FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — It's been an emotional 48 hours for Dr. Jeff Horak.
"I didn't operate yesterday, I can't remember being in this community on a Thursday and not operating," he said Friday.
A 40-year medical career — including the last 16 as a surgeon in Fergus Falls — came to an abrupt halt.
"I was in good standing at the hospital the day I went to the school board meeting, and I was in good standing all the way through until nine later when I was served notice by the president of our board."
Horak, who was employed by Lake Region Medical Group who contracts with the hospital, said he was told his views were no longer congruent with the hospital. He said it was never clarified what those views were, but a week earlier Dr. Horak told the Fergus Falls school board masks in school should be a parent's choice.
He says his other colleagues gave "excellent" medical advice that night too. Horak said it was only the second time he attended a school board meeting and it was at the request of parents.
"Everybody has an opinion. I voiced my opinion — which is kind of, I guess, my right," Horak said. "There is an amendment to the Constitution that says that," he said.
The surgeon also said faith took him there.
"I didn't know what I had actually said until I watched the video, so no, I wouldn't do it differently," he said. "I would have done a lot of other things in the past differently, but those things have all brought me to this point." he said.
News of the firing has created an uproar in the community, with the hashtag "I stand with Dr. Horak" gaining traction on social media.
"Twitter or twiddle, or something, but I have a hashtag. It looks like a pound sign to me," he said with a laugh.
The love and support has brought the doctor to tears.
"(I) thank the the people who have trusted me, who have listened to me, who have guided me, and showed up. You won't find a better place to live," he said with his eyes brimming.
A rally in support of Dr. Horak will be held in the park across the street from the hospital in Fergus Falls from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday.
Dr. Scott Jensen, a Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota, is expected to speak in support of Dr. Horak at the rally.