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Dr. Tronnes and Dr. Sand


On this date in 1953, residents of Fargo prepared for the end of a medical era as two doctors who had established the Fargo clinic prepared to retire. Dr. Olaf Sand and Dr. Nils Tronnes, both of Norway, came together by chance. They both studied separately at Oslo University in Norway before travelling to the United States, brining their practice to the land of opportunity.

Dr. Tronnes arrived in Fargo in 1904 to assist Norwegian doctor Tonnes Thama. Dr. Thama soon after left for Benson County. Meanwhile, Dr. Sand was working in Pelican Rapids at that time. One day, Dr. Tronnes walked into Sand’s office and asked him to work with him in Fargo. Dr. Sand agreed, and arrived in 1905.

The Fargo Forum stated that they were a (quote) "unique medical team, brought together as if by fate to accomplish a particular mission. Dr. Tronnes was a natural surgeon, ever calm, cautious but courageous, delicate of touch, resourceful and physically strong. Dr. Sand was both surgeon and diagnostician, sensitive, somewhat more emotional than Dr. Tronnes, a cheerful, confidence-inspiring friend of his fellow man. ...The result was a medical-surgical team made to order for the Scandinavian migration which had turned the Red River Valley into a new Norway." (unquote)

The two men served as doctors for 47 years, performing in that time tens of thousands of surgical operations, and not just on the Scandinavians in the area. At Sand's suggestion, they, along with other local doctors, founded the Fargo Hospital in 1921.

They also enjoyed visiting other nearby medical centers – to the point that Dr. Sand said he considered himself almost an alumnus of the Mayo Clinic. Both men also went back to various spots in Europe to learn more, updating clinical and surgical practices.

They enjoyed many hobbies aside from caring for residents of the Fargo area. Dr. Sand fenced, boxed and wrestled. He was also very interested in history and the English language. Dr. Tronnes enjoyed billiards, going on walks, reviewing old surgery notes, and watching birds.

The two men added much to Fargo. They earned retirement in their nearly half-century of work. Similar in some ways, different in others, they were like-minded in their forward-thinking and in their care of the people in their community.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


Lewis Crawford's History of North Dakota, Volume II, p. 430-1, 449

The Fargo Forum, Sunday Morning, April 19, 1953