November 24, 2015 | 10 a.m.
By Rachel Wilson ’15
When Bjorn Peterson ’02 decided to study computer science and mathematics at Bethel, he had every intention of becoming a web developer after graduation. However, after his dad lost a 3-year battle to colon cancer during his junior year, Peterson’s plans changed.
He took some time to reflect, review, and reevaluate his plans for the future. The result of such introspection revealed a strong desire to pursue a career in medicine. He completed his computer science major and math minor at Bethel, but went on to take his pre-med requirements at the University of Minnesota.
Today, Peterson is an emergency physician with HealthPartners, but his position is far from what many would consider to be typical of doctors today. “I have the unique opportunity to interact with people on the worst days of their lives. This can be challenging, but it puts me in a position to shine a light in their world,” says Peterson.
His work takes him all across the Twin Cities metro, but his primary hospital is Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, Minnesota, where he is the site medical director for the emergency room. At Lakeview, Peterson spends time in the ER and also works heavily on various administrative duties.
Peterson also works several shifts a month at Regions Hospital. At Regions, he’s assistant medical director for their emergency medical services (EMS) department, where he provides medical education for ambulance agencies and fire departments in the East Metro Twin Cities and Western Wisconsin.
For this role, Peterson trades in the well-stocked, well-lit, clean conditions of a hospital for accidents that require a physician on site. He has responded to hazardous material incidents, large structure fires, technical rescue situations, and accidents with multiple patients. He also responds to regular emergency calls to ensure quality assurance and medical oversight as needed. Peterson expects his teams to be able to handle an emergency situation without his presence, but together, Peterson, the paramedics, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are working toward the Regions EMS tagline: “critical care begins in the street.”
According to Peterson, he looks forward to the variety his job provides, and he sees his role in medicine as a form of outreach. In those high-pressure moments in the emergency room or on the street, Peterson gets to interact with people and impact them on a personal level.
“Regardless of background, culture or life choices, everyone is a vulnerable human being when I encounter them,” Peterson says. “I often find that I learn from and am inspired by my patients and their families with how they face difficult situations. I may not be blatantly preaching the Gospel every day, but I hope that I can be salt and light to the people I encounter.”
Peterson resides in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their sons, J.C., 6, and Spencer, 4.