Living well is as important as living long. This is a motto that Troy Hanson, MD, MPH, a 1996 graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School, strongly believes in. 

“You can be physically ill, but if you are mentally healthy and resilient, you can still live a good life,” Dr. Hanson said. 

He first thought about pursuing medicine in junior high as a way to combine his fascination of understanding living things with the satisfaction derived from helping people. 

During his second year of medical school, Dr. Hanson was a co-chair for the Humanistic Health Committee, which provided integrative, whole-person health educational experiences and discussions for health care professional students. His involvement with this group further sparked an interest in family medicine as it seemed to be the specialty where he could apply an integrated systems approach to healthcare.

After graduating and working as a family physician, Dr. Hanson realized he wanted to focus more on mental health, particularly from a public health perspective emphasizing health promotion and illness prevention. “Fairly early in my medical practice, I realized how fulfilling it was to help people figure out how to live healthier, happier lives,” Dr. Hanson said. “The more I focused on that, the more I realized how crucial mental health and well-being is to living well.” 

So, he went back to school and received a master’s degree in public health from the U of M. After working for a while with several state and local public health agencies at the program and policy level, he realized he missed the patient-interaction component of medicine and returned to direct patient care. 

Dr. Hanson has now been a college health physician at Minnesota State University, Mankato for four years, and he is passionate about helping young adults strengthen their mental health, identify and heal emerging problems, and build their resilience. This public mental health approach starts them on a path to living well and empowers them with the skills and capacities to stay on or return to this path throughout life.

“We need to emphasize mental health at any opportunity we can,” he said. “The more we can normalize mental health and talk about it, the less stigma and mental suffering there will be over time.”