Following many years of service to her patients at North Big Horn Hospital Clinic, popular provider Mary Freund, FNP, GNP-BC will be moving on to take on the challenge of setting up a clinic that will take care of the health needs of migrant workers in the Big Horn Basin. Her tenure at NBHH will end in May.
Freund has proven in her career that she has no fear of trying something new or being on the front end of creating new and meaningful services that best serve all sectors of the public.
During her 20 years of service at Billings Clinic, she was the first nurse practitioner at the facility after earning her credentials in 1986. She also helped develop the geriatric and diabetes education programs at the clinic.
A nurse since 1967, she developed an interest in rural medicine that brought her to Big Horn County, where she has practiced medicine in clinics in the county for an additional 20-plus years.
At NBHH, she was instrumental in establishing the women’s health program and it has been a major focus in her practice for about 20 years. In fact, the practice has grown to the point that the clinic added another nurse practitioner (Shelby Frost) who in a short period of time has developed her own thriving practice geared for women, in addition to Freund’s practice. For this reason, the clinic will be replacing Freund with another provider specializing in women’s health issues.
In her new position at the Migrant Health Clinic, which will be located in Powell, Freund will serve the needs of migrants only. It will also be her responsibility to help set up the clinic. She said she has worked with many migrants as a volunteer at the former branch of the Heart Mountain Clinic in Powell and she enjoys working with that population.
The Powell branch of the Heart Mountain Clinic closed down in October. Prior to its closing, the federally funded clinic provided free services to very low income patients. Many of the patients served had incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level. Many were migrant workers in the area.
“When that clinic closed down, some of the people (volunteers) from there went to the migrant clinic,” said Freund. “They asked me if I would be interested in joining them (to set up the new migrant clinic) and I liked the idea. What they need is someone who can help start the clinic back up again. I think I’m a good person to do that.”
Though not fluent in Spanish, Freund is familiar with working with patients who have Spanish as their primary language. She has travelled to Spanish-speaking countries like Guyana, Panama and Honduras, where she also volunteered her medical services. Though she isn’t fluent in the language, she said she understands it fairly well and an interpreter will be provided at the clinic.
“I love my job and my patients (at NBHH); it’s very rewarding and I’ve been here at North Big Horn Hospital for so long,” she said. “The clinic is doing really well, adding new providers and expanding, which makes it very hard for me to leave.”
Freund, who will be 70 in July, said she thought about retiring but felt it wasn’t the right time yet.
“I feel like I have a lot more to give,” she said. “I still feel like I can be productive in my career. I’m not sure what I’ll do when it comes time for me to actually retire.”
By Patti Carpenter