Growing pains in N.D.

Matthew D. Layman, St. Paul, Minn.

I had the pleasure of practicing as a physician for 11 years in Bismarck. North Dakota is a beautiful state with much to offer. Currently, I work as an anesthesiologist in St. Paul, Minn. I recently took care of a young man severely burned in a shack in Williston. As we talked, he described his job building apartments to rent at $2,400 per month, while he lived in a shack for $1,600 per month. He described the difficult living conditions, the high rent rates, as well as the crime and drug use. When we ended our conversation, he described Williston as “the town that meth built.”

Unfortunately, his story is not uncommon. While we see the severe burns we also see the devastation these cases cause the patients and their families. What I find even more disheartening, however, is hearing about squalid living conditions, violent crimes, a police department stretched thin and hospitals overwhelmed with patients in what used to be an idyllic, small prairie town.

I am certainly supportive of economic growth in North Dakota, and I understand the potential benefits of that growth. What these types of cases show, however, is that growth without a balance of social or humanistic input may have devastating consequences.

I will always cherish my time in North Dakota and the people I met. While this letter is mainly cathartic, I hope I may contribute in some small way to help North Dakota grow in a safe and socially responsible way.