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Boreal Community Media

Meet Liv Thompson: Sawtooth Mountain Clinic's New Outreach Coordinator for Cook County

Apr 04, 2023 08:54AM ● By Content Editor
Photo provided: Liv Thompson became SMC’s outreach coordinator in March

By Local Writer Nancy Giguere - Boreal Community Media - April 4, 2023

By the time she was a senior in high school, Liv Thompson knew she wanted a career in healthcare. Her focus was becoming a physician’s assistant, which led her to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It was there that she majored in dietetics as preparation for a post-graduate training program. After graduating in 2014, she joined the Peace Corps, and that experience changed her career trajectory. 

Education as prevention

Thompson spent two years in the Dominican Republic working as a community health educator. The job included working with a network of trained health promoters who went from house to house to educate residents about health topics such as the importance of vaccinations and eating for diabetes prevention.

In addition, she oversaw the creation of a sexual health education course in the local high school. Students learned about topics such as family planning, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and basic reproductive health.

“In the Dominican Republic, I realized the importance of health education as a tactic to prevent illness,” she said. “Not everyone is familiar with the symptoms of chronic conditions or what resources are available. And not everyone knows how to make healthier lifestyle choices.”

Back on the North Shore

After finishing her service in the Peace Corps, Thompson returned to Grand Marais where her family lived in the summer. Her father, Jim Thompson, was in the process of closing The Shirt Outfitters, a seasonal retail store and screen printing business known for producing the official Fisherman’s Picnic shirt. “I wanted to spend one last summer at the shop,” she said. 

Though Thompson had planned to move to the East Coast, she ultimately decided to stay in Grand Marais. In June 2018, she joined the staff of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic as a patient access representative. She worked at the front desk, answered the phone, and generally interacted with patients.

In the fall of 2020, she became SMC’s COVID-19 patient educator. Throughout the pandemic, she answered general questions about COVID, set up asymptomatic testing, and worked with Cook County Public Health and Human Services. 

In early March, Thompson stepped into the role of outreach coordinator, replacing Hartley Newell-Acero, who will work independently as a health and wellness coach. 

Beyond COVID

As outreach coordinator, Thompson will connect county residents to available clinic and community services. One important focus will be a new community initiative for opioid-focused prevention, treatment, and recovery services. The initiative is supported by a $1,000,000 grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration, awarded to the University of Minnesota, in partnership with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, and Cook County Public Health and Human Services. 

“For someone addicted to opioids, the journey to recovery is a long process, and our goal is to make it as safe as possible,” Thompson said.

She will also assist with SMC’s existing outreach programs, such as the Oral Health Task Force, as well as programs put on pause during the pandemic including blood pressure checks and blood sugar screening. In addition, she will work on social media and website updates, and help identify new areas for outreach. 

With the waning of the pandemic comes an opportunity to reassess the community’s health outreach needs. “For three years, the clinic, the hospital, public health and the community as a whole were just keeping their heads above water,” Thompson said. “But now we have a chance to look at the overall situation.” 

About Nancy 

Nancy is a retired freelance writer who moved to Grand Marais in 2021.  Before "officially retiring" in 2012, she had 20 years of experience writing for various units of the University of Minnesota, the marketing publications of the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Department of Education and other organizations. 

Since retiring, she has volunteered as a writer/editor for WaterLegacy, a nonprofit working to counter the threat of sulfide mining proposed for Northern Minnesota. She helps draft and edit grant applications, email blasts, web site content and other materials.

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