Inside Gillette Blog

Veterans Answer the Calling to Serve

Posted On: 11/11/2015

For Rob Wagner, a life’s purpose is what he calls “soul work”

Rob Wagner, M.D., says he’s never felt comfortable when people thank him for his military service. “I’m embarrassed,” he admits. “I was never shot at, and I never shot at anyone. So my experience is different than many others’.”

Wagner volunteered during the Vietnam era as a way, he says, of gaining maturity. “My dad, who was career Army, said that GIs who were drafted after college regretted burning their college years drinking and partying,” he recalls. “They wished they could do it again.”

After watching Johnny Shiloh at age 11, Wagner decided to join the Army after high school and go to college later. “It looked like patriotism, but it was really a desire for excitement,” he explains. He signed up for language school and studied Korean for a year, then was stationed in South Korea. “The work involved intercepting North Korean military radio transmissions,” he remembers. “You had to recognize important messages and record them.”

After completing his service, Wagner traveled throughout Asia and Australia, where he worked on a farm and a lobster boat. Shortly before he left Darwin, Australia, tropical cyclone Tracy hit, killing 71 people and destroying 80 percent of area homes. “The city was evacuated after the cyclone,” Wagner remembers, “but before we left, we volunteered. Medical people were flown in to help. That’s when I knew I was going to be a doctor.”

Soon afterward, he applied to college in Great Britain, where he earned a degree in marine biology and applied zoology. “I let go of medicine because it seemed too much like a fantasy,” he says. Then he met some young doctors and realized that medical school wasn’t out of reach. He studied family medicine at the University of Minnesota and completed a residency in family medicine at St. Paul–Ramsey Medical Center (today’s Regions Hospital).

Soon after taking a job with Group Health, Wagner says, he hit a slump. “I wasn’t out saving lives in Africa. It wasn’t the vision I’d had of being a doctor,” he recalls. “But then I saw I was looking at it in the wrong way. I thought being heroic in life meant traveling the world, climbing mountains, whitewater rafting. But it’s more subtle than that. I redefined my life’s purpose and never had to do it again.”

That purpose, he realized, went beyond being a good doctor. It involved the kinds of interactions that he calls “soul work.”

“What I wanted to do was be of service,” he says. “For patients and families, I’m an interface with a complicated industry.” He focuses on listening closely to patients, then helping them understand issues and options so they can make appropriate decisions. 

Recently, Wagner says, he had an epiphany about his career. “The next time someone thanks me for my military service,” he notes, “I’ll say, ‘That young man went in search of his own maturity. Don’t overplay his actions.’ What I do now is service.”

Gillette Clinicians Improving Lives of Jamaican Children

Posted On: 07/17/2013

When Wayland Richards left his native Jamaica for the U.S. to pursue a degree at Crown College in St. Bonifacious, Minn., he often struggled with the question, “What will you take back to the young people of Jamaica?"  Beginning in 1995, Richards answered that question by hosting youth retreats dedicated to helping young Jamaicans receive job training and education essential to rising above the poverty line.

Mark Gormley, M.D. (far right) pictured the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Minister of Tourism, along with fellow volunteers.

During one such retreat, a physician volunteer told Richards of his interest in using his medical training to help Jamaican children living with complex health conditions. Richards soon shifted his focus to medical mission work—and in 2002, founded the Organization for Strategic Development in Jamaica (OSDJ). When Richards learned of Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare through a member of his church, he saw an opportunity to partner in treating Jamaican youth with disabilities.

During Richards’ first visit to Gillette (accompanied by Jamaica’s Minister of Health) he met Mark Gormley, M.D., a pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician. Gormley, who had just returned from a medical mission trip to Russia, spoke to Richards about how his team’s efforts in Russia could be replicated in Jamaica.  Less than a month later, Gormley received an invitation—could he travel to Jamaica to tour the country’s healthcare facilities and give several medical lectures?  He agreed, and an international outreach program was born.

Gormley has since traveled to Jamaica semi-annually with a team of colleagues hailing largely from Gillette, from physical therapists to nurses and orthotics (bracing) specialists.  Together with Jamaican physician Paula Dawson, M.D., the group collaborates to provide treatments—including surgeries, Botox injections, therapies and assistive technology—to children who have cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Gormley estimates that his group has already helped more than 250 children.

They’ve also caught the attention of the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica and Obama administration. As a result, Gillette will be part of a new effort to collectively spur volunteerism, medical education and tourism in developing countries like Jamaica. “Jamaicans understand that tourism reflects positively on their country,” explains Gormley. “If more groups like ours can give these countries tourism dollars while also helping local children, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

RE/MAX Fundraiser Benefits Gillette through Children’s Miracle Network

Posted On: 06/27/2013

Last Thursday, Montevideo, Minn. residents enjoyed gorgeous weather (and supported a great cause!) at a lunchtime picnic hosted by Montevideo-based RE/MAX Neighbors. The event raised funds for Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, Minnesota’s only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

In the weeks leading up to the event, local radio station KDMA – along with sister stations KMGM and KKRC – aired an interview highlighting RE/MAX’s longtime fundraising efforts on behalf of Gillette and Children’s Miracle Network.  Listen to it here:  KDMA Interview with Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

A Gillette patient family from the Montevideo area shared their story as part of the fundraiser.

Be Fit, Have Fun and Start Young!

Posted On: 04/22/2013

By: Krista Ash, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

The Department of Education recently released a mandate stating that students who have disabilities should receive an equal opportunity to participate alongside their peers in after-school athletics and clubs. The Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs already have some amazing programs for children, teens and adults with disabilities, and this new mandate helps open the door even more.

The importance of involvement in sports, recreation and social opportunities at a young age is vital. Children between the ages of 4 and 6 years are actively learning the social skills that impact their whole lives.  Participation in sports and recreation activities can benefit children of all abilities by promoting the development of leadership skills, sharing, conflict resolution, and, of course, physical fitness.

Participation in sports at a young age is important for kids who have disabilities, too. Many friendships and bonds are formed through youth sports and social opportunities. Kids get to interact with other kids who share similar interests. Additionally, active children are more likely to mature into physically active adults. Best of all, getting moving is fun!

For more information, visit the Therapeutic Recreation webpage or contact Child and Family Services at 651-229-3855.

Our therapeutic recreation team encourages patients and families of all abilities to participate in sports and recreational activities.


Meet us Monday – John Haggard, Technical Education & Development Specialist

Posted On: 04/14/2013

What are some of your hobbies outside work?

Sports and video games.  I love to watch all sports on TV, but the one I actually still play is volleyball.  I was a collegiate volleyball coach for 7 years before entering the world of training.  I was a setter in college and play in city leagues.  I still play video games…until my wife scolds me.

How long have you worked at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory?

I have worked at Gillette since June of 2012.  When I was hired, my background was in adult learning and software training.  I had no medical background.  Since QCPR was a major focus of my job, I shadowed several physicians.  Dr. Tenner Guillaume was the first to allow me to shadow him.  Seeing how caring, passionate, and focused he was with the many families and children we saw was very inspiring.  That experience really made me realize the impact we can have at Gillette.  I know it made me more focused of the work I do, and appreciative of the opportunity I have at Gillette.

Do you have any kids or pets?

I have two boys.  Jack is 2 ½ and Max is 5 months.  I completely love playing with them and being a dad. I also have a 9lb dog named Doug!

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

I worked for 7 summers in Alaska, and while there met people from all over the world.  The Australians that I met painted one beautiful picture of their home.  I have always wanted to go.  I was also an Art major in college, so Italy would be a dream to see so much of what I studied.

What is your favorite food?

Italian and Mexican are by far my favorite cuisines.  I could easily live on pasta, pizza, enchiladas, and quesadillas.

Meet Us Monday, Tom Thiegs – Education and Development Specialist

Posted On: 04/07/2013

Meet Tom Thiegs, an Education and Development Specialist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Tom provides training, education, and team-building to employees on a variety of topics including leadership, productivity, and personal development.

1. What are some of your hobbies outside work?

I love spending time outdoors and camping, fishing, and bonfires are some of my favorite activities.  I also love photography and travelling.

Meet Us Monday - Tom Thiegs

2. How long have you worked at Gillette? Do you have a favorite story or memory?

Next month (in May) will be my 3-year anniversary at Gillette.  I knew Gillette was the right place for me shortly after joining the team when I conducted my first training session.  The employees were so welcoming and kind.  People buy into the special work that we do here at Gillette, and that’s one of the things I love most about working here.

3. Do you have any kids or pets?

I’ve got two fantastic children, a great little dog, and a wonderful wife!  My daughter is 6-months old and my son is turning 3 this month.  My daughter is a very giggly and happy baby and my son is a whirlwind of positive energy.

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

My dream vacation is to travel to one of the islands in French Polynesia, either Moorea or Bora Bora.  They’ve got some amazing snorkeling and scuba diving in their lagoons and staying in one of those huts built over the water would be really fun!

5. What is your favorite food?

I have lots of favorite foods including pad Thai and a good omelet, but after a long winter I can’t get my mind off grilling.  I love to grill all sorts of foods, but eating some slow-cooked BBQ ribs on the deck sounds pretty nice.

Kendall’s Journey: A Year and A Day by Christine Speck

Posted On: 03/26/2013

Kendall’s Journey: A Year and A Day

By Christine Speck

After eighteen weeks, fourteen expansions and 155 ml of saline, Kendall’s medical marathon with tissue expansion was coming to an end. Getting ready for her second surgery meant preparing for change, once again.

As excited as we were about having her become nevus-free for the first time, I found myself being nervous about this very change that we had worked so hard to bring about.

It was change that turned my world upside down last fall. The realities of having a child who required medical attention and special care hit me full force, along with my own insecurities and apprehension of what this process would entail.

Our first meeting with Dr. Wood had been on February 10, 2012. And now, one year and one day later, February 11, 2013 became the final surgery date that would begin Kendall’s nevus-free future.

I realized that Kendall’s journey, unique like the journey of many other Gillette families, had little to do with tissue expansion and EVERYTHING to do with looking beyond ourselves and finding joy in the unexpected.

This new perspective, although difficult at first, has resulted in an amazing experience. It’s an unforgettable chapter in Kendall’s storybook of life—one that has inspired us and others to spread love and acceptance when the world tells us otherwise.

Happiness was no longer something that happened, but rather a choice made each day–through every struggle and triumph. When the journey seemed too much to handle, it became an opportunity to look back on the breathtaking view and see how far we had come.


I recognized the importance of focusing on the value of the individual and not letting differences define or misshape my views. And I realized that we all have all have special needs—some just more noticeable than others.

I began to understand the importance of parenting my children to instill values that encourage acceptance and love of those different from them—teaching them to treat others the way they would want to be treated.

And mostly, my heart filled with respect and compassion for other patients and families who faced medical circumstances FAR greater than ours. Their bravery and courage kept me motivated through some of the most challenging aspects of this procedure.

Looking back, there is nothing we would have done differently. We found peace knowing the decisions being made were in Kendall’s best interest and that she was receiving phenomenal care at Gillette. As a parent, there was no greater sense of relief.

When the morning of February 11th arrived, we made our way to Gillette for an early surgery. Kendall did great–she was walking the pre-op halls, saying hi to everyone and making people smile as she rocked her hospital gown in true baby girl fashion.

During the first hour, a stream of nurses and doctors came in to talk with us, including Dr. Wood.

As long as I had dreamed and waited for this day, I couldn’t believe that we were actually here and this was finally happening–it almost seemed surreal.

Our minister said a prayer over Kendall before anesthesiology took her back to the operating room.

Then we waited.

Over an hour went by before surgery was completed and Dr. Wood came in our room to speak with us. He told us that everything went well–that he was able to remove the entire nevus and all that was left was a U-shaped scar on her scalp. We were thrilled to hear that things went smoothly and relieved to know that Kendall was nevus-free for the first time in her life.

It wasn’t until she was moved to post-op that the nerves started getting to me. When the time came for us to be with her, I let my husband lead the way. I was literally shuffling my feet so slowly that the nurses were telling me it’s okay, she’s great, it’s okay, come on…

As we entered the post-op room, I put my hands over my mouth and started crying–but this time they were tears of pure JOY. Kendall was all bandaged up, but she looked amazing!

As one nurse handed her to my husband, the other nurse smiled and told me to sit down in the wheelchair–she told me this time I didn’t have to walk her up to the 4th floor.

This made me cry again.

I couldn’t believe the transformation. I felt that all the stress, all the weekly hospital visits and expansions, all the extra care and medical attention that she had required—everything led us to this exact moment in time.

It felt good.

When this process began, a year and a day ago, I was wallowing in self-pity, finding her circumstance to be unfortunate for all of us. But her journey turned into an incredible experience—transforming our entire family on multiple levels.

Kendall’s last surgery became less about marking the end of her medical marathon and more about celebrating a new beginning—going forward with a new perspective, a new attitude and confidence that has made us stronger and better for having accomplished it.

We’re looking forward to the journey ahead.

How does Gait Analysis work?

Posted On: 03/25/2013

Gillette’s Center for Gait and Motion Analysis (Gait Lab) in St. Paul, Minnesota uses state-of-the-art computer technology to evaluate and develop effective treatments for walking problems.

Conditions involving the muscles, joints, nerves and bones frequently cause difficulty with walking and movement. Because movement issues are complex – and because every patient’s needs are unique – our team of experts uses a collaborative approach that puts families at the center of the care team. Our team includes technicians, engineers, physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons who are experts in the study of human movement.

An evaluation in our Center for Gait and Motion Analysis captures movements, muscle activity and forces that the eye can’t see. Although some people have similar walking patterns, the way their muscles and joints work together can be very different. Motion analysis helps a patient’s care team accurately identify problems specific to each patient, and therefore, be able to make recommendations regarding the best treatments for those problems. Options may include braces, medication, physical therapy and/or surgery.

Meet Us Monday – Meet Claudia Carlisle, Customer Relations Aid

Posted On: 03/24/2013

  1. What are some of your hobbies outside work? Watching TV and playing games on my iPad.
  2. How long have you worked at Gillette? I have been at Gillette Lifetime for 8 years as a volunteer and 3 years as an employee.
  3. Do you have any kids or pets? I have a dog. Her name is Nicki.
  4. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be? If I could choose a superpower, I would choose to fly and to walk because then I could do anything I want to do and go anywhere I want to go.
  5. What is your favorite food? My favorite food is corn.
  6. If you could travel anywhere where would you go? I would go back to Aruba and go parasailing again.
  7. What is your favorite type of music? I like the oldies.
  8. What drew you to Gillette? I asked Dr. Gormley about the new Adult Clinic and told him I was interested in volunteering there. He sent me to the volunteer coordinator at Gillette and the rest is history.
  9. Do you have a favorite story/memory from Gillette? My favorite memory at Gillette would be my 50th Birthday. My co-workers bought me a cake and a gift card. It was a happy memory and they made me feel wonderful.
  10. What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette? I enjoy working at Gillette Lifetime because the people here make me feel like I belong to the society and we have a program  that helps patient’s with childhood onset disabilities.

Life After Traumatic Brain Injury: Ian’s Story

Posted On: 03/12/2013

At age seven, Ian Hoy was struck by a car while walking home with his brother. He sustained massive head injuries, spent three weeks in a coma at his local hospital and was transferred to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for inpatient rehabilitation. Doctors didn’t know if Ian would survive.

At Gillette, rehabilitation begins even before patients are fully conscious. “From the moment we arrived, they spoke to my son as though he could hear them,” said Robbi Hoy, Ian’s mom. “They smiled at me. They talked about the future. It was as though I had been in a dark room with no windows, and then Gillette turned on a light and opened a door.” Gillette’s optimistic approach made an impression on Robbi.

Ian underwent strength and flexibility exercises on his first day at Gillette. Eventually, his schedule included full days of intense therapy. Ian’s progress defied predictions that he needed six months of inpatient rehabilitation. Instead, he went home after only five weeks. Today at age 11, Ian continues to work on skills with therapists and teachers in his community.

Last year, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals named Ian their 2012 Minnesota Champion child. The program honors children like Ian who have triumphed despite severe medical challenges and brings attention to the work being done at Children’s Miracle Network-affiliated hospitals, like Gillette, across the nation. In September, Ian traveled to Orlando and Washington, D.C. with other child ambassadors to meet with congressional leaders and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals corporate partners.

Ian Hoy, Today

“Ian came to Gillette a fragile boy, and left a fighter,” Robbi says. “Gillette brought that out in him — in all of us. Now I have my son back!”


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