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Mother and daughter to work together as nurse-doctor at Sanford clinic in DL

Peggy Maasjo, left, and her daughter Nicole Cox are now working together at Sanford Health in Detroit Lakes. PIPPI MAYFIELD/RECORD

Since she was 20 years old, Peggy Maasjo has been in the healthcare field, so it’s no surprise her daughter followed in her footsteps.

Next week, Maasjo and her daughter, Dr. Nicole Cox, will officially start work together at Sanford Health in Detroit Lakes.

Maasjo has been a nurse practitioner there for 12 years, and Cox will start her practice there July 22 as an internal medicine physician.

“Having another person is great. To have it be my daughter is even better,” Maasjo said.

Maasjo started her career as a nurse and went back to school in 1999 to become a nurse practitioner. It’s because of her decision to go later in life that she encouraged her daughter to go to med school right away rather than waiting until years down the road.

And Cox took the advice.

“I’ve always been interested in science and anatomy, and I heard about a lot of experiences from her,” Cox said of her decision to go into medicine.

She added that she wanted to be a doctor “since as long as I can remember.”

Maasjo said she encouraged her daughter to go to medical school because, growing up on a North Dakota farm herself, she wasn’t even encouraged to go to college. The advice her mother gave her instead was to not quit her job.

And she didn’t.

Maasjo worked full-time, even while she was getting her degrees.

“It was a challenge,” she said.

She worked around the area, including Perham and Fergus Falls, where she started the cardiac rehab unit.

After getting her NP degree, she started the first nurse-based outreach VA hospital in Fergus Falls, and then moved to the Detroit Lakes clinic in 2001.

Her daughter grew up in Perham and attended Concordia College for her undergraduate and Des Moines University for her medical degree. She came back to the area for her residency, working at Sanford in Fargo in internal medicine.

“You do rotations in med school for more exposure,” she said of making a decision for her specialty. “I couldn’t make a decision.”

At first she leaned towards emergency room work, because of the variety of cases, but then she did some work with Dr. Stephen Nordmark at Sanford and found that was where she wanted to be instead.

While she was doing her residency in Fargo, she was hired by Sanford Health in Detroit Lakes. She knew three years in advance that she would be coming to work in Detroit Lakes when her residency was completed.

So instead of living in Fargo, she and her husband lived in Detroit Lakes the entire time and she commuted.

She said they have family in the area, her husband works for the Detroit Lakes School District and their child is in daycare in Detroit Lakes, so nothing has to change – just her job location.

Cox said that her official start date is July 22, though she won’t see any patients until Aug. 9. In the meantime, she’ll be studying to take her boards.

“Orientation and hitting the books,” she said.

Doctors have one year to take their boards after residency, but Cox said she is going to go ahead and test right away while everything is still fresh.

“It’s one less thing hanging over my head,” she said.

She said it’s also been nice to stay in the Sanford system so she knows many of the doctors she will be working with — and referring patients to.

Now that mother and daughter will be working closely in internal medicine, are they afraid of seeing a little too much of each other? Nope.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Maasjo said of working with her daughter.

Cox said it won’t be an issue either, because she won’t have any supervisory duties over her mother. They will simply be working together as a part of the team.

She said they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and will work well together and have no communication barriers.

“I’ll always know how to get a hold of her,” Maasjo added with a laugh.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.