During Dr. Randall Flick’s tenure at Minnesota State University Moorhead, few would’ve considered his academic achievements outstanding.
In fact, after a couple of years of less than stellar grades, the academic dean suggested Flick take time off and reconsider his options. Prompted by a friend’s recommendation, he decided to enroll in nursing school.
There Flick quickly learned two things: 1. He didn’t want to be a nurse. 2. He loved medicine.
“Somebody once told me to find something that makes your heart beat fast, to find something not just for yourself, but because you think it’s a good thing that you want to be part of,” he says. “For me, that was medicine. For me, that was taking care of children.”
Flick is the recipient of a 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes alumni who are at the peak of their professional careers and who have made significant contributions to their professional fields and communities.
He is the medical director of Mayo Clinic Children’s Center and serves on the committee that oversees all of Mayo’s pediatric activity across the Midwest. He is also recognized as an international expert in the field of pediatric anesthesiology.
Flick defines his story as one of trial and error.
Once he decided he wanted to become a doctor, Flick returned to MSUM and began retaking classes to improve his GPA for medical school. To pay for the classes, he worked fulltime on the night shift at Hornbacher’s grocery store.
Encouragement from his now wife and mentors like Dr. Phyllis Harber, a faculty member in the biology department, kept him afloat.
“She was one of those extraordinarily kind, nurturing, supportive people,” he says of Harber. “She saw something in me and helped me develop a habit of success.”
During his second tenure at MSUM, Flick acquired a sense of what was possible. He eventually was accepted into medical school and graduated at the top of his class. He completed two residencies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri: one on pediatrics and another in anesthesiology. He then completed a fellowship at Johns Hopkins that included earning a master’s in public health.
“I loved everything I did in medical school,” he says. “It was work, but it was work I enjoyed immensely.”
Flick joined the Mayo Clinic and began taking care of patients, some of whom represented the most complicated cases in the country. He worked on separation surgeries for conjoined twins and was part of a team that resuscitated a frozen toddler from Wisconsin.
One of his patients was a young woman from Bismarck whose lungs had been ravaged by pneumonia. Flick was part of the team that put her on a heart-lung machine for a year while she waited for a lung transplant. She’s now a nurse in the Mayo ICU where she was once a patient.
“Those are the stories that keep you at it,” Flick says.
Over time, Flick transitioned his career from patient care to healthcare leadership. He saw it as an opportunity to do something for more kids, to improve the practice of pediatrics. He also continues to research the effects of anesthetic expose on the developing brain.
Flick and his wife, Loree, have three grown sons who are all married. They also enjoy their young grandson and granddaughter.
And, in the end, that matters more, Flick says.
“We can talk about success all we want, but having your kids want to come home and spend time with you …
I’m not sure there’s any success I could put on my CV that is greater than that,” he says.
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