FARGO - Dr. David Blehm, a well-known pediatrician at Sanford Hospital for 12 years and a Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota medical director, has reportedly taken his own life.
Fargo police received a call at 11:51 a.m. Monday of a suicide at Blehm's Rose Creek-area home, Lt. Joel Vettel confirmed Tuesday.
Vettel said he could not release the circumstances of Blehm's death. It is listed as an unattended death and was reported by a family member, he said.
There are no indications foul play was involved in Blehm's death, Vettel said. An autopsy is being conducted to verify the cause of death, he said.
The family declined to make a statement Tuesday when contacted by telephone.
News of the 59-year-old's death has left those in the community who knew him shocked and saddened.
"He was just a very good guy. He was my son's pediatrician," said Dr. Kurt Kooyer, an independent pediatrician with UrgentMED in Fargo.
"To many of us. Dr. Blehm was a dear friend and a trusted colleague. To many more of us, he was a beloved pediatrician, and I think the whole community mourns his passing," Kooyer said. "Our hearts and our sympathies go out to (his wife) Julie, his children, and his extended family."
WDAY radio announcer Erick Johnson said that in all the places his family has lived, his three sons got their best care with Blehm.
"I think this is a devastating loss for the community. He was a terrific man," Johnson said.
"Every time we were at the doctor's office, he was asking the kids how they were doing at school. I thought he really particularly connected with my oldest son, who is now 18," Johnson said, with Blehm suggesting books for Johnson's son to read. "I think he really was not just a doctor, but also promoted other things to help with kids' education and to make them more well-rounded."
Blehm was hired in May as a medical director in Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota's medical management division.
"The Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota family is shocked and saddened by the news of Dr. David M. Blehm's death," BCBS said in a statement.
"Dr. Blehm served our organization for a short time, but his contributions resonated within the entire company. His vast experience in the field of medicine, and in particular, pediatric care, has been invaluable. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends," BCBS said in the statement.
Blehm also maintained ties at Sanford Health and will be missed, said Dr. Bruce Pitts, the president of Sanford Clinic Fargo.
"The Sanford family has lost a valued colleague and friend with the death of Dr. David Blehm, a longtime Fargo pediatrician,"
Pitts said in a written statement.
"He was one of the finest pediatricians we've ever had. He will be greatly missed by patients, staff, and colleagues. David had a wonderful sense of humor and an astute clinical mind. He was an avid reader and many patients left his office with a recommended reading list," Pitts said. "Our sincere condolences go out to his family."
Blehm earned his medical degree from the University of North Dakota in 1981 and completed a pediatric residency at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1984.
He met Julie Bjerke in medical school and they married in Hatton, N.D., on June 15, 1979. They have two children; a son, Ben, and daughter, Amy.
Before moving to Fargo in 1999, Blehm and his wife had practiced at the Medical Arts Clinic in Minot, N.D. He then joined Sanford Health.
Blehm was born Nov. 20, 1951, in Mason City, Iowa, to Milton and Irene (Reimann) Blehm. He grew up in Denver and Fort Collins, Colo.
The family moved to Bismarck in 1965, and he graduated from Bismarck High School in 1969. He attended UND, graduating in 1973, then ran asphalt plants in Montana and Wyoming until 1977, when he started medical school at UND.
Julie Blehm is an internist and geriatrics specialist at Sanford Health and is clinical director of the University of North Dakota internal medicine residency outpatient clinic in Fargo. She has also served on the BCBS board of directors.
A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Friday at Atonement Lutheran Church, Fargo.
Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, with a prayer service at 7 p.m., at Atonement.
Memorials are preferred to the Sanford Children's Miracle Network, North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks or Special Olympics of North Dakota Area 6.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home in Fargo.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583