BLOOMINGTON — Hand-eye coordination, vital to the work of any orthopedic surgeon, was honed by the future Dr. Larry Nord as he and his brothers operated bulldozers, backhoes, scrappers, cranes and trash compactors at the McLean County Landfill and as he worked summer jobs as a laborer and heavy equipment operator.
Dedication to patients, necessary to the success of any doctor, Nord learned from observing his father and older brothers.
Hard work, helpful to anyone, Nord and his siblings learned growing up on the family farm off Washington Street west of Bloomington.
Such is the foundation for growing up a Nord in McLean County. Your classroom is everywhere.
Three generations of Nords — soon to be four — have contributed to medical care in McLean County and beyond as doctors, nurses, therapists and other clinicians.
"They (the Nords) have had a huge impact on the community," said Dr. Brett Keller, an orthopedic surgeon in practice with Dr. Larry Nord in Bloomington for 13 years. "So many lives have been touched by the Nord family."
Dr. Larry Nord, a Bloomington-based orthopedic surgeon for 37 years, president of the McLean County Medical Society and longtime trustee with the Illinois State Medical Society, retired in December. Keller remains in practice.
But Nord retires knowing that the Nord family medical tradition in McLean County lives on.
"It will continue on," said a younger brother, Dr. Dan Nord, who remains in practice as an obstetrician/gynecologist in Bloomington, as does his brother, Dr. Harold Nord.
"Our generation grew up into it because we saw the compassionate care provided by our dad (Dr. Stanley Nord)," Dan Nord said. "It was how we were raised and it was how we raised our children."
Larry Nord was among nine children of Dr. Stanley and Sudie Nord. Stanley Nord, the first Nord to attend college, was a family physician from 1949 until he retired in 2000. He died in 2004.
"We were raised on the farm west of Bloomington," Larry Nord recalled. "We raised cattle and horses and corn and beans." All nine children learned to help with the livestock, planting and harvest.
"We learned that you've got to finish the job," Nord recalled. "You've got to persevere. You've got to milk the cows in the morning and at night."
The Nords also owned the McLean County Landfill until 2005 and the Nord brothers learned to operate equipment working at the landfill.
When Nord got older, he worked summers as a laborer and heavy equipment operator.
"I developed good hand-eye coordination," he said.
"Mom and Dad always had something for us to do," Nord recalled. "But, most importantly, we were a family and we were each other's best friends."
"We always had a mentor," said older brother, Dr. Paul Nord, who retired from family practice and occupational medicine in 2014 after 35 years. "There was always someone to look up to."
Growing up, the Nords observed their father in his work.
"We admired our father and the way he helped people and the joy he got from seeing people get better," Larry Nord said.
"One of the biggest things we learned was to have empathy and compassion and respect for people, no matter what their situation," Paul Nord said.
Six of the nine Nord children went into health care: Ron became a veterinarian, Paul became a family practice physician, Larry an orthopedic surgeon, Dan and Harold became obstetrician/gynecologists, and Carolyn became a nurse in St. Charles, Mo.
John and David work in the construction trades and Doug owns Nord Outdoor Power, Larry Nord said.
"Dad said 'Don't worry about money. Just do the best job you can. Provide the finest quality service you can and you'll have more patients than you can handle,'" Larry Nord recalled.
Nord's interest in health care led him to medical school and his excellent hand-eye coordination led him to become an orthopedic surgeon, beginning his practice in Bloomington in 1980.
He did general orthopedics, which included spine surgery for the first 25 years of his practice. Common surgeries included knee arthroscopy, total knee replacement, total hip replacement, shoulder surgery, hand surgery and hip and wrist fracture treatments.
He was the first orthopedic surgeon in McLean County to perform ceramic-on-ceramic hip replacement surgery in 2003. Ceramic joints are expected to last a lifetime so the artificial ceramic hip opened hip replacement surgery to younger patients who otherwise would have held off on surgery.
Nord developed a reputation for safety.
"The complication rate (meaning patients who must be readmitted within 30 days) for joint replacement surgeries is 3 percent," Nord said. "Mine is less than 1 percent and it was 0 percent in the last decade."
"I always strive for perfection in everything I do, knowing I can't achieve it," Nord said. "But then I'll achieve excellence. I think that's a good goal for everyone in life."
"Dr. Nord was a good mentor to me when I started my practice and he was a very good, well-respected general orthopedic surgeon in the community," Keller said.
The biggest change that Nord experienced in health care over the years was the move to minimally invasive, outpatient surgery.
"In the past following surgery, you could be in the hospital for a week," Nord said. With more minimally invasive procedures and better pain control, 80 percent of orthopedic surgery today is outpatient.
In addition to getting patients home quicker, it keeps costs down.
"That's good," Nord said. "We as physicians need to provide the highest quality medical care but we need to do our part to keep costs down as well."
Brenda Cyrulik, administrator of Eastland Medical Plaza Surgicenter, where Nord performed many of his outpatient surgeries on the campus of OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington, worked with Nord for 20 years as a nurse, member of the clinical operations committee and administrator.
"Dr. Nord is a tribute to his profession in every manner," Cyrulik said. "He never settled for the status quo and was always driven to be the best he could be, therefore assisting the center to be the best it could be."
Surgicenter staff described Nord as professional, consistent, solid, kind, compassionate and dependable, she said.
Along the way, Nord became involved in the McLean County Medical Society, where he is serving as president for the second time, and the Illinois State Medical Society, where he served as trustee from 2004 through 2013.
"If you want to change anything, you need to do it through the legislature," he said. "We tried to advocate for the patients."
"Health care is far better than it was in 1980," he said. "The life expectancy has gone up."
But Nord decided that, at age 69, it's time to spend more time with his wife Connie, their six children, their spouses and grandchildren.
Meanwhile, a third generation of Nords has been practicing medicine for several years and a fourth will begin soon when a granddaughter of Ron Nord begins a dentistry practice in Galesburg later this year.
"People need good role models," Larry Nord said. "Dad and Mom were good role models."