If someone had asked Dr. Nicholas Mouw what he wanted to do growing up, surgeon would not have been on his list.
Mouw, however, is excited now to be the new general surgeon at Sioux Center Health.
In his youth, Mouw’s grandfather planted the thought of being a doctor in his mind, and it was something he could never quite shake.
Mouw, a Sioux Center native, attended Sioux Center Christian School and then graduated from Unity Christian High School in Orange City in 1997. He is the son of Jim and the late Thea Mouw of Sioux Center. He started his undergraduate work at Iowa State University but did his final year at University of South Dakota, moving closer to home to be close to his eventual wife, Emily, who lived and worked in Sioux Center.
“I worked for my dad for quite awhile,” Mouw said of his dad’s excavation and construction business Jim’s Digging in Sioux Center. “After a year of undergraduate work, I didn’t have any good direction. My original intent was some kind of engineering because I’d been involved in construction with my dad. But I gave up on that and didn’t really know what was next.”
He kept thinking about the wishes of his grandfather, Andy Van Dyk of Orange City, who wanted to have a physician in the family.
“It was his dream and it was something that was in the back of my mind,” Mouw said. “I suppressed it for quite a while.”
He also did some traveling, spending a year in United Kingdom and New Zealand. In the U.K. he worked in a store selling outdoor equipment and in New Zealand he picked apples on a tree farm and on a sheep farm.
During his time away from school, he also spent time with a group of friends from Sioux County.
“One night we were all at one of my friend’s house and his parents, who had known me for a long time, said to me ‘Why are you here? You should be at medical school,” Mouw recalled. “My mom, probably because of my grandfather’s wishes, also had pushed me in that direction. I think some of those thoughts got to me.”
The prodding led him to do some soul searching about the future.
“I did some more thinking about becoming a physician while I was overseas,” he said. “When I came back, I re-enrolled at Iowa State. I realized that I could do quite well at school. That’s when I started to hone in on medicine and working on a path toward medical school.”
When he applied for the Medical College Admission Test, which is needed to apply for medical school, Mouw had a strong score.
“That made my next step def initive,” Mouw said. “I knew that was the direction I was going to go.”
He was accepted for medical school at the University of Colorado, but took another year off studies first because his nontraditional path left him without any state that would offer in-state tuition for medical school.
“At that time, Colorado said that if you lived there a year, you could establish residency and would have in-state tuition,” Mouw said. “Emily and I had just gotten married so we moved to Colorado.”
A year later, he started medical school.
“During the third year of medical school, you start doing some rotations,” Mouw said. “I enjoyed doing the surgery work even though it’s considered one of the harder specialties for families. Our oldest son was born during that third year, and at first I had concerns about the life style, but, I think due to my construction background, I enjoyed the work. It seemed to be a good fit for me.”
Mouw did five years of residency at Southern Illinois University in Springfield, Ill.
The steps back to Sioux Center fell into place as well.
His dad served on a county medical board along with Sioux Center Health CEO Kayleen Lee as Nick was finishing up in medical school and preparing for his residency.
“At a meeting [Lee] was talking about the need for general surgeons here in northwest Iowa,” Mouw said. “My dad told her that I was training to be a general surgeon. At one point, Kayleen called me up and talked to me. Over time, we began talking about that possibility. I actually signed the contract to come here four years ago.”
It helped assure Mouw as he was finishing medical school and going through residency that he knew of the possibility back in northwest Iowa.
“Probably because I was a nontraditional student, I worried about that next step more than some of my peers,” he said. “Emily is originally from a small town [Sutton, Neb.] so we’d talked about wanting to someday end up in a smaller community. The fit seemed to be good.”
Many times surgeons don’t end up in smaller communities even if it’s where they grew up.
“Medical schools are usually in larger cities and the same is true for residency,” Mouw said. “You spend four years in medical school and then in my case five years in residency so you get away from the small town. The majority of people pick their next location based on residency and medical school. More than 90 percent end up where they trained. I’ve always considered Sioux Center my home.”
Mouw completed his residency in June and has been working on the national board certification, which includes a written and oral components.
The family moved to Sioux Center three weeks ago. Last week included orientation at Sioux Center Health. The doctors in general surgery, Dr. Mark Stelzer, Dr. Shahid Naqvi and Dr. Jian-Zhe Cao, serve in Sioux Center and Le Mars.
“Everyone has been excited to see me,” Mouw said. “I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Education: Bachelors Degree: University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD (2005)
Medical Degree: University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO (2011)
Family: Wife Emily and Children Austin 6, Chase 4 and Jane 2
Hobbies: Pleasant hunting, fishing, reading, and running