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Local Surgeon Transitions From Private Practice

Hospital news | Friday, January 1, 2016

Dr. Don Damschen Joins CFVH as a Contract Employee at New Year

He is definitely not a new face to the facility after 19 years of running his Wildhorse General Surgery practice from Clark Fork Valley Hospital (CFVH), but Dr. Don Damschen is new to our payroll as of the first of the year.

His interest in medicine developed early in childhood with practicing first aid in Boy Scouts and doing an Eagle Scout service project that helped organize a community CPR class. Damschen, a native of Sanders County, continued to nurture his interest in high school where he spent one period a day through his senior year working at CFVH in the acute care, surgery and long term care settings. He also volunteered with the local Ambulance service to learn everything he could about medicine and give back to his local community.

Damschen began his medical education by first attending the MSU Nursing Program, but his love for anatomy, and success in his courses, encouraged him to switch to pre-Med after his first year.

"I have always been hands-on and a spatial thinker so all of the medical fields I considered were interventional. I also knew I wanted to practice in a rural setting so the specialty that fit me best was General Surgery," said Damschen.

He went on to graduate from the University of Nevada of Medicine and complete an internship and residency program in LaCrosse, Wisconsin at Gunderson Clinic/Lutheran Hospital.

"I was fortunate to find CFVH still had an opening as I came to the end of my residency in 1996 so I did not look much further. Looking back now, working at a rural facility has offered me a much broader spectrum of practice without turf wars with other specialists. I also have had the chance to practice in the area I was specifically trained in," said Damschen.

In 2011, after 15 years in the field working as the only General Surgeon at the facility, Damschen felt the need to develop relationships with colleagues in his specialty so he began working at St. Patrick Hospital a few days a week in addition to providing surgical care services at CFVH.

"This move has provided me a much higher level of acuity of patients and allowed me to maintain my skills and enhance my comfort level in major trauma situations."

Damschen says his biggest reward working in surgery has been his ability to make an immediate difference in his patients' lives.

"There have been several surgical cases I have been involved in here at CFVH where patients have presented with immediate life threatening conditions or injuries with no realistic possibility of transferring those patients safely. Our surgical team pulled together all the resources we could to literally save lives. That is why I do what I do."

The beginning of this year marked a major change in his career as Damschen transitioned from his own Wildhorse General Surgery Practice and a consulting physician for CFVH to being a hospital employee.

"I decided to move to an employment/contract model from a private practice business structure because it allows for more benefits and fewer hassles," explained Damschen.

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