As a new physician in a new town, Erik Bostrom, M.D., was looking for a way to build his maternity care practice and, in turn, his pediatric panel. When a colleague suggested giving personalized baby blankets to the children he delivered, Bostrom was intrigued.
"I knew how to sew people," he said, "but I didn't know how to sew fabric."
Bostrom borrowed a sewing machine, got a few pointers from his mother and sister-in-law and learned a new kind of stitching. Initially, a friend added newborns' names, birthdates, heights and weights to his creations. Bostrom later bought a used sewing-and-embroidery machine and taught himself to add those vital finishing touches.
When Bostrom, an avid outdoorsman who cuts and maintains trails on his 46-acre property, later upgraded to a better machine, he chose a Husqvarna model, in part because it was the same brand as his chainsaw.
As a family physician in Aitkin, Minn. -- population 2,100 -- Bostrom said he delivers one or two babies a month in his community's 25-bed critical-access hospital. The blankets take him three to five hours to complete.
"Moms are really happy, and people seem really appreciative," he said. "A couple of moms have teared up on me."
A nurse who took note of the gifts told a reporter at the local newspaper, and that initial story led to a bigger article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which led to attention from national and international news outlets.
"I just talked to People magazine," Bostrom said. "It's kind of crazy. I never wanted all this attention. I was just trying to do something nice for my patients, and it kind of spiraled from there. But if I can inspire people to do something nice for others, or if I can promote family physicians doing OB or rural primary care, then it's worth it."
Bostrom is an employee of the local health care system and splits his time between its hospital, emergency room, clinic and satellite clinics. He said that after completing his training at the University of Minnesota/St. Cloud Hospital Family Medicine Residency, being able to provide maternity care was a "make-or-break" factor in deciding where he would practice.
"So much of medicine is dealing with people who are sick, dying and experiencing hardship," he said. "It's refreshing to be there when there is happiness and excitement about a new life entering the world."
Bostrom, who grew up about an hour away from Aitkin in Mora, said he also knew he wanted to practice in a small town.
"I don't care for big-city life," he said. "It's fun to be in small town. You constantly run into people you know. It's good to have that level of connection with people."