A German comes to Lovell

Ryan Fitzmaurice

Piet Jakobs experiences Wyoming healthcare and living


​One new North Big Horn Hospital intern has traveled a long way to be here.

Those visiting the local hospital may see Piet Jakobs shadowing their hometown physician in the upcoming weeks. The German native has come to Lovell for the summer to broaden his understanding of medicine and to spend more time with a Lovellite he has come to love.

Mesa Rose Matthews was studying social work in Hungary while Jakobs was attending medical school in Croatia when the two met. 

They gave some hints on how they crossed paths, although the story remains vague and nebulous. 

“We accidentally touched hands in a bar,” Matthews said.

“We just met in Hungary,” Jakobs said.

However, the relationship came about, the two found themselves able to spend plenty of time together. Despite being in two different countries, the two were closer than Lovell is to Billings. The two spent several months getting to know each other, going back and forth. 

“It was like going to Montana,” Matthews said. ”We were really close. Like an hour away.” 

Jakobs said it made sense for him to follow Matthews back to Montana this summer.

“I knew her Mom (Mary Matthews) was on the board of the hospital, and I’m studying medicine and have to do an internship,” Jakobs said. “It was a great opportunity to spend most of my summer with her and her parents and at the same time doing my internships.”

Jakobs said he still is trying to find his path in medicine but has a few ideas. Neurology is a particular interest of his, but he can also see himself going into emergency medicine.

Jakobs said he had previously finished a degree in engineering but found the machine he was fascinated the most by was the human body. He became a paramedic in Germany before going further into medicine.

 “I like how everything works,” Jakobs said. “The body is nothing else but a well-engineered machine.”

Jakobs said his time at North Big Horn Hospital has been an enrichening learning experience.

“I’m basically shadowing the providers. I shadow the primary providers in family care. If something interesting comes into the emergency room, I go there. I’ve shadowed in surgeries,” Jakobs said. “Everyone has taken really good care of me, but I’ve learned a lot.”

Jakobs said his immersion into rural community healthcare has allowed him to see medicine practiced in a much different way than it is handled in German medicine.

“I can learn a lot from the different system here. When I’m finished, I can compare the systems, and hopefully, when I’m done, I can pick out the best of each to improve my future work,” Jakobs. “The providers here are more in touch with their patients, and they try to see the whole picture. They don’t just treat symptoms. They see the whole patient, the whole human. They consider their background, whether they work at a farm or in an office. It’s not just identifying the symptom and treating it. They treat the whole human here.”

Jakobs said he believes much of it comes from the culture of Lovell.

“People seem to be much nicer here in general and more open,” Jakobs said. “The whole mentality here is way more open and more welcome.”

Jakobs said even after shadowing for only a week, the approach is changing the way he views medicine.

“It is changing my view. I hope I can embrace it,” Jakobs said. “They think a little bit out of the box as well. Before this, I only shadowed at a larger hospital, and most of the time, they only treat the first guess because in most cases, the first guess is right. Here in Lovell, the providers approach it differently. They’ll say that they are 99 percent certain it’s the first guess, but we should also check
the one percent. That’s pretty cool. They take time for their patients.”

For Matthews, Jakob’s time outside the hospital has been equally meaningful, as she’s been able to introduce him to where she came from after many hours of discussing it with him abroad.

“He’s helped me see Lovell with a fresh pair of eyes,” Matthews said. “He’s helped me see the beauty more. When you live somewhere else, you tell them about where you’re from so many times. He knows Lovell up and down on Google Maps. He went through every street and every building, but to actually have him here and seeing it is something completely different.” 

“The first thing I saw was the canyon,” Jakobs said. “And I was like, ‘wow,’ It’s pretty amazing.”

Jakobs’ internship at North Big Horn Hospital will last for one month before he and Matthews go on a road trip, with Matthews looking forward to showing Jakobs many more natural wonders. They plan to hit Glacier National Park
and Yellowstone National Park and hope to
end up on the West Coast, possibly Oregon.

Matthews herself journeyed to Hungary to study social work for the affordability, with tuition being a much lighter financial lift, but she said the experience of being in another country has also expanded the way she sees the world.

“Even though I was studying in Hungary, I was in class with people from Kenya and Laos and so many different countries,” Matthews said. “As a humanitarian major, especially to hear about social problems in those countries, it was super humbling. People are so beautiful, and when they are from different countries, you can see all their differences. It makes you see problems differently.”

Besides marrying a future doctor, Matthews hopes to go into international social work, focusing on working with children. 

Jakobs himself has three more years in med school before he begins to don the white coat. 

Before he does, Matthews hopes to bring him to Wyoming one
more time.

“He’s got to see it when it snows,” Matthews said. 

“I’ve been promised some harsh winter,”
Jakobs said