”

Emily intentionally schedules activities with her kids. “I’ve carved out time in my schedule to be able to use how I want; catch up on business things, schedule appointments, or spend time with my children. Frequently, I’ll take my kids to open gym at Rustad Recreation Center, donuts at Sandy's, etc. I’ll schedule it days/weeks ahead of time and make sure to protect it and treat it like I would any other appointment. Lastly, I also try to involve my kids in the business. There is a private

nature about counseling and my kids certainly are not coming to sessions with me. But I will bring them on business errands, let them help put promotional materials together, or they’ll come with me to the office to help with various tasks like cleaning, printing, etc. My kids love it! My son actually calls my office 'Donnie’s office,' and often I find him bossing me around.” This is one of Emily’s favorite aspects of her business, getting to involve her children. Sometimes the work just has to get done, and it’s more fun when they get to participate. “It’s really a win-win because I get to spend time with them and they get to do something a little bit different.”

“I think many people envision balance as task that you complete, and it’s not; it’s really this journey that is fluid and is always changing. When I think I have mastered it, something will change and I need to rework the system.” Balance is this continuous assessment and adaptation to fulfilling our own needs while attuning to the needs of the ones we care about, and those needs are different each day. “I would really encourage working moms to be checking in with themselves: ‘How are you feeling?’; ‘How long is your to-do list?’; ‘Are you finding an opportunity to do the things you enjoy?’; ‘What capacity do you have to do all of these things?’” It all matters.

Here are some of the things Emily does and the things she does with her clients to find a more balanced schedule:

1. Take a hard look at your “To-Do” list - What needs to be on there? Are there items that get carried forward day after day? How important are these items? I utilize the Eisenhower Decision Matrix when I work to prioritize my “ToDo” list; it really helps me identify if tasks are urgent and/or important.

2. Always have something on your calendar that you’re looking forward to. This has been a really important one for me. It doesn’t matter if this thing I’m looking forward to is next week or six-months out, it’s imperative that I have something that I can get excited about. It doesn’t even have to be anything extravagant. One of my recent things was going to Monster Jam with my son. Last week I was just so excited to take my daughter out for Sandy’s Donuts because I missed spending time with her oneon-one and next week I'm looking forward to going to Minneapolis with my husband. Those are just a few examples. Sometimes, I’ll sched-

ule a day where I get everyone out of the house and I just get to do whatever I want; most of the time I just binge watch old episodes of Kardashians.

3. What do you have the capacity to give? I’m also a giver; I would give away every minute of my time if I could. So, I really work hard to step back and ask myself, “What do I have the capacity for today?” Just because I have the ability to do something, doesn’t mean I have the energy so I really try to be mindful of that.

4. I also try to find ways to be more efficient with the things I don’t want to do. For example, I don’t grocery shop anymore. I will almost always do a grocery pickup, Instacart, or Walmart delivery. This saves me a ton of time, and actually has saved me money because then I’m not buying every sweet treat that catches my eye.

I think many people envision balance as task that you complete, and it’s not; it’s really this journey that is fluid and is always changing.
• Emily Althoff •

Besides family members, Emily finds wonderful support systems amongst other working moms. “Find the ones close to you and make connections; get to know the kids in your children’s daycare, talk to the parents waiting at an activity, pay attention to the parents you see frequently. It’s not easy, but give it your best effort to strike up a conversation.” Emily suggests neighbors as another way to develop a support system. Find ways to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation with your neighbors and exchange numbers. “In my work in family therapy, neighbors have been a vital support for families with limited support.” They’ve usually been the ones to call if something felt off, if they noticed someone strange in the neighborhood, if they saw someone's kid do something dangerous. They’re also physically close to you and easy to access in a pinch or for a hangout. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a Facebook page, start one, and schedule a ladies night. Meeting other women who live nearby is so valuable.”

Coworkers are another great resource. You spend more time with your co-workers than your family so it is a great opportunity to get to know people and bring them into your circle. “They will understand the nuances of your job/field and trying to balance family life and a support you can share your dreams with.” Having co-workers in your corner can also help you in career growth. If they know about your aspirations and goals, they may send you job postings, put in a good word with the boss, share their connections, and make sure you do the same, all relationships need to be mutually beneficial.

Down or alone time to reboot Emily’s system is vital. “Despite what people may believe, I’m a total introvert. I love chatting and getting to know people and I find I can strike up a conversation with anybody, but it also takes a lot out of me.” Much like everyone else, Emily also gets nervous meeting new people, even new clients. “I will schedule times that I can be home by myself and think about nothing, because that’s what I need to charge my battery.”

Emily absolutely loves her work and finds each and every day rewarding. “There is nothing better than when someone walks into my office eager to share the success that we’ve talked about. Of course, I share in my client’s excitement, but

I don’t think people know how much those successes mean to therapists. Like everyone else, therapists also find themselves in dark times and feeling like they’re not doing anything right. Often, all it takes is that small success to fuel us for days, weeks, or even months. It’s even more meaningful to have people excited to share it with us. I love when someone walks into my office and says, ‘I couldn’t wait to tell you…’”.

Family work is Emily’s bread and butter and is at the heart of everything she does. Specializing in marriage, divorce, co-parenting, and substance use, these all may seem like heavy subjects, and they certainly can be, but are extremely difficult challenges for families to navigate. “Having lost my own mother from cirrhosis of the liver, a disease developed after years of alcohol abuse, helping families facing substance use is especially important to me. There are just so many misconceptions about these families and how they function. It bothers me to hear things like, “you just need to…,” or hearing people referring to the supporting partner as co-dependent. Often these families are boxed into making extremely difficult decisions in really unpredictable circumstances. This is also a really isolating issue, because everyone

In my work in family therapy, neighbors have been a vital support for families with limited support.
• Emily Althoff •
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seems to have an opinion but no one really seems to understand. One of my main goals in therapy with families who are facing this issue is to bring this conversation out of the shadows and bring them to a place where they can talk openly. I always tell my clients that they should talk about recovery like they talk about the weather; when it’s bad, when it’s good, when it’s easy, when it’s hard, when you’re successful.”

Hesitancy is completely normal when thinking about counseling. “I am a counselor, and have been for years, and I was still really nervous to start. It feels like you’re meeting a stranger for the first time and feeling like you have to share all of your deepest darkest secrets and opening yourself up to judgment. As a therapist, it is our job to make you feel comfortable, to have a space to share what’s happening without judgment, and we carry the responsibility of seeing you in a positive light. The first appointment may not be easy, it certainly is the hardest step, but if you’ve found a good fit then you’ll know. You should feel as though the conversation was intriguing, that

your therapist sees your strengths, and takes a genuine interest in your well-being. If you don’t feel that after the first couple of sessions, then you just likely haven’t found the right match. It’s like buying a car; you may have found the car that checks all the right boxes but that doesn’t mean you’ll like the way it drives.”

Emily is patient, kind, and makes you not only feel heard, but seen. Her heart overflows with only the best intentions for her patients, family, and community. Sincerity in service is Emily Althoff. [ aw ]

4143 26th Ave S | Suite 100 | Fargo, ND 58104 701.566.0204

15 [AW] April / May 24 ::

ver since she was young, Katie Bradshaw knew she wanted to be a physical therapist. It all started as an athlete in school. “I was in sports and I always thought being an athletic trainer would be the coolest job ever, because we’d have a trainer come to our school who would check on people’s injuries. It was through that experience I knew I wanted to do that. That was my path. I knew I wanted to become an athletic trainer and then continue and transition into physical therapy,” said Bradshaw. She told me a story about working part-time in athletic training when she was in school to become a PT. She’d always take the jobs no one wanted. “Like the cute little four-year-olds playing hockey who needed a trainer to sit at their games. I’d hand out Band-Aids.”

The Start of Wellness With Katie

Bradshaw started her own practice seven years ago and then she eventually went all in with her practice in 2020, she’d just had her youngest baby. “I went back to work for a few months and it was like, hey, this dream is happening. It's going great. People are coming to see me and then COVID happened, of course. I could’ve kept working, but just with all the circumstances, I ended up staying home,” said Bradshaw. “John F. Barnes myofascial release is very different from other forms of myofascial release.”


More people have been hearing about myofascial release and getting on their foam rollers to work out tension and pain. Bradshaw mentioned that a lot of people don't know that the fascial system isn’t only surrounding the muscle. “It infuses all the way down to the cells. Think of it like this fiber optic system. Think of your own tension. For instance, if you have tight shoulders and they always rise up to your ears, that’s your subconscious. It’s your trauma response. At some point, something happened that made you seize up in that way and you basically froze there a little bit because you weren't given the chance to fully feel it and express it. Instead, we might disassociate, watch TV, or go on our phone rather than address what happened. We all do those things, but when we can get into the fascial system, it helps us feel those areas. Then we can start deciding to let it go.”

Who Benefits From Myofascial Release?

Anyone can benefit from myofascial release. Bradshaw treats babies, newborns, kids from a few months old, all the way up. “I think my oldest patient who was coming to see me was in her late eighties. It’s never too late and it’s never too early,” said Bradshaw.

Some of the different things she can help with are anywhere from headaches, chronic pain, jaw pain, pelvic floor issues, and women’s health (before getting pregnant, during pregnancy, or postpartum). “I've been able to work on people within a few hours after an injury and it's still so remarkable to me how they get better so fast. I'm wondering how it happened so quickly. This is not what they taught us in school,” said Bradshaw.

Women’s Health Therapy Practices

In any practice aimed at helping individuals address their trauma and pain, establishing a profound sense of safety is of utmost importance. This sense of safety serves as the cornerstone where healing can truly begin, fostering an environment where vulnerability is met with empathy and trust. “I really allow space for that emotional response. So many people with chronic pain don't want to get emotional. They worry that others will think they are crazy or that it’s all in their head. Perhaps they think others will assume they just need to be on medication and in this sort of therapy, we believe your emotions are important. In one of our sessions, you might cry, you might feel different emotions come up but this is healthy,” said Bradshaw.

I really allow space for that emotional response.
- Katie Bradshaw
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Since sexual health isn’t chatted about often enough, one might not really know what to expect from therapy having to do with women’s health issues. Bradshaw’s practice is very cozy and intimate. There aren’t any bright lights and there aren’t any forceps at her clinic.

Vaginal steaming is something she offers to help with period pain, missing periods, infertility, and also infection. For steaming, the patient will sit on a small box that is filled with water and herbs. “The vulva tissues are exposed. I like to have them do a 10-minute steam so they get relaxed and there's improved blood flow to the area. They then they transition over to the table. They’ll undress from the waist down. Internal treatment is usually what people are looking for if they're coming for women’s health. I’ll put a glove on and then I’ll assess the tissues and muscles and any scar tissue or tearing that might be post-birth. But the whole time there's ongoing communication. We talk about feelings that come up. Sometimes we just do work around the hips or the stomach because a lot of people don't realize their hip pain that's not resolving is often their pelvic floor because those hip muscles are so deep that they're the back of the pelvic floor. It's a lot easier to go in vaginally. I can reach those muscles so much easier and people are shocked and amazed at how tender they are,” said Bradshaw.

It's worth considering that virtually every woman could find value in pelvic floor therapy, given how much tension is carried in that area. Bradshaw mentioned how the pelvis is the base of our bodies and how it grounds us. “There's a lot of mirroring between the pelvis and the jaw. With people who have jaw pain and headaches, I always ask what's going on with their pelvic floor.”

Teaching continuing education class on energy work, Bradshaw also wrote a continuing education course that’ll provide medical professionals with an interactive and foundational comprehension when it comes to energy healing and how to integrate it all into a clinical practice. This is a certified class where the participants will be able to study healing concepts: fascial system, human biofield, chakras, and also the mind-body connection.

When finished with this class, medical professionals will be able to share with patients the benefits of energy healing “And deliver sessions as part of a whole-person approach to care,” said Bradshaw. “I don’t have a spring date set for the class yet but hopefully soon. It’s pending approval by the North Dakota Board of Chiropractic Examiners. It’s open to all health-care professionals. Last fall I had a midwife nurse PT and massage therapists attend. They all loved it, were able to use the techniques right away, and left feeling relaxed themselves,” said Bradshaw.

I can reach those muscles so much easier and people are shocked and amazed at how tender they are.
- Katie Bradshaw
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Bradshaw has so much love and concern for people. Her focus is to help people get out of pain. “You know, I just feel really grateful that I'm able to do this for the area. And I'm really happy to be here.”

Wellness With Katie serves as a sanctuary—a space where pain is met with compassion, and vulnerability is embraced as a catalyst for transformation. With each session, Bradshaw’s commitment to empowering individuals to reclaim agency over their bodies and lives resonates as a testament to the enduring power of empathy and connection. [ aw ]

New office location in West Fargo: 3240 Oak Ridge Loop East West Fargo, ND 58078

Continuing Education Class: https://energy-work-for-the-medical-professional.

19 [AW] April / May 24 ::

When her daily walk of five miles was down to just over a mile in the spring of 2023, Karen Bolton knew she needed to address her right knee.

Chiropractic alignment offered temporary relief, but her discomfort was worsening. Eventually, she would feel a sharp pain when standing up. “It would be like a knife in there,” explains the 77-year-old Twin Valley, MN resident.

An avid traveler, Karen was excitedly anticipating a six-week trip in August to several countries including Ireland, Jordan, and Norway.

“I knew I would walk more than a mile a day and I didn’t want to deal with the pain,” she says.

She was referred to Dr. Roxanne Keene, an orthopedic surgeon at Essentia Health-Fargo, who quickly confirmed that Karen’s right knee was bone-on-bone due to damaged cartilage.

Surgery was scheduled for June 6, exactly two months before Karen’s trip. “This surgery had to go right,” she says. “I already had my ticket. I had a plane to catch.”

But Karen also had an unusual request – she wanted to watch the surgery. An EMT for almost 30 years, she has always been fascinated by medicine and its advancements and isn’t one to shy away from blood.

“Everybody gets a spinal anesthetic so they’re numb from the waist down and we typically give a sedative,” explains Dr. Keene. “But I can’t remember anybody who has wanted to be completely awake and listen to our entire procedure.”

Karen was given the anesthetic but remained awake. Once in the operating room, she was draped to maintain a sterile field around the surgical area.

“I asked the nurse anesthetist if he would cut holes in the sheet so I could watch,” she laughs. “But that wasn’t an option. Instead, he provided me a blow-by-blow for things I couldn’t hear, smell, or see out of the corner of my eye.”

Photographs supplied by Essentia Health

Dr. Keene performed knee arthroplasty, a surgical procedure to resurface a knee damaged by arthritis, using the ROSA knee system.

“The common thought is that we are cutting out the whole knee, but it’s really a matter of making precise cuts and replacing the arthritic areas we’ve removed with implants,” explains Dr. Keene. “The goal is a balanced knee. That’s the difference with robotics. It allows me to make little changes intraoperatively to the implant’s position to achieve better stability.”

Karen left the hospital the same day, which is now typical. She had physical therapy twice a week for eight weeks and followed up with Dr. Keene six weeks after surgery.

Dr. Keene believes physical activity and motivation play a role in recovery.

“You need to put some work in to get the best outcome,” she says. “We have a four-to-six-week window where we can really push physical therapy. Patients like Karen are motivated and want to return to their daily routines.”

On August 6, Karen boarded her plane. “We did walking tours in every city,” she says. “We did three to five miles daily, but one day we walked seven and a half. I’m just so thankful. It was awesome; I had virtually no pain. That surgery made a difference.”

Karen also credits Essentia’s staff and atmosphere for making a difference.

“Every single person was just so nice,” she says. “They made sure everything was going well for me and talked to me like I was a person versus the next one in line. They were busy, but I didn’t feel like anyone was rushing me.”

Karen encourages others to consider the surgery.

“The procedure hasn’t changed much over time, but implants have improved and last longer,” says. Dr. Keene. “We also have different methods of pain control afterwards and are aggressive with physical therapy. It’s about getting patients moving much faster.”

While many people live with arthritis and can manage the pain non-surgically, the decision hinges on quality of life.

“We certainly do older patients and they do great, too, but by replacing the knee earlier, this allows more people to get back to the things they enjoy,” explains Dr. Keene, adding that several of her patients are in their 40s.

Traveling since childhood, Karen quipped: “I have to; I’m not dead yet.” And on those days when she doesn’t want to move, Karen thinks of what her Aunt Gertie – who passed away two days short of 103 – always said. “Karen, you just got to keep moving.”


“Karen had a great attitude, was conditioned before, worked hard and was a pleasure to work with,” adds Dr. Keene. “Patients like Karen make my job more rewarding.”

Karen is planning an Alaskan road trip and a trip to South America and Antarctica. Her only continent left will be Australia.

“I have a few other places on my list and then maybe I’ll just stay home,” she says. “But everybody laughs when I say that because I love traveling.”

To learn more about Essentia's Orthopedic and Sports Medicine services, visit

Living from the true nature of your being can change the entire rhythm of your life. KIM HOBBS

“Living from the true nature of your being can change the entire rhythm of your life.” These words, spoken by Kim Hobbs, owner of Downtown Yoga in Fargo, are reflective of her personal philosophy, as well as that which guides her studio. Located on Broadway, the business has a prime and unique location in the historic Johnson Building, including conversation-worthy attributes in its design, such as the wooden floors recycled from NDSU’s old Bison stadium. But beyond its aesthetic, Kim’s passion for her own yoga practice as well as sharing it with others permeates her approach to life.


The Buford, Georgia native has called Fargo her home since March of 2022 when she and her husband, Greg, made the move from Atlanta. Several factors sparked interest in the FM area for the couple. Greg’s daughter, Kaylyn, had graduated from high school and was starting her own life and most of Greg’s family had already made the move to Fergus Falls where his step-mother was raised. The cost of living in Atlanta is high and overall, Kim and Greg found themselves at a standstill. Eventually, all of these factors prompted the move to the Midwest. When Greg secured a great job with Fargo Brewing Company, it was time to relocate to new territory.

In December of that same year, Kim purchased Downtown Yoga from its founder, who was at the time ready to give birth to her third baby and looking to lighten her workload as she grew her family. Kim had been teaching there for several months and was well acquainted with the space and operation. “When the owner asked if I wanted to take over, I was ready,” Kim noted. From there, it was time to get plugged into the community, which she and her family have, including Greg pursuing his career as a stand-up comic. Greg now hosts a regular open mic night for comics at Fargo Brewing Company every Monday night.

When the owner asked if I wanted to take over, I was ready.

“Despite being from the south, Fargo really feels like home to us,” Kim said. “It feels even more like home than Georgia.” Kim’s Georgia roots did lead her to pursue an education in her home state as well as her yoga training. She earned her degree in English and Environmental Studies at the University of North Georgia. After she graduated, she, Greg, and his daughter moved to a suburb of Atlanta. She went on to work towards a master’s degree in English at Georgia State University, but found herself burned out and wanting a change. Already an avid yogi, she decided to do yoga teacher training (YTT). After she completed 500 hours of yoga training, Kim quit her master’s program and began teaching yoga for seven different studios in the metro Atlanta area.

Kim became a Registered Yoga Teacher through Peachtree Yoga Center in Sandy Springs, GA and has immersed herself in learning the traditional sacred texts and practices of yoga, along with many modern applications. Today, she shares these with her students and the 10 yoga teachers currently on staff at Downtown Yoga.

Now, Kim also offers a 200 hour yoga teacher training course through her studio, which she said is immensely valuable whether a person chooses to actively teach once certified or not. “If you teach after you get your certification, great, but it is more about self study,” she stated. “We are always students, no matter what, and yoga is about rediscovering who you are, your whole self. Living from the true nature of your being can change the rhythm of your life.”

For Kim, self-employment came rather naturally, despite her original intention to teach English. Having been raised in a blue collar family where her parents worked as employees of companies, she was told by her father, “Don’t get into something where someone is always telling you what to do.” He shared these words with Kim, hoping that she would have a different career trajectory, which she eventually created.

“I teach from a more traditional yogic perspective that has been nothing but well-received. The studio is growing and the community is responsive to these ancient and deeply healing teachings. It’s a big reason I love Fargo.” For Kim and her team of dedicated teachers, the goal of Downtown Yoga is very simple. “We want to offer a space that is safe, where people are greeted with a smile, and we know their name. This helps to ease tension and creates a welcoming experience for them.”

And, along with this approach comes the knowledge of yoga’s power and efficacy. “Yoga lifts the veil of forgetfulness,” Kim explained. “We look within and we use imagery and symbols to remove the veil, creating memory of who we are through pranayama (ancient breathwork techniques) and asanas (postures). It is through these that we dissolve blockages in our mind and body that keep us from knowing the bounty of our being, just as we are.”

She also explained how yoga teaches you to love yourself and that starts with the body. “Our outermost layer, the body, is most familiar to us. Asana practice is so good for keeping the body healthy. It’s a vital part of our wellbeing.” Along with this, breathwork comes into the practice. “In pranayama,” she commented, “we soften into our body. The breath is a sacred song and when we’re in tune, we reconnect to our self, our soul.”

Another way that pranayama is beneficial is in helping pregnancy, delivery, and the post-partum period be smoother and easier. “The body learns to prepare for the trauma that is coming through breathing, the expectant mother is able to relax her body under pressure and pain. By learning to control breath, she learns to control her body. It is also extremely beneficial to the baby in utero, as it creates calm and security in the mother, which is highly beneficial to both mother and child.”

Kim has a deep understanding of how yoga benefits people of all ages and abilities, including children, and now offers a Kids’ Yoga Camp once a month on Saturdays from 12:00-1:00pm. This is for children ages 5-10 typically and she has witnessed positive results. “Kids are hungry for exploration and truth,” she remarked. “I believe that kids learning yoga can lead to a huge shift in our world. Through simple meditations, they learn the meaning of love and peace. They learn to focus the mind and feel into their own body. This builds confidence and a love for the body, which is especially helpful in the rather awkward pre-teen and teen years as the body changes drastically.”

As Kim moves through her second year as Downtown Yoga’s leader, she has big goals for the studio. “I want to keep expanding so that we have two rooms eventually, which will allow for more daily offerings and monthly workshops and training opportunities. I will eventually offer retreats, both domestic and international. Overall, I want to grow the meditation practice within our community. Yoga is many things, but at its core, it’s all about meditation. We are reconnecting with the divine that is in each one of us so that we can live from a place of deep inner peace and equanimity. To me, that is yoga, that is the purpose, and from which we can live our best lives.” [ aw ]

We soften into our body. The breath is a sacred song and when we’re in tune, we reconnect to our self, our soul.

thai Quinoa salad make it

Lighten up your meals while still packing in plenty of protein, fiber, and healthy carbs with this tasty Thai-inspired salad. It’s hearty enough for lunch or as a side dish for parties and family meals. The fresh vegetables provide a beautiful array of colors and flavors, while the peanut butter base offers a richness that pairs well with the nuttiness of quinoa. If you’re pressed for time, the 90-second microwavable packets of quinoa are a great substitute for stovetop grains.

area RECIPES SERVINGS 6-8 ................
[ aw ]


2 C cooked quinoa (follow package instructions or use microwavable bag prepared as directed)

2 C cabbage, shredded (substitute a bag of precut coleslaw if desired)

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/3 red onion, diced

1 C carrots, shredded

½ C cilantro, chopped

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ C cashews or peanuts, lightly chopped (garnish)

¼ C chopped green onions (garnish)

Lime wedges (garnish)


½ C all natural peanut butter

2 tsp ginger, freshly grated

3 T gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos

1 T honey

1 T rice vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp olive oil or additional sesame oil


Dressing: Add peanut butter and honey to a medium-sized bowl. Use a spatula to remove peanut butter from measuring cup. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and both sesame and olive oil. Stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.

Salad: Place quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Add as much or as little dressing as you prefer to the quinoa, scraping sides of bowl with spatula. Fold in the red pepper, onion, cabbage, carrots and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with cashews or peanuts, plus green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lime wedges, if desired.


Cutting board, chef’s knife, colander, measuring cups and spoons, medium-sized bowl, large bowl, large spoon, spatula, medium-sized saucepan with lid (if cooking quinoa)

27 [AW] April / May 24 ::

With nearly 700 kitchens completed in the Fargo/ Moorhead area alone, Kitchen Refresh, made and produced in Bismarck, ND, is a fantastic option for homeowners looking for a solution to update their cabinetry without having to gut their spaces.

The Kitchen Refresh Team couldn’t wait to share this adorably cozy farmhouse kitchen flip with you. Our client was eager to update her small kitchen and Kitchen Refresh was more than happy to help her vision come to life!

area HOME
28 ::

By taking the doors all the way up to the ceiling and eliminating the small doors above, the space was made more visually calm and dramatic. To make sure the space felt as open as possible with the scale of the uppers increasing, we kept the uppers light with our White Ash color. Our client loves green, so we added a splash with our beautiful special-order finish, Reed Green. The new soft-closed doors and drawer fronts were accented with our Open Range hardware line in Oil Rubbed Bronze. New quartz counters and a soft toned backsplash were coordinated by our designer and installed. Finally, the old wallpaper was removed, a fresh coat of paint applied, and new appliances were added for the finishing touch.

In the end, it's such a dramatic change for this family to enjoy for future years to come! Kick off this spring right and finally tackle your kitchen goals with Kitchen Refresh! [ aw ]

29 [AW] April / May 24 ::

For most chiropractors, the end game is always owning your own practice. Dr. Amy Zundel DC, the owner of MOVEChiropracticisverypassionate abouthelpingotherstoMOVE.“When we MOVE better, we feel better, live better, and can be a part of building a better community for us all.”

30 ::
Written by Erin Foley Photos provided by Dr. Amy Zundel



Dr. Amy Zundel DC

After studying three years of undergraduate study at NDSU, completing her MS of Sports Science and Rehabilitation, as well as her Doctor of Chiropractic in Chesterfield, MO at a school called Logan College of Chiropractic, Amy cannonballed into the deep end of the pool straight out of school by opening MOVE Chiropractic in February 2011.

Amy and her husband Keenan have two sons, Avery (10), and Brooks (6), plus four dogs. Livvy, Biggie Smalls, Oscar, and Sergeant round out the Zundel family.

Amy has always followed the rule that balance is a myth we sell. “I instead look at life as more of a juggle. You choose how many balls you juggle. Some of those balls are going to be glass and cannot be dropped or they break. The others are plastic. I focus my energy on always ensuring the glass balls never break and have my attention first. Then after that, it really is a juggling act! The more skilled a juggler you become, the more opportunity there becomes to add more balls to juggle.”

As a family, they also all agree on adding in more balls to juggle. Her boys are both in sports, so along with her husband, they work together to find balance, as the activities are time consuming. Then, with everything else going on in the family, everyone needs to be on board with these things, in knowing what they have to “drop” in order to make things work. “I recently decided to run for West Fargo City Commission and we had a long talk about what that looked like as a family, and I took a long hard look at what balls needed to drop to do so.”

Amy’s advice to her fellow working mothers is, “Decide where you want to be in the next year, five years, ten years, etc. What does your life look like? What will your legacy be? How do you want to be remembered by and what impression do you want to leave? Build your life and your decisions around that. If you are trying to juggle something that doesn’t pass the test of “is this contributing to the life I want to live”, let the ball drop. Also, remember that comparison is the thief of joy and that social media is a conglomeration of people's highlight reels. So, be sure that whatever you are attempting to balance is for the right reason.”

31 [AW] April / May 24 ::

In Amy’s line of work, it is pretty easy for people to reach out on a variety of platforms to schedule, making it hard for her to separate her home and work life. “I used to try and keep track of all of it, but it got increasingly more difficult and was taking away from family time. Anytime someone reaches out about work during times when I am not at the office, I direct them to send the office line a text and I will get back to them then.” Amy does her best to not check my emails after work. “I also am lucky to have the ability to build my schedule around my life, which allows me to be present where I am at in the moment.”

If it has been a long day, Amy makes it a priority to take a few extra moments of quiet on the way home, or sometimes singing to upbeat music, so she can make sure that before she crosses the threshold into her home. This way, she can be as present as possible. “Sometimes the reality is that you can’t. On those days, I am open with everyone that it was a tough day and that I could use some *insert need here* from them. I used to feel guilty for that, but then I realized it is good for my children to see that modeled to them as well. It’s good for them to see healthy coping mechanisms for tough days, and know how to be supportive to their loved ones when they have a challenging one. Lastly, it's good for them to know it's okay to not be okay after a long day.”

Amy is a high growth needs person. “As funny as it sounds, my favorite hobby includes learning!” She loves to spend time at the lake in the summer and go fishing with her family, along with a deep love of puzzles. “I am a volunteer deputy on the Cass County Sheriff Reserve unit and I absolutely love the opportunity to serve our community.”

Amy loves hot yoga, just one of the many ways she practices self care. “One of the biggest skills I learned in order to practice self care was to say “no”. I don’t need to say “yes” to everything, especially to things that don’t align with the life I am trying to build. Self care is so unique to the individual. But, most women I know would likely benefit from the airplane reminder to put their oxygen mask on first!”

Some of the best support systems Amy has ever had in her life were the people she met through volunteering for causes she is passionate about. “I also think it is important to remind people that you can’t get support if you don’t make it known you need it. Saying “I need help” can be so vulnerable, but I think people are always shocked when they do to see how many people want to show up and help. I also love podcasts, as listening to stories from other people going through similar struggles is very motivating and inspiring to me.”

Dr. Amy Zundel DC
32 ::

Compassion fatigue is very real in Amy’s line of work. “My patients deserve a chiropractor who can show up ready to fully listen to them and be present. My family deserves that, too.” Amy likes to take Thursdays to do office work, attend meetings, and get caught up. “After the first three days of the week, I find creating a day for that allowed me to be more efficient the other days and to show up better.”

Helping others makes Amy’s heart happy. “I love the look on someone's face when they come in with a lot of pain and are really struggling. I like that they hop off the adjusting table and they have that deep exhale as they realize they feel so much better. I love helping people get back to what they want to be doing!”

Amy also does acupuncture and sees a lot of patients struggling with infertility and others with menopausal symptoms, but pain is the main thing that brings people into her office. “Chiropractors are all a little different. Find a website or social media profile page of a chiropractor that you think you could vibe with and you feel comfortable around. Just because your coworker loved their specific chiropractor doesn’t mean they will be the best fit for you.” If you're on the fence, Amy suggests going in for a consultation for whatever it is that you are struggling with and see how you feel after that.

One of the questions Amy tries to avoid in social areas is “what do you do for a living?” “There are a lot of misconceptions about our professions. People tend to either love us, hate us, or fear us. I find that I usually end up trying to address misconceptions, discuss people's current health struggles, or talking about what my schedule is to make an appointment.”

Helping people feel better is Amy’s passion. If someone has a question, office hours or not, she is going to help them. “I am going to likely voice my opinion, share resources, and encourage them to touch base with their own provider with questions, etc. If I hear that someone is receiving a treatment I find concerning or unethical, I’m much more likely to bring it up.” Amy’s genuineness, authenticity, and lust for life is not only apparent upon meeting her, but completely infectious and immediately inspires one to MOVE in what makes their heart the happiest. [ aw ]

peoplehelpingget back to what
to be doing." Dr. Amy Zundel DC Dr. Amy Zundel, DC 4500 36th Ave. S., Suite 100 Fargo, ND 58104 701-799-4362 | 701-251-0344 33 [AW] April / May 24 ::
"I love
they want

make a healthy snack Pudding chia

Chia seeds are a staple of healthy eating as they are full of antioxidants, good fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. They may contribute to weight loss, lowered insulin and blood pressure, and blood sugar. The base of this pudding is chia seeds, mixed milk or milk alternative and natural sweeteners. The pudding is an excellent breakfast option or snack when you’re on the go!


Stir together the chia seeds, milk, maple syrup or honey, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl. Let it sit for 10 minutes so the seeds start to gel. Stir after 10 minutes. Add optional puree if desired. Divide the mixture in half between two, pint-sized Mason jars. Top with garnish of choice. Can be stored up to two days in the fridge with lid or foil over jar.

area RECIPE SERVINGS ................ 2 ................
[ aw ] 34 ::


2 cups milk (dairy or dairy-free)

8 T chia seeds

4 tsp maple syrup or honey

2 tsp vanilla extract

Optional: Fruit puree of berries, such as five strawberries, ½ cup blueberries, or fruit of choice. Fresh fruit for garnish (berries, nuts, seeds, coconut), rinsed in colander and cut as preferred.


Medium-sized bowl, large spoon, measuring cups and spoons, blender or emulsifier (optional), two, pint-sized Mason jars with lids, paring knife, colander

35 [AW] April / May 24 ::
Each of us is different and it's those differences that make us who we are. Nutrition from the inside out is my way of thinking.
- Sarah Tee

In a world where fad diets dominate headlines and wellness trends come and go like new fashion trends, one loving and committed nutritionist aims to guide people in the FM community toward lasting health— Sarah Tee from Inspire Nutrition. She established Inspire Nutrition in 2016. Besides helping clients, Tee comments, “I’m currently the President of the Fargo Moorhead Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics group and I’m also soon to be representing the State, so I'm president elect for the North Dakota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It's an honor.”

36 ::

When it comes to finding a healthy eating plan, everyone is unique since food reacts differently in every person’s body. What works for one person might not work for another. “Each of us is different and it's those differences that make us who we are. Nutrition from the inside out is my way of thinking,” said Tee. Everything she does isn’t just about the food and recipes, but it’s also about who you are on the inside. She wants to partner with each of her clients to help make their way of life better through behavior and lifestyle changes, which will affect emotions, the blood, plus personalities and overall disposition. “And that's only the beginning. It's when we look inside that we can successfully work on our outward appearance and who we truly are and desire to be,” said Tee.

At Inspire Nutrition she provides thorough examinations of each client. In an initial assessment, she looks at any medical provider’s notes/interventions, labs, medications, psychosocial history, diet, and a nutrition focused physical assessment. A warmth radiated from her as she spoke about the love she has for her clients. “Nutrition is what I was meant to do and I count myself lucky to practice and be a part of my clients’ journeys toward health. If I can change an individual’s outlook on nutrition and healthy eating and help them achieve their goal whether it is related to a medical condition or simply to lose weight and be healthy, then I take it as a challenge accepted.”

Nutrition is what I was meant to do and I count myself lucky to practice and be a part of my client’s journeys toward health
- Sarah Tee

Nutrition & Mental Health

Go Hand In Hand

Tee believes that mental health is of utmost importance when it comes to health and nutrition. She shared how her husband is a psychiatrist. “It's really nice being able to have conversations with him, learn about medications and more. If I have patients who are on meds, I can consult with him and then I do a lot of nutrition therapy as well.”

In the mental health aspect of her practice, she focuses on the person, and that's what she cares about most. “I want them to know I'm listening to them, they're seen, and to give themselves grace and to find joy. If I don't take that time to learn their story, listen to them and work from the inside out, I'm doing them a disservice. I do a lot of screenings, such as for depression, and then I have a lot of questions for them. My husband provides me with some questionnaires that I can give to my patients before meeting with a client. Mental health is a topic that’s finally becoming more accepted and talked about,” said Tee. She offers nutrition support, maintenance sessions, grocery store tours, and also in-home cooking demonstrations for her clients.

If I can change an individual’s outlook on nutrition and healthy eating and help them achieve their goal, whether it is related to a medical condition or simply to lose weight and be healthy, then I take it as a challenge accepted.
- Sarah Tee

Knowing what it’s like to struggle in her health journey, Tee mentioned how she’d been acutely conscious of her body and what she looked like from a young age. She’d even received messages from well-meaning grandparents cautioning her against second helpings of mashed potatoes, labeling her as a "thicker girl”. Even though they hadn’t meant it rudely, those remarks have stayed with her throughout the years. As a parent, these experiences inform the way she approaches teaching her kids about body image.

37 [AW] April / May 24 ::

Do I need help?

Understanding the signals your body sends can often be the first step towards achieving better health and well-being. Recognizing the subtle cues that show potential imbalances or areas of concern is essential for making informed decisions about your overall nutrition and lifestyle choices.

Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you might benefit from the help of a nutritionist, but in order to find out if you might need some help, the best way to do this is to “Listen to your body and feelings. The more you can listen to your own intuition, the more that you can pay attention to your bowel movements. Are you constipated? Do you have diarrhea? Do you have gas or bloating? Do you have headaches? Do you have belly fat or have it on your arms?” What areas do you notice that your body just doesn’t feel well? “Those are areas where our body is trying to tell us ‘hey, I don't feel good’. Is your energy low? Is your mood fluctuating? Is your sleep poor? Many of these can be related to hormone imbalances. Think of it as a body checklist.”

I'm so lucky to be part of people's journeys. I genuinely care about people.
- Sarah Tee

“I care about people…”

Sarah Tee has a heart of gold, which shows in how much she cares for her clients. “I don’t work in a hospital, so I can cry with my patients if I have to. I love the freedom to do it, too. Tears are great. Plus, you can lick your tears and get a little serotonin,” she said with a giggle. “But, I offer 15-minute discovery calls for free. People can go on my website and fill out the inquiry form and then we can find a date and time that works. From there, we’ll chat. I'm so lucky to be part of people’s journeys. I genuinely care about people.”

Through her holistic approach to nutrition, she emphasizes the profound connection between inner and outer health and how they are both connected. Beyond dietary recommendations, she also delves into the intricate interplay between mental health and physical health, while fostering a nurturing environment where clients feel acknowledged and empowered. Tee's personal journey, coupled with her professional expertise, exemplifies her unwavering passion for guiding others toward sustainable health and also a profound self-discovery. She invites individuals to embark on a journey of self-discovery and holistic healing, promising to be there with them every step of the way. [ aw ]

I don’t work in a hospital, so I can cry with my patients if I have to. I love the freedom to do it, too. Tears are great. Plus, you can lick your tears and get a little serotonin.
- Sarah Tee

You can find out more about Sarah Tee and Inspire Nutrition at her website:

38 ::

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406 Broadway N, Fargo, ND

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41 [AW] April / May 24 ::
cover STORY
44 ::

When you meet a woman like Mel Fierstine, you can’t help but notice her energy and determination immediately. The 48-year-old mother of an adult daughter, stepmother of two other adult children, and wife holds many other titles in addition to those in her personal life. She recently earned her PhD, she is a published author, an assistant professor, a mental health clinician, and is also a lifelong dancer and entrepreneur. This is a woman who does it all and does it well, but who is also quick to share her story in a beautiful, transparent way that instantly endears others to her.

This is an example of getting real and how life isn’t always perfect (far from it), yet at times we may fail to see that all human beings deal with loss and setbacks, even those who are talented and successful, seemingly untouchable by life’s storms.

Melanie (“Mel”) grew up in small town America on a farmstead outside of Northwood, ND. She is the second oldest of the five kids in her family; there’s older sister Melissa, Mel, younger sister Kim, then twins Matt and Mike, plus her parents, who both had full-time jobs while raising their family. In addition, they had livestock, so the family kept very busy tending to all of the moving parts of their respective activities and needs.

“Teamwork and a strong work ethic were values that my parents instilled in us,” Mel shared. “I often wonder how my parents were able to raise five children and still keep us actively involved in our community.” All of the Gensrich children were involved in multiple sports and activities. Mel played basketball in the fall, was a cheerleader in the winter, and during the spring and summer, she was involved in softball, along with running miles on the gravel roads near her family’s farm.

“As you can imagine,” she explained, “with seven people in a small farmhouse, our home was bustling with activity, so running outdoors was a way for me to recharge and have some time on my own. It was just me and the open gravel roads and a few farm trucks that would pass by.” This is

how Mel fell in love with running and she decided to run cross-country instead of playing basketball her senior year of high school.

When she was younger, she wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer! If you’re too young to remember this show, look it up; it featured co-hosts who would count down the week’s top 10 radio hits from the pop/rock charts and snippets of the songs would be played while professional dancers did choreographed routines. These vignettes are a staple of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s and the dancers were widely popularized in pop culture. Because Mel lived in a rural community, she didn’t have the opportunity to be on a dance team. “There was a team created for a short time and it dissolved the year before I was eligible to be part of it,” Mel said. “The alternative was to be on the cheer team, which I opted for instead.”

After high school, Mel was off to MSU (now MSUM). At that time, she planned to major in broadcast journalism, following in the footsteps of her idol, Connie Chung, who was a world-renown anchorwoman on the national news. Mel also cheered on the MSUM cheer team. But, after her first year in college, her major wasn’t feeling

Teamwork and a strong work ethic were values that my parents instilled in us. Teamwork and a strong work ethic were values that my parents instilled in us.
Mel Fierstine
45 [AW] April / May 24 ::

like a fit for her and she followed the advice of a fellow cheer team member who was in social work and took an introductory course in the field.

“After the first day of that class, I knew social work was my calling,” Mel stated, “I graduated with my Bachelor of Social Work in the winter of 1998.”

Mel planned to graduate then travel to the east coast to find work and start her new life. “I never planned to marry or to be a mother,” she remarked, “but I didn’t rule it out. It just wasn’t a thought at that time.” But, fate stepped in and she met her husband, Duane, the fall before graduation. East coast plans were canceled, as Duane was an Air Force veteran who had just moved to Fargo to be near his two children, Christopher and Madison, from a previous marriage. “The vision I had for my life and what occurred were quite different,” Mel continued, “and this was a pivotal

The vision I had for my life and what occurred were quite different, and this was a pivotal moment in my life.
The vision I had for my life and what occurred were quite different, and this was a pivotal moment in my life.
Mel Fierstine

moment in my life, one of the best things that has happened.” The couple married in June of 2001 in Northwood and then moved to the Twin Cities, where Duane grew up, for a short period of time. Mel worked for the Forest Lake Public Schools as a Behavior Intervention Specialist with students at the Alternative Learning Center. But, after a year, Mel and Duane agreed it was hard to be away from Duane’s kids and remain involved in their day to day lives. They packed up, moved to Fargo/Moorhead, and a year later, their baby girl, Emmie, was born.

“We bought our first house in Moorhead and I started working for Moorhead Public Schools as an Outreach Worker with middle students, followed by getting hired as a School Social Worker at Moorhead High School and Riverside Elementary.” Additionally, Mel coached the MHS dance team for 11 of the 14 years she had tenure there. Once Emmie turned a year old, Mel went back to school, this time through the University of Minnesota, to obtain her Master of Social Work degree. Fast forward to last year, and Mel obtained a terminal degree, a PhD in Education, from NDSU.

46 ::

1 Prioritize and engage in a mix of regular physical activity (cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance exercises).

2 Focus on strength training because as we age, maintaining muscle mass is vital.

3 Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated and limit processed foods, added sugars, and excessive salt intake.

4 Sleep! Aim for 7-9 hours a night to support cognitive function, mood regulation, and physical recovery.

5 Practice stress-reduction techniques: meditation and mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and spending time in nature.

6 Maintain social connections and engage in meaningful relationships.

7 Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your lifestyle and activities as needed.

8 Embrace a positive attitude towards aging and focus on what brings you joy and fulfillment.

48 ::
“I’ve had the opportunity to serve in many roles within the community, and this is the best yet.
“I’ve had the opportunity to serve in many roles within the community, and this is the best yet.

Mel Fierstine

Additionally, Mel’s work has included serving as the Director of the Moorhead Just for Kix program while coaching dance at MHS. During that time, she fell in love with a dance format called XaBeat and became certified to teach classes, which she did a few times a week for nearly 11 years. Soon she became a choreographer and opened a small studio of her own in the lower level of Catalyst Medical Center and called it GroupFit.

Soon after, Mel was hired to work part time at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead in a coalition building role. She was promoted to a new supervisory position where she oversaw the newly-developed human trafficking programs and coordination of RACC-FM’s outreach services. “I was once again promoted to the Director of Prevention Education, where I was able to lead a team of violence prevention educators who provided education about child sexual abuse, sexual assault domestic violence, and healthy relationships throughout the Cass, Clay, and Wilkin County areas. I was also

an adjunct instructor for the social work programs at MSUM and NDSU’s dual degree program with Minot State.”

Once her RACC-FM position went to full time, Mel left Just for Kix behind and concentrated on her main work. After five years, she left RACC to take on an interim role at Concordia College, eager to teach and expand her career. During this time, she also became the owner of XaBeat, the dance fitness business she was an instructor for, and as the years progressed, Mel had additional work through NDSU/ Minot State, and then back at MSUM, where she works today.

“I’ve had the opportunity to serve in many roles within the community, and this is the best yet. It is truly special to teach at the university that ignited my passion to be a social worker,” she said. “It’s not lost on me what a full circle moment this has truly been!” She teaches both undergraduate and graduate students on social policy and policy practice, human service leadership, and she guides students in their practicums. Mel loves to share her years of professional experience and walk students through the theoretical foundations of social work practice as it ties to the real world.

49 [AW] April / May 24 ::
I now fully understand the need to pause to take care of my health and wellbeing. I now fully understand the need to pause to take care of my health and wellbeing.
Mel Fierstine

Now, Dr. Firestine enjoys the opportunity to mentor and uplift those who are starting out in their field. This includes fitness endeavors. Due to time constraints and wanting to slow down, Mel stepped out of the ownership role of XaBeat in 2023 and is solely involved as its Choreography and Education Director. Because of her passion for health, wellness, athletics, and social work, she opened a part-time mental health practice, MindFit Mental Health & Wellness, working alongside youth and adult athletes. Her office is located in the EHP Medical Fitness Facility in Moorhead and she offers non-traditional hours (early mornings, evenings, weekends) to support athletes’ schedules. “This work helps me remain connected to the field and give back to the community as I teach and mentor current and future social workers,” she added.

Life has not been without its challenges, however, and Mel explained that there have been many in her experience. Duane’s mother passed away suddenly of a brain aneurysm just three months after he and Mel married and shortly thereafter, Duane’s brother was in a major snowmobile accident, which he survived thanks to the surgeons at Mayo Clinic. Mel had to learn to be a stepmother and also, mid-career, she struggled with her mental health due to personal hardships and multiple

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vicarious traumas which can be common in human service work. She had to step away from the field she so loved for a time. “I developed insomnia and was overextending myself in numerous roles within the community,” she said. “And what was once casual alcohol use turned into my sleep aid, which ended up spiraling out of control. Here I was, a helping professional in the community who knew these issues inside and out, who understood the struggles of addiction while working alongside individuals dealing with it. Yet, what I initially used as a coping mechanism quickly became an addiction.” She explained that she was burned out, exhausted, and even contemplated suicide. “I knew, ethically, I had to take a break. I stepped away from the profession I loved. Relationships with my family and friends were negatively impacted and the alcohol abuse took a brutal toll on my health and wellbeing.”

From the outside, Mel looked like she was a woman who had everything together, but she admitted that privately, she was ashamed and embarrassed that she couldn’t manage her issues on her own. “I felt like I ‘knew better’ and struggled to ask for help,” she explained, “and yet my life had become completely unmanageable.” Thankfully, her family had close friends who helped her to let go of her ego and muster up the courage to seek treatment. “It was more of an ultimatum, actually,” said

51 [AW] April / May 24 ::

Mel. “They carried the load when I couldn’t and worked with me in my healing journey.

I am now more than eight years sober and life is so much better on this side! Although I remain active in my profession, community, and relationships, I now fully understand the need to pause to take care of my health and wellbeing, first and foremost, and it’s critical for helpers to actively seek help.”

Help was needed again six years ago when Mel and Duane lost nearly everything they owned to a house fire the day after Christmas. Mel’s fitness communities were quick to step up and assist. “Both the XaBeat and CrossFit communities held fundraisers and checked in often to provide emotional support,” she commented. Soon after the fire, Mel broke her wrist in a CrossFit competition and had to have surgery to repair it. “It took me a few

years,” she said, “to get comfortable lifting again; barbells don’t jump up and bite people, so I had to really focus on my technique.”

The hits were not done, however, and Mel’s dad was diagnosed with cancer and underwent treatment. Once things were leveling out, the pandemic hit and the whole world changed. More family members suffered setbacks health-wise and Duane’s brother was killed in an accident. “I am so thankful for the family who are still with us today,” Mel remarked, “and although there were days in those years where I felt my head wasn’t attached to my body, I remained focused on the amazing people around me and experiences I’ve had. I consider myself incredibly fortunate.”

Today, Mel and her family are active in the community and love spending time together. They volunteer, love the outdoors and running, hiking, competing in CrossFit, and dancing. Their favorite place to visit is Colorado and the mountains call for them. Mel is also a voracious reader who reads anything she can. “Now that I am done with grad school, I have been able to dig into some fantasy novels that have been sitting on my shelves the past few years.” she shared. “My favorite moments are when our daughter, Emmie, stops by our home and we make dinner as a family, talk, and catch up on life. It’s fun to hear about her adventures as a young adult and I am thankful she still leans on us for the occasional nugget of wisdom.”

Her life would not be complete without her furry family members as part of the pack and two very loved and spoiled dogs, Milton, an

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I remained focused on the amazing people around me and experiences I’ve had. I consider myself incredibly fortunate. I remained focused on the amazing people around me and experiences I’ve had. I consider myself incredibly fortunate.
Mel Fierstine

older Boston Terrier, has a new puppy, Freyja, to call his special friend. “We adopted Freyja from 4 Luv of Dog Rescue and she’s a mix of large breeds, has tons of energy, and is so much fun!” Mel said. “She is going to be our running buddy when she’s older.”

The ups and downs that Mel has experienced, blended with her family and her commitment to healthy living are the ingredients of a life recipe that is sweet. She stated that she will always wear her social work hat and view life through a social justice lens. In addition, she believes it’s important to acknowledge that access to fitness programming and nutrient-dense foods are, sadly, a privilege in our society, and this is why she incorporates community building and collaboration through MindFit. “I’ve involved a team of professionals and we’re looking at how we can support community members in accessing opportunities at little or no cost, along with providing education and resources about the significant impacts nutrition and exercise have on mental health.”

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For more information about MindFit Mental Health and Wellness, visit 1400 25th Street South Moorhead, MN 56560 218-329-7531
53 [AW] April / May 24 ::

In these books you can stand up for justice with an 18th-century midwife, get lost in a dark fairy tale forest, read about the healing power of books, or navigate hospice care with a pair of best friends. Grief, mental health, cancer, trauma … the topics here aren’t always easy, but the beauty of fiction is that it allows us to explore these themes outside of real life.

The Frozen River

Set over the course of one winter in late 18th-century Maine, “The Frozen River” is a gripping historical mystery inspired by the life and diary of renowned midwife Martha Ballard.

Summoned to examine the body of a man found frozen in the river, it’s Martha Ballard's job as a midwife and healer to determine cause of death and testify her findings to the local judge. Her diary is a record of every birth and death, crime and debacle that unfolds in the close-knit community. Months earlier, Martha recorded the details of an alleged rape committed by two respected gentlemen — one was the man found dead in the ice. When a new local physician declares the death an accident undermining her conclusion of murder, Martha investigates the connection between the rape of her friend and the shocking murder of the man involved on her own. As the trial draws near, Martha and her family are in the center of the scandal and she must pursue the truth at all costs.

Lawhon brings to life this remarkable woman who left an unparalleled legacy yet remains nearly forgotten to this day. A layered story both thrilling and tender, I found Martha to be an inspiring heroine standing up for justice at a time when women were considered best seen and not heard.

Loved this?

“Lady Tan’s Circle of Women” by Lisa See is another historical fiction novel inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th-century China. I loved this fascinating look into the lives and traditions of elite women in Ming Dynasty China.

area BOOKS
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We Are All So Good at Smiling

A hauntingly beautiful young adult novel-inverse, “We Are All So Good at Smiling” is about clinical depression and healing from trauma, told through the metaphors of fairy tales and folklore.

Back in the hospital for treatment of clinical depression, Whimsy meets a boy named Faerry. She instantly feels connected to him and recognizes they both hold magic. When Faerry and his family move to the same street, the two teenagers start to realize their lives might be connected in ways they don’t understand or remember.

The forest at the end of the lane whispers to Whimsy and Faerry. They are both terrified of it. But inside, they find the forest holds monsters, fairy tales, and all the pain they have been running from for 11 years.

Lyrical prose and fairy tale metaphors abound as Whimsy and Faerry work their way through the forest’s magic. While it covers some difficult topics centered around clinical depression, trauma, and mental health, I still couldn’t put this one down. I found myself considering the author’s words long after I had finished reading the last page.

Loved this?

Pick up “In an Instant” by Suzanne Redfearn for a young adult novel about a traumatic experience and its aftermath. Looking for more young adult novels written in verse? Try “Rumble” by Ellen Hopkins.

The Reading List

Books can be so much more than just stories. “The Reading List” is about the healing power books can have on our lives and on those around us.

Feeling lost without his beloved wife, widower Mukesh spends his days watching nature documentaries, going to Temple, and worrying about his granddaughter, Priya. When he finds a library book that was never returned amongst his late wife’s things, he decides to read it to feel closer to her. Mukesh has never had an interest in books, but he knows his wife loved them and often shared them with Priya.

When Mukesh arrives at the library to return the book he found, he asks for recommendations from the person behind the desk. Aleisha doesn’t really read books, the library is just a slow summer job for her, so she doesn’t know what to say

We All Want Impossible Things

Who knows you better than your best friend? Edi and Ash have been best friends since childhood. They have seen each other through life’s milestones — happy to sad, difficult to joyous. They each know the other’s strange imperfect self better than anyone else could.

When Edi is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ash reshapes her world around the rhythms of Edi’s care in hospice. As Edi’s death grows ever near, Ash must deal with her own crisis of life, finding a way to learn when to hold on and when to let go.

I liked how Newman kept it authentically real. Ash isn’t a perfect human and her actions aren’t always justified or even good. But I thought those reckless actions underscored her grief and inability to process all her emotions in a way that felt wholly human. At times funny and nostalgic, this is a lovely book about friendship and family through the lens of life and death. [ aw ]

Loved this?

You may also enjoy “Signal Fires” by Dani Shapiro.

to Mukesh. When she discovers a piece of paper with a list of novels she’s never heard of before in a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” she decides to read every book on the list.

As Aleisha reads each book, the stories inside give her an escape from the painful realities she is facing at home. She then passes each title along to Mukesh, hoping the books will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the books they read create a connection between the two as they grapple with grief and pain, learning to find joy again.

The cast of characters in this novel are a group of ordinary people brought together by books. At times sad and heartfelt, I loved how this novel shows how reading fiction allows us to become more empathetic and to embrace challenges. It is a celebration of libraries and the community they foster.

Area Woman’s resident Bookista, Megan Elgin, serves you up with books worthy of spending your entire afternoon with. Search for Megan by name on Goodreads or @meganann on Litsy and find out what she’s reading now.

Read one of these books? Searching for something new to read? Tell us what you thought by using #areawomanbooks in your online review or send me an email with requests, thoughts or questions at



The performance, "Word Dances: Poetry in Motion," will combine modern dance with selections from the newly published Time to Soar: Word Dances and Bird Songs for Every Season. The book was written by local dancer-poet Katie Bruckbauer and illustrated by Mary Jo Savageau of Bismarck. Both women grew up in Casselton. The dances are choreographed and performed by Bruckbauer and Barb Wieland, a fellow dancer from Casselton, along with an ensemble of local dancers. Bruckbauer and Wieland were performing dancers and instructors for almost 30 years at two former Fargo dance studios, Mahkahta Dance Theater and 8th Street Studio of Dance, of which they were part owners. Bruckbauer also has been writing poetry for most of her life. Time to Soar is her first published collection. She says her poetry is for people of all ages, whether you read poetry or not. “The poems are about real life – our struggles and joys, our searching, and our common desire for peace,” she says. “Using birds as guides, the book inspires and uplifts readers with messages of hope, love, and healing.” The performance, “Word Dances: Poetry in Motion,” incorporates many poems from the book. Bruckbauer describes it as a "unique fusion of poetry, art, and dance." https://www. arch or or 701-391-5266

TIME: 2:00 PM

LOCATION: Sanctuary Events Center 670 4th Ave N, Fargo, ND



Celebration of Nations is an opportunity for MSUM students to showcase and celebrate the vibrant cultural diversity that makes our campus unique and colorful. This is a family-friendly, multicultural, inclusive event that includes international foods,

cultural displays, arts and crafts and live music and entertainment by student groups, organizations, and the local community. More than 30 countries will be represented. Cost is $10 per person; college students with ID, K-12 students and under 5 are free.  Tickets available at or at door.

TIME: 4-8 PM

LOCATION: Comstock Memorial Union Ballroom

615 14th St S Moorhead, MN 56563

CONTACT: Kristi Monson

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APR 15-20


Join Fargo's fitness revolution to Empower Every Move. Here, fitness passion ignites, and instructors and enthusiasts connect. We're actively shaping a dynamic space buzzing with energy, where instructors and fitness enthusiasts come together to share, learn, and inspire.

Monday, April 15th-Saturday, April 20th

Free classes all week. Find our full schedule at or scan our QR. Daily drawings for prizes. Attend more classes, more changes at winning!

Saturday, April 20th: Open House

Free 30-minute classes between 8 am-2pm. Great for beginners! Health and wellness special quests in between classes. Come learn with us! Free chair massages. Time to relax!




Celebration of Nations is an opportunity for MSUM students to showcase and celebrate the vibrant cultural diversity that makes our campus unique and colorful. This is a family-friendly, multicultural, inclusive event that includes international foods, cultural displays, arts and crafts and live music and entertainment by student groups, organizations, and the local community. More than 30 countries will be represented.    Cost is $10 per person; college students with ID, K-12 students and under 5 are free.

TIME: 4-8 PM

LOCATION: Roland Dille Center for the Arts

801 13th St S,
57 [AW] April / May 24 ::
Moorhead, MN 56563



For over 50 years, we have been highlighting inspiring women and organizations at YWCA Women of the Year. They are leaders, mentors, visionaries, and heroes. Help us honor those who shape the FargoMoorhead community through their passion, service, and significant achievements at this widely-celebrated event attended by 700+ people. This year’s event will be held on April 22, 2024 at the Delta by Marriott in Fargo. YWCA Cass Clay is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. We strive to break the cycles of poverty and violence for women and their families.

TIME: 5:30 PM (Social Hour)

6.30 PM (Event Starts)

LOCATION: Delta Hotels by Marriott Fargo 1635 42nd Street South Fargo, ND 58103



Fabulous Fashion and Friends is a fashion show featuring the latest trends from our friends at My Best Friend's Closet. Proceeds from the event and the silent auction benefit Rape & Abuse Crisis Center’s children’s services and the Meredith Haugen Play Therapy Room. Your presence at this event will not only elevate the fashion scene but also contribute directly to the important work being done by RACC. Through your support, RACC can provide resources, assistance, and hope to children in our community. Together, let's make a difference—one stylish step at a time. More information and tickets can be found here: https://raccfm.ejoinme. org/FFF2024

TIME: 5:30 PM

LOCATION: Avalon Event Center

2525 9th Ave South Fargo, ND 58103



Join us for Community Game Night. A variety of tabletop games will be provided, and participants are also encouraged to bring a favorite game they would like to share. All tabletop gaming experience levels are welcome. Snacks will be provided. Recommended for ages 16 and up. No registration is required.

TIME: 5-7 PM

LOCATION: Northport Library

2714 N. Broadway, Fargo

CONTACT: Dani at 701.476.4026

APR 4&8/



Share songs, fingerplays, short books, rhythms, and rhymes with your baby (ages birth to 24 months) while introducing them to books and the library!

TIME: 10:00 AM

LOCATION: Dr. James Carlson Library 1635 2801 32nd Ave. S., Fargo, ND

CONTACT: Children's Services 701-241-1495



Please join me to celebrate Northern Prairie Lactation Services brand new office and 3rd anniversary! There will be giveaways, treats, and more.

TIME: 4-7 PM


2704 12th St S Suite 103, Moorhead MN 56560


Fargo Public Library events are free and open to the public. A complete schedule of upcoming events is available at all Fargo Public Library locations and on our website at :

APR 1/MAY 31


Northern Focus is a project conceived by the Fargo Public Library for up-and-coming, recreational photographers with the aim to provide a free space, for artist and viewer alike, to showcase artwork and share local perspectives. The library is hosting the fifth annual Northern Focus photography project this spring. We are asking photographers from the region to send us their best work to grace our downtown location in a photo exhibit. One lucky artist will get their photograph on the front cover of Northern Narratives 2024. We are accepting online submissions from April 1 through May 31, 2024. The program is open to adults and teens 13 years and older and there is no fee to submit your photo. Visit www. for details.


LOCATION: Main Library 101 4th St North

CONTACT: Nic at 701-476-5974

APR 6/



Get your child ready for Kindergarten by exploring literacy and STEAM topics through music, stories, songs, and play. Most appropriate for ages 3 to 5.

TIME: 10:00 AM

LOCATION: Main Library

101 4th St North

CONTACT: Children's Services Dept. 701.241.1495



At 17-years-old, Eva Robinson of Cavalier, ND is already a veteran competitive musher. She and her dogs have participated in numerous races, including the Jr. Iditarod and the Jr. Beargrease where she took first place in 2021. All ages are invited to hear Eva's inspiring story of dreaming big, persevering to fulfill a 10year dream of racing in the Alaska wilderness, staying humble, and never quitting. She'll also introduce us to one of her team dogs!

TIME: 1:30 PM

LOCATION: Main Library

101 4th St North

CONTACT: 701.241.1495 or


Over the years, the Fargo Public Library has acquired artwork from regional artists, such as Charles Beck, Cyrus Running, and George Pfeiffer. After a brief presentation of the artist biographies and the provenance of the pieces, join Librarian Steve Hubbard for a walking tour of the art at the Main Library, both in the public and staff areas.

TIME: 2:00 PM

LOCATION: Main Library

101 4th St North

CONTACT: Steve at 701.241.1492



Celebrate National Velociraptor day at the library by making a needle felted dinosaur. Needle felting is an easy, quick, and relaxing technique for beginning crafters and experienced artists alike. Pre-registration is required and opens April 4.

TIME: 5:00 PM

LOCATION: Main Library

101 4th St North

CONTACT: Teen Librarian at 701-298-6960


How would you react if you saw a bat flying overhead? With fear, disgust, or confusion? Bats are mysterious creatures, and from Dracula to the present day, they can seem a bit frightening. If you're curious about bats, join Sam Devick, a North Dakota 4-H Pollinator Habitat Ambassador, for a "blind date" with a bat. You'll find out which animal bats really are, if they're actually blind, and how you can become friends with them. A bat-related activity will follow the presentation.

TIME: 10:00 AM

LOCATION: Dr. James Carlson Library

2801 32nd Ave. S.

CONTACT: Children's Services at 701.241.1495

APR 25/

MAY 30


Rally your relatives and join us for Family Trivia Night at the Main Library. Families are invited to pre-register at the beginning of the current month.

TIME: 6:00 PM

LOCATION: Main Library

101 4th St North

CONTACT: Children's Services Dept. 701.241.1495




Join us as we welcome North Dakota Poet Laureate Denise Lajimodiere for a reading and book signing for Josie Dances, which was the children's book selected to represent North Dakota at the 2023 National Book Festival. As an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Lajimodiere will also include a cultural show and tell. All ages are welcome. The North Dakota Great Reads from Great Places program for the National Book Festival is sponsored by the Library of Congress and the North Dakota Center for the Book.

TIME: 6:00 PM

LOCATION: Main Library

101 4th St North

CONTACT: Children's Services 701.241.1495



Come in and try spray painting! We will be practicing on cardboard before making our final pieces on canvas. Wear something comfortable and that you're okay with getting permanent paint on! Registration is required and opens April 20.

TIME: 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Dr. James Carlson Library 2801 32nd Ave. S

CONTACT: Teen Librarian at 701-298-6960


This community-minded Plant Swap is an opportunity to share your love of plants for the home or garden with others. Participants are asked to bring in houseplants or garden plants to trade or share. These could be leftover garden plants, seed packets, divided perennials, divided houseplants, or propagated plants. Don’t have anything to bring? That’s okay! Everyone will go home with something new.

TIME: 6:00 PM

LOCATION: Dr. James Carlson Library 2801 32nd Ave. S.

CONTACT: Lori at 701.476.5977


MSUM Researchers

Identify Adoption Hurdles, Offer Change-Management Approach

Jennifer Thompson never looked forward to her biennial mammogram. The exam was uncomfortable, to say the least; often, “painful” would be more descriptive.

Even so, the anxiety she felt when the results came back positive was almost worse, not to mention the physical pain of the biopsy that the results necessitated.

Fortunately, the biopsy showed the mammogram result was a false positive. That was good, of course, but Jennifer could have avoided extra emotional and physical trauma if the exam had been more accurate in the first place, accuracy that artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled diagnostic technologies could have delivered.

The work of two Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) professors and a Moorhead middle-school student aims to expedite the AI adoption process to improve outcomes for patients like Jennifer and across the healthcare system.

Where We’ve Been With AI and How To Move Forward

Jennifer isn’t real, but her theoretical experience represents what all too many women have and continue to go through.

According to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, “The chance of having a false positive result after one mammogram ranges from 7-12 percent…Younger women are more likely to have false positive results. After 10 yearly mammograms, the chance of having at least one false positive result is about 50-60 percent.”

Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society reports that AI increases mammogram accuracy to 99 percent.

Unfortunately, said Brandi Sillerud, MSUM researcher and coordinator of the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program,

there is often a “huge lag” in technology and process adoption in healthcare.

“It can take up to 17 years for research to reach the bedside, but we simply do not have the time or personnel to keep doing things how we’ve been doing them,” she said. “The costs of healthcare keep rising, too, so there’s an urgency to adopt AI technologies that improve efficiency and quality.”

Sillerud is part of an MSUM team working with 15 healthcare organizations to identify barriers to AI adoption and recommend strategies for expediting it. Jitendra Singh, the co-chair of MSUM’s School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, and Advitya Singh, an 8th grader at Moorhead’s Horizon Middle School, are her research partners.

In December 2023, the Journal of Medical Artificial Intelligence published the trio’s paper

Pictured L to R: Jitendra Singh, Advitya Singh and Brandi Sillerud
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“We want our students to use AI such as ChatGPT to work smarter. When they leave our program as providers and leaders, they’ll already understand how AI can enhance what they do.” MNSTATE.EDU

about the first phase of their four-phase research initiative related to AI adoption and using an established change-management system to facilitate it.

Phase 1 involved compiling a history of AI in healthcare, examining adoption rates and exploring how it’s currently used. While previous research covered some of the same ground, the MSUM team expanded upon it, presenting Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change and recommending ways administrators, clinicians and staff members can use change management to incorporate AI into daily operations.

The next three phases will comprise one-on-one discussions, led by MHA students, with clinical providers, non-clinical staff and administrators, analysis and more recommendations to address what the interviews uncover.

Earlier Detection, More Personalized Care

AI is already applied in healthcare, with chatbots that answer questions and direct calls being the most noticeable examples, but the MSUM researchers say its significance for patients is much broader and goes much deeper. “It’s transformational,” said Jitendra Singh. “AI’s impacts can be seen in patient engagement and education, identification of patterns from patient data, more accurate diagnoses, enhanced prognosis formulation, treatment planning and long-term condition management and administrative cost-containment. More importantly, it’s increasing the time providers can spend directly with patients.”

Sillerud, also a registered nurse and health informatics expert, notes that AI is driving

advances in rural healthcare, which is a big deal in states like North Dakota and Minnesota.

Sillerud and Singh teach health information courses for undergraduate and graduate students in health administration, nursing and business administration.

“We want our students to use AI such as ChatGPT to work smarter,” Sillerud said. “When they leave our program as providers and leaders, they’ll already understand how AI can enhance what they do.”

Like eliminating nearly all false positives from mammograms.

And that will be a relief to Jennifers everywhere.

61 [AW] April / May 24 ::

As a child, Britta Sather found herself alphabetizing the supplements in her father’s chiropractic care office and one day when she was in the activity, she found a bottle labeled "Cat's Claw." At that moment she couldn't believe why her father would be selling feline claws in a bottle. That innocent curiosity along with a natural love for the scientific-based coursework led her on a journey toward a career in nutrition and dietetics. (Just to be clear, Cat’s Claw is a plant that is used to reduce inflammation and fight viruses; no felines were harmed in the family business!)

Britta lives in Moorhead with her husband Andrew and their three boys who are nine, seven, and five. She’s a licensed nutritionist and is the Senior Manager of Regulatory Affairs at Swanson Health Products where she focuses on dietary supplement regulations. She has worked there for over 14 years. “I'm making sure that our products are within the guidelines that the FDA sets for the industry. I also focus on product safety and scientific research on the products. So essentially, I just help to make sure that the products that we sell are safe and effective,” Britta explained.

My dad was a chiropractor, and my mom ran his office. So we really lived and breathed natural health my whole life and we were also a very active family involved in sports.
- Britta Sather

Health As A Calling

After the Cat’s Claw discovery at her father’s office, Britta started reading about the benefits that supplements can provide.

“And I think that's really where my interest sparked, at a young age in nutrition, especially for supplements. That feels like a pretty defining moment. When I started college, it just seemed so clear when I was drawn to those science-based classes that was what my degree should be in,” said Britta.

Another area that added to her interest in health was growing up in a household that was focused on natural health. “My dad was a chiropractor, and my mom ran his office. So we really lived and breathed natural health my whole life and we were also a very active family involved in sports. Staying healthy and active was really important. It was just a natural part of my life,” Britta said.


With nearly 500 employees at Swanson, Britta was enthusiastic about her talented team and the dynamic environment at the company. “We have dedicated staff in quality control. We all work together to make sure that what it says on the label of the products is what's actually in the product. We work with co-manufacturers to develop the products. And then what I'm doing on my side is looking at all the ingredients that are in the product, looking at each product individually and seeing how much we are putting in it. I see what the appropriate amounts should be, analyze safety, and see how the product might react with medications and such.”

You Only Have One Life

We are only given one life to embrace, nurture, and cherish. Within this singular journey, the significance of nourishing our bodies and minds cannot be overstated. By treating our bodies with respect and care, by moving them with intention and love, we invest in our holistic wellbeing, which in the long run will also benefit our lives making them even more brilliant. Each choice we make, from the food we consume to the activities we engage in, contributes to the vitality of our existence. Our physical and mental health are intertwined.

When you go through a moment of sickness or illness, you really realize how blessed you are in health. “Your health is really the most important thing in your life. Taking care of yourself is

non-negotiable. We all want to feel good and to live full lives. So anything we can do to support that is just awesome. Supplements can play a big part in your health because they fill in some of those gaps in our diet. Our body needs appropriate levels of many nutrients to feel our best,” Britta commented.

Not to mention when we have such busy lifestyles, that eating a perfectly balanced diet can be challenging. “In order to take care of others, we really need to take care of ourselves first. And you know, I'm a working mom of three very active boys who require a lot of energy and I want to be able to keep up with them. I know taking care of my health and wellness is what I need to do so that I give them my best.”

Healthy Supplements + Life Advice From Britta:

• A good multivitamin: “I recommend this to almost everyone. A good high-quality multivitamin fills in some of those nutritional gaps in your diet that you might not even know exist.”

• A probiotic: “A probiotic provides that good bacteria to balance the microflora and your GI tract. It's important not just for digestive health, but your gut health is tied to so many things throughout your body. To support that good bacteria, adding a probiotic is really strong for your overall health.”

• An Omega-3: “Omega-3 fish oil does really great things for your heart health.”

• Vitamin D: “In this part of the world, where we do not get sunshine for most parts of

the year, Vitamin D is really important for your bone health and your mood. I think many people are deficient in vitamin D. Therefore, adding in a supplement for that can be helpful.”

• Magnesium: “This is another great starter product. It's a mineral, but it's involved in hundreds of processes in your body and it can be particularly helpful for sleep and stress support, which many people need.”

• Daily movement: “Do something that you enjoy and that makes you feel best. If you're lucky enough to be physically able to exercise, appreciate that. Treat your body well, get outside, find activities you like, and move.”

A Common Misconception About Supplements

We all know that drugs need to be registered and approved before they go to market. Britta mentioned that supplements are categorized as food. “They are regulated differently than drugs. Oftentimes you'll hear that supplements aren't regulated and that's simply not true. They are heavily regulated and we operate within very strict

guidelines. Unfortunately, there are bad apples out there that give the industry a bad name, but you just want to make sure you're buying from a reputable company. Swanson puts focus on quality products and operates within those guidelines that we are required to in the industry.”

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When Looking For A ProbioticGood

Sometimes it might be overwhelming when you step into the vitamin aisle or glance through vitamins online to look for the perfect probiotic for you. Since some may mess with your stomach, it’s important to find one that works for you. “Probiotics are measured in what's called CFUs which are colony forming units. That tells you what strength or how many viable cells are in the product. And so it's recommended that you start smaller, see what works for you, and then work your way up. At Swanson, we have a starter, an intermediate, and a professional level probiotic. Try things out. There's different strains, so you can see what works best for you.”

There's really no quick fix. It's really about implementing these healthy habits across all the aspects of your life.
- Britta Sather

Clean Eating + Movement = Healthy Living

Proper nutrition forms the cornerstone of our well-being, akin to selecting the right fuel for our vehicles. Just as we ensure our cars run smoothly with appropriate gasoline, it's imperative to nourish our bodies adequately. While maintaining a balanced diet is crucial, supplements play a pivotal role in bridging nutritional gaps and offering added support, particularly in times of heightened stress or physical discomfort. Whether it's addressing joint issues, seeking sleep assistance, or managing stress levels, supplements provide a natural avenue for support.

However, holistic health isn't solely reliant on supplementation, but also regular exercise, mindful movement, getting enough sleep, and drinking the right amount of water are integral components in fortifying our overall health. When you work on adding each habit into your lifestyle, it’ll make your life healthier a day at a time. “There's

really no quick fix. It's really about implementing these healthy habits across all the aspects of your life,” Britta shared.

From the innocent intrigue sparked by alphabetizing supplements in her father's office to her pivotal role in ensuring the safety and efficacy of dietary products at Swanson Health Products, Britta's journey epitomizes the transformative power of passion and purpose. Through her unwavering commitment to holistic health and dedication to quality, Britta not only champions the importance of informed supplementation and mindful living but is also passing an ignited flame of empowerment to everyone in the FM community so everyone can embrace their unique journey towards health, vitality, and well-being. [ aw ]

Health Products
65 [AW] April / May 24 ::

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