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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

MELGAARD, Robert Thor

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Photo courtesy: Peggy Melgaard

MELGAARD, Robert Thor. (Plentywood, MT, Sept. 28, 1923--Apr. 7, 2000). The son of sharecroppers, Erick and Goldie Melgaard, Erick migrated with them to the United States from Norway when he was fourteen years old. They moved from Montana in 1925 or 1926 where Robert grew up on a farm in Concord, Tennessee. He was a graduate of Farragut High School, Knoxville, Tennessee in the class of 1941 and began college at Berea, in Berea, Kentucky. His plan was to study engineering. He served in the Army and Air Corp in WORLD WAR II from 1943-1945.

After the war, Melgaard attended Vanderbuilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He received his doctor of medicine degree at the University of Virginia College of Medicine, Richmond. After serving his internship at the US Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, Illinois, he served in the KOREAN CONFLICT as a naval medical officer.

On December 6, 1952 Melgaard married Gloria Ann Weir (Miss Hibbing, Minnesota 1951). He did his residency in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where his daughter Peggy was born while he was in residence. In 1954 he and his family moved to Dubuque. Their family grew to include Diane, Rob, Betsy, John, and Jane.

Melgaard was chairman of Medical Associates Department of Pediatrics from 1955-1985. From 1974-1989, he served as chief executive officer of MEDICAL ASSOCIATES CLINIC PC (THE), Iowa's largest fully accredited clinic, and was executive director and medical director of Medical Associates HMO until his retirement in 1989. As an administrator, Melgaard was credited with being a visionary who saw the clinic's health maintenance organization grow from infancy in 1982, two years before the HMO concept enjoyed an explosion of development across the United States.

In addition to his activities in health service administration, Melgaard served as president of the American Group Practice Association and the Area Residential Care Foundation. He was a member of the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, Iowa Medical Society, and the CLARKE COLLEGE Board of Trustees. At the time of his death he was working two jobs; as a surveyor for the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care and as Medical Director for Cottingham-Butler. In 2001 the Butler family dedicated a house for the children at ARC in his memory.