The Prairie Doc

Kindness is the best medicine


My name is Joanie Holm. I am a certified nurse practitioner in Brookings, S.D., and I am fortunate to have been the life partner of the original Prairie Doc®, Richard P. Holm, M.D. Rick and I were married for 40 years before his passing in March of 2020.

During those wonderful decades together, if I could point to one powerful action that strengthened our relationship with each other, with our family, our community and with our patients, it would be the act of kindness.

Thankfully, Rick was alive to see the recognition and formalization of kindness as an essential element of medical education. Medical schools across the country have started to offer courses on compassion and caring. One of the first to do so was the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.

Dr. Mary Nettleman, Dean of the USD medical school, explained why the school embraced kindness as part of its core curriculum.

“People want a physician who is not only competent, but also kind, so we will work to elevate this value throughout the school,” she said. “By approaching this intentionally, we hope that students will learn how important kindness is in medicine and how they can incorporate it into their everyday practice. A culture of kindness can make us exceptional.”

I celebrate this awareness and elevation of kindness in medical education, and I salute educators for enriching their medical students in this way. Since Rick’s death, I have received many wonderful notes of condolence that have been very meaningful to me and my family. With permission from the author of one such letter, I share the following message which further illustrates kindness.

Dear Mrs. Holm,
I’m one of the people who knew your husband through his TV show, and I learned from him. I have cerebral palsy, and sometimes it’s hard for people to understand me. One day, my mom and I were having dinner in Sioux Falls, and you were seated close to us. When Dr. Holm walked by my table, I put my hand out, and he stopped and talked to me. I wanted to tell him that we were praying for him, and I will never forget how he made me feel. I have worked with many doctors, and he was one of the best!

My dear husband practiced kindness in all he did. Regardless of our profession, may we all embrace acts of kindness and stop to hold the outreached hand of a fellow human being.

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