Photo by Jana Bounds

For the love of Big Sky practice social distancing and stay put


Writer’s note: It is safe to say I have an undeniable soft spot for Dr. Dunn. A few years ago, I had a bad case of influenza which led to pneumonia. My situation was a nearly textbook example of how a preexisting condition – in my case, asthma – can allow for a virus to wreak havoc and lead to complications. I was in rough shape, probably the roughest of my life – and I am pretty sure she saved my life.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank medical work- ers who are on the front lines for their efforts both before – and now during – this epidemic.

Dr. Maren Dunn, DO has deep roots in the community, having first experienced Big Sky when she had her residency in Pocatello, Idaho.

She has not been isolated to small town Americana, which perhaps increases her affection for Big Sky. In fact, she spent time in big cities on both coasts, including southern California and New York City before finding her mountain home.

She grew-up in idyllic suburbia Kansas City, where the kids of the neighborhood would gather and play outside and parents would take turns making lunch on snow days.

Her love for this community is obvious. She said that affection is linked to the people who make it a community and her appreciation of the natural world. The intersection of friendship and outdoor/athletic pursuits in Big Sky is something she really appreciates.

“There’s really no separation between your recreational life and your personal life, which is a really cool thing about small communities,” she said. “ I’m like everyone else –– outside all 12 months out of the year.”

Initially, she brought her practice to Big Sky because she noticed a gap in women’s health, pediatrics and family medicine.

“As a family physician diving into a community I already loved was an easy decision and the community itself supported me in more ways than I could have foreseen,” she said.

Dr. Dunn eventually sold her practice and joined Bozeman Health, which allowed her to grow the scope of her patient care.

She also became a mother.

“I thought residency took a lot of time. It is nothing com- pared to having a baby and raising a kid,” she said.

Becoming a mom changed her, she explained. On a personal level, she became even more integrated in the community.

There’s a large population of young families [in Big Sky], so I joined that community – and those families take care of each other,” she said. She is grateful for that support system.

Embracing parenthood and feeling that connection, love and responsibility for her child has generated deeper empathy and compassion in her patient care. Becoming a mom has made her a better person and better doctor, she explained.

Being both a parent and a physician during these unprecedented times gives her an interesting perspective.

“Just have compassion. It sucks for everybody,” she said. “We are all learning new things. We are all learning to cope. We are all learning to be teachers at home. We are all learning to pay attention to others. We are all learning what it’s like to stay home. Learn new things. Imagine this is like a Sunday in 1980 when everything is closed.”

Dr. Dunn’s advice to the community to address COVID-19:

Get sleep, eat healthy and stay in contact with the people that keep you connected to your world. Other than that, do social distancing – because it’s working.

Maintain a six foot distance between yourself and others, avoid non essential gatherings and limiting contact with people who are high risk. [These practices are] working – and we are not out of the woods yet.

Connect to people that don’t have others.
Make sure people that are high risk have what they need. Stay put. Heading to another community does not help you

and only increases your likelihood of exposure and potential spread of the virus to a whole other population. She noted that community practices during the influenza epidemic of 1918 – communities that isolated and did not allow others in had far fewer deaths.

Just have compassion.

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