Heart to heart
Cardiologist Wally Radtke explains why he and his spouse established a scholarship endowment in honor of another pair of cardiologists.
“I was fortunate to be involved in their recruitment,” recalled Wallace “Wally” Radtke, referencing UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences Dean and recent UND Interim President, Dr. Joshua Wynne and his spouse, Dr. Susan Farkas.
Over 15 years ago, Wally and his wife JoAnne played a role in convincing the latter pair of cardiologists to move from Detroit, Mich., to the Red River Valley. “What impressed us both, as we got to know them and became colleagues and friends, was that although they came from big cities—New York, Budapest—and they didn’t know much about North Dakota, they adopted the state as their own and began contributing to the state in so many different ways.”
A cardiologist himself, who retired in 2013 after 37 years of cardiology practice in Fargo, Wally recognized Wynne’s and Farkas’s sincerity and willingness to work hard immediately.
“They became great colleagues, and Josh, supported by Susan, committed to make the North Dakota medical school one of the finest in the nation,” Wally added. “In addition, he was instrumental in the creation of the beautiful new med school building, supported the development of a new curriculum, and increased class sizes to better serve North Dakota.”
As a commendation of sorts for this success, Wally and JoAnne last year established the Drs. Susan Farkas and Joshua Wynne Scholarship Endowment, which provides scholarships to medical students from North Dakota who are interested in practicing in North Dakota.
“It really impressed us as North Dakota natives how valuable [Wynne and Farkas] have been to our medical school and our state and that’s why we created the endowment,” continued Wally. “It was an idea that came to us jointly as we contemplated a gift to the medical school.”
Such a move by the Radtkes—establishing a major scholarship endowment in someone else’s (not even family) name—is classic North Dakota.
Wally is a Hurdsfield, N.D., native and JoAnne is from Zahl (north of Williston, N.D.). They met at the former Minot State College where Wally graduated with B.S. in Education and JoAnne graduated from the Trinity School of Nursing.
For a few years after graduation, Wally taught mathematics and German at Williston High School and JoAnne was a registered nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Williston.
“At that time, I was looking to advance my education and I explored a number of options, which included the possibility of medical school,” Wally explained. “I interviewed with the then-Assistant Dean of the Medical School, Dean Arneson. He had previously had a part of his larynx removed and held a microphone to his throat to speak. He was very encouraging and helped me set up three semesters of premed courses at UND which were required before I could apply to med school. I did get it all done and was accepted into med school.”
After graduating with a BS Med degree in 1968, Wally transferred to the University of Nebraska where he earned his M.D. and did an internship prior to moving to Rochester, Minn., where he completed his internal medicine residency and fellowship in cardiology.
“Both of us had a desire to return to North Dakota, so after looking around, I accepted a position at the Fargo Clinic in 1976 and the rest is history,” he said.
Since retiring in 2013, Wally and JoAnne have kept busy with hobbies and travel. Wally does volunteer work at a clinic for the uninsured in downtown Phoenix, Ariz., where the Radtkes spend the winter months. They have also participated in the School’s Adopt-a-Med Student Program which provides first-year medical students with a stethoscope for use during their education.
What always impressed Wally is how tight-knit the North Dakota medicine family can be.
“[As a child] our closest physician was in Harvey [N.D.], and our family physicians were Drs. P.A. Boyum and his son, Lowell Boyum,” Wally recalled. “Prior to going to med school, I visited with Lowell Boyum who encouraged me to become a physician. His son, Peter Boyum, was one of my UND med school classmates. Another family physician who practiced in Harvey was Dr. Bohdan Hordinsky who cared for my father. His children also attended UND’s med school.”
It’s these types of connections, these stories, Wally said, that convinced him and JoAnne to support students from North Dakota who have an interest in practicing in our state.
Collecting his thoughts, Wally concluded that whether one is teaching high school, practicing medicine, volunteering, or providing young students with financial support, there is always great satisfaction in serving others.
“Teaching in a sense is similar to medicine, in that to be successful you have to relate to people,” he said. “The more you can become acquainted with people and their backgrounds and develop friendships with them, the more successful I think you are in any field.”