Our Story

With Lake Superior on one side, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Canada to the far north, there is nothing common about Cook County’s landscape or the people who inhabit it. For many decades, the health care needs of this unique community were met by tireless, dedicated solo practice doctors. Receiving payment in the form of chickens or wild rice was not uncommon. Waking in the middle of the night to drive 40 miles for a house visit was the norm. And though this model of care was successful, it was not sustainable.

In 1979, after 13 years of rewarding but tiring solo practice, Dr. Roger MacDonald joined together with Drs. David Hilfiker, Bill Gallea, and Barbara Banks to brainstorm a better way to do health care in Cook County. These physicians wanted a care model that emphasized quality, compassionate health care for all, offered a wide variety of services, and could withstand the ebbs and flows of this county’s population. What they were envisioning was a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and in June of 1979, after receiving their first of many federal grants, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic was established.

Even though Cook County is an isolated community, residents and visitors to the area have access to high-quality, comprehensive services. By partnering with various agencies and organizations, our clinic is able to offer our patients dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, X-ray, and lab services.

Over the years, SMC has grown to include six full-time physicians and one nurse practitioner. Along with a competent staff of nurses, behavioral health practitioners, medical record and office personnel, and administrative staff, these seven providers care for patients with health care needs ranging from prenatal to palliative. Supplemented by a robust Outreach and Community Health Program, the clinic also offers services such as blood pressure screenings, foot care and flu shot clinics, childbirth education, and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program.

After almost 40 years of service to the people of Cook County, SMC remains dedicated to the continuation of personal, compassionate, high-quality health care for all.