Dr. Steven Bauer Brings Mental Health Services to Rural Communities

Steven Bauer, MD graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus in 1990 and specializes in child and adolescent mental health.

Steven Bauer, MD, (‘90) decided he wanted to be a doctor while working at his family’s camp for children with learning and emotional/behavioral disabilities in Isabella, MN. He watched his mother, the camp nurse, run around to give the kids all their medications and wondered if there were better treatments.

“Then, ADHD was a new thing,” Dr. Bauer explains, “and it seemed like all of the kids were put on stimulants, and I didn’t see it being very helpful for a lot of them.”

Motivated by his experiences at camp, Dr. Bauer began his education at University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus intending to be a family physician with a focus in rural communities. However, throughout medical school, he realized that his experience and passions were a better fit for child and adolescent psychiatry 

“Not many people had the experiences I’d had that can really inform specialty care in psychiatry, the most underserved medical specialty in rural areas, and I thought it was probably worth pursuing something that I felt more confident in rather than continuing to practice in a broad fashion but always have this other area of interest,” he says.

At the Duluth campus, he found support that he carries with him to this day.

“It was a great group of people who were really supportive of each other in a time that was quite challenging,” he recalls. “We lost one of the most supportive guys at the school, Jim Boulger. His motto was “everything will work out,” which it usually did. He personified the support at medical school that was crucial for me to succeed.”

After completing his residency at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Dr. Bauer returned to Duluth, valuing the community and opportunity to work in an area that is underserved in mental health. Today, he’s the Medical Director of the Human Development Center (HDC), a nonprofit community mental health center in Duluth. He has worked at HDC for 27 years, helping children, adolescents and adults with medication management, and serving as a consultant to local organizations like the Northwoods Children Home and Arrowhead Juvenile Center. Dr. Bauer enjoys that his work is more multi-disciplinary and community-driven than a traditional hospital setting, where people may make progress with the structure but struggle to maintain it when returning to their regular lives..

“For me, this is the ultimate challenge to work with them in their usual environment and try to help them make progress that hopefully is more long lasting,” he explains.

According to Dr. Bauer, structure is one of the keys to managing ADHD, but it can be difficult for under-resourced families.

“That’s why working with community mental health centers multi disciplined teams is a good way to identify the comorbid problems that are there and refer for support services,” he states. 

Dr. Bauer enjoys taking time to speak with medical students on the Duluth campus about ADHD.

“I try to help people not just hear that somebody has ADHD and simply go to the medicine and assume that’s going to make things better,” he says, “but really take the time to follow up and hear how they’re doing and how the medicines are affecting them, because the medicines can affect both mood and irritability in kids that are already struggling with that.”

In advising the next generation of mental health professionals, Dr. Bauer urges young professionals to consider all types of work environments to find what’s best for them.

“It’s really how you see doing the work that is most rewarding for you,” he emphasizes. “What’s your idea of why you wanted to work in mental health, and what are you looking to get out of it?”