Dr. Dawn Mattern tries to keep people moving.
A Minot High School graduate, Mattern, the region's only physician specializing in family medicine and sports medicine and board certified in both specialties, graduated from North Dakota State University, where she was a four-year letter winner in basketball and track. She majored in university studies rather than chemistry or biology like most pre-med students do so that she could keep up with her sports careers. Her degree program was tailor-made to fulfill medical school requirements, Mattern explained, and that way she could still take classes she enjoyed.
Mattern received her medical degree from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and completed her residency at UND's northwest campus, the Center for Family Medicine in Minot, which is about when she fell in love with sports medicine. Then she completed her sports medicine fellowship at Ohio State University and was a team physician at the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center. Mattern will have 11 years of medical practice this fall.
Jill Hambek/MDN • Dr. Dawn Mattern, the region’s only physician specializing in family medicine and sports medicine, has her office decorated with sports memorabilia. She sees patients with all sorts of injuries from physical activities, but isn’t a doctor who will tell someone not to participate in his/her favorite sport. She’ll find a way for the person to keep moving and doing what they love, she said.
In Mattern's office, she sees patients ranging in age from one year to 91 years old, since she does family practice, but she said a majority of her patients are high school athletes and fall in the 12 to 18 age range. Mattern also serves as team physician for Minot State University and area high schools, as well as works with professional rodeo and the Justin Sports Medicine team.
As a kid, Mattern said, she always read all of the doctor books from the library.
"I don't remember wanting to be anything else and it seemed like a good profession," she remarked.
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For a short time, Mattern thought of being a coach, but one of her coaches discouraged her from it, so she continued in medical school instead.
"I think the perfect profession finds you and something clicks and you realize that's what I'm supposed to do," she said.
Mattern sees patients with all sorts of injuries from physical activities. Mostly, it's a mix of broken bones, pulled muscles and a lot of concussions, Mattern said, but it's never the same day two days in a row. She also goes to sporting events for Minot State University and all high schools within a 20-mile radius, and she tries to be at the higher-injury sporting events like football or hockey. It helps kids build a relationship with her, she added, because most kids don't like going to the doctor.
"I like to make sure that kids see me as not one of 'those' doctors that tell them not to play if they're injured," she said. Kids have realized that she's there and will help, though, and that she won't tell them to not play.
Keeping people moving is Mattern's main goal.
"I find great satisfaction in helping a kid recover and get back into playing," Mattern said.
Another favorite part about her job is getting a couch potato moving, she added.
It's rewarding to watch kids play and be successful in their sports, Mattern said. It's also rewarding, she added, for a patient who becomes active and comes back and says that they don't have to take their blood pressure medicine anymore.
The most difficult part of the job for Mattern, though, is saying no when someone can't participate in a sport due to an injury, like a high school senior who wants to play in a state championship game and can't.
Two areas of special interest for Mattern are concussion and exercise as a healthy lifestyle. She said concussion has been a bit of her soapbox because she sees them happen at football and hockey games. Being able to educate people about concussion fills a great void, Mattern said, and the area has changed in the past 10 years. This has been a year for concussion, Mattern noted, because there's more education about it.
Mattern's other area of special interest is exercise. "Too often people depend on a pill to fix something when we can get moving to get better," she explained. Exercise is a better way to treat a problem than by taking pills, she added.
A goal that Mattern has for Trinity Health is to recognize exercise as a sixth vital sign. Minutes of exercise each week becomes a vital sign that is recorded just like the other five vital signs, she explained. The exercise fact would then be entered into Trinity's medical electronic records, Mattern added.
Minot is home for Mattern and her family is here, so she has no plans to move. She's very loyal to family and home, she said, and she feels the best being here. Mattern does, however, want Trinity Health to be known in the region and state as a leader in sports medicine.
"In five years, I want us to look at (the sports medicine program) and say we're doing good," she noted. "And we're well on the way to becoming that."
One piece of advice Mattern would give to help people live a healthier life is to keep moving and exercise for 30 minutes each day.
"Exercise is medicine. Exercise impacts every aspect of life," she said.