Cape Girardeau: The ideal city for health care professionals

Dr. Steven Finstad
Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer

Cape Girardeau was not on Dr. Steven Finstad’s radar. As a native to Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, he says he only heard of the city “maybe once” from a friend who enjoyed catfishing.

Finstad and his wife were looking to make a career change, so he was interviewing for positions across the country — everywhere from Idaho to Florida and Michigan. After finishing up an interview at a hospital in the Midwest, Finstad and his wife decided “on a whim” to drive to Cape Girardeau.

They made a day of exploring the city and surrounding area. They drove around the country roads, looked at farms and walked along the Mississippi River Wall in downtown Cape. Finstad couldn’t help but stop and take a look at Saint Francis Medical Center, too.

“The hospital was beautiful, they were very receptive, and they didn’t know I was a physician. I just walked in,” Finstad said. “They were welcoming. … it was just a very warm welcome to the hospital and to the area. We went out to lunch and met really nice people.”

Finstad says he was struck by how pleasant and friendly the people were in Cape Girardeau. He says it was just like the part of the Midwest where he grew up, except the weather was a lot nicer than what he was used to.

“Where we were in Duluth, Minnesota, there were actually 60 days in a row where it was less than zero [degrees Fahrenheit] and we got 24 inches of snow in 24 hours,” Finstad said.

Finstad and his wife “immediately loved” Southeast Missouri. It was also close to his wife’s family in St. Louis, which cemented their decision to make the move. Finstad started at Saint Francis Healthcare System in June 2023, focusing on internal medicine and anti-obesity medicine at the Cape Primary Care clinic on N. Kingshighway.

He started his role in the summer, which means Finstad felt the Southeast Missouri humidity in full force. Finstad says that was “an adjustment,” but he figures every place has two months of unfavorable weather out of the year. He’d rather have the hot, humid summer than the cold, brutal winter.

As for healthcare specifically, Finstad says Cape Girardeau is an ideal place to practice medicine. He says they have almost every specialty available locally, and if patients need an academic or tertiary center, he can refer patients to St. Louis-based systems only an hour and a half away.

“There’s so much that we’re doing here, you can really take care of complex patients in this area, because it’s kind of a health care mecca,” Finstad said. “So, you have the ability to do advanced diagnostics and therapeutics in an area where you can also drive 15 minutes and you’re out in the middle of the woods.”

There are lots of opportunities to grow one’s health care career in Southeast Missouri with two major health care networks in Cape Girardeau alone, along with many smaller practices and specialized clinics.

“When we looked at where we’re going to live, I want to own a farm eventually with either beef, cattle or bison. And you can do that [here] while practicing good medicine at a place that has every specialty that you need,” Finstad said.

Outside of work, Finstad and his wife enjoy spending as much time outdoors as possible. They love hunting, fishing, hiking and biking. He says this area is perfect for recreational activities due to its proximity to state parks and easy-access walking trails like the Cape LaCroix Recreational Trail right behind his office at Cape Primary Care.

Although he’s only lived in Southeast Missouri for a few months, he already has a few favorite spots. He picks up his groceries at the Natural Health Organic Foods store and buys produce from local farmer’s markets. As for restaurants, he dotes on Speck’s pizza and Gordonville Grill’s catfish.

But above all, he simply loves the people, churches and inviting environment Cape offers —it's a true, warm Midwestern community.

“If you’re going to grow old somewhere, this seems like a great place to do it,” Finstad said. “It’s a good community. There’s plenty of healthcare. And it still has the sense of a small town while offering a lot of amenities of bigger areas.”