03-26 Paul Anderson guitar ols.jpg

Dr. Paul Anderson, an avid cross country skier and bicyclist, plays guitar in his Rochester home.

Though the Renaissance is long past, there are still Renaissance men in our midst. Paul Anderson, M.D., is a prime example.

Described by his friend Brian Archer as a "pillar of energy," Anderson finished the grueling American Birkenbeiner, or "Birkie," in February.

The race stretches 51 kilometers from Cable, Wis., to Hayward, Wis., and is like a frozen marathon on cross country skis. Anderson finished 105th out of 3,705 competitors. But what's more important is that he studied the racers to learn how social support keeps them physically active.

Anderson, completing a fellowship in preventive medicine at Mayo Clinic, will publish results about the health habits of Birkie racers.

"These people have figured out how to have a physically active lifestyle, and we wanted to ask them how they do it," Anderson said.

His Birkie study is just the tip of the iceberg in his medical research. He was part of the 2007 Mayo Clinic team sent to Antarctica to study how sleeping at high altitude could be related to altitude illness. The study, led by Dr. Bruce Johnson, focused on gathering data from those traveling from sea level at McMurdo Station to an altitude of 2,900 meters at the South Pole, an altitude exacerbated by the region's low pressure.

Anderson's time in Antarctica was spent in adverse conditions, including zero visibility and 50-degree below zero temperatures in the South Pole's ice tunnels — the perfect place to store medical samples. Yet, he still found time with three others from his team to honor the "Polies," those working at the pole year round. In one photo, Anderson, resembling a shirtless sports fan, stands in the snow at the geographic South Pole bearing blue letters on his chest to help spell "Polies Rock."

Before his fellowship at Mayo Clinic, Anderson earned an master's degree in theology and medical ethics at Chicago's Trinity Divinity School and worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Epidemic Intelligence Service in Alaska.

Anderson also has developed a wonderful musical talent. Speaking of his music, Anderson said, "Alaska really was the place I had the chance to blossom." In Alaska, he performed with a band called Midtown Revival. The band, performing original music with a slight bluegrass tinge, featured Anderson on guitar and vocals and included upright bass and mandolin.

Here in Rochester, Anderson was selected by audition to perform at the Americana Showcase this past October. John Wheeler from Six Mile Grove said Anderson's "original music was interesting and intriguing. It drew you in."

Anderson's musical engagement in Rochester grew from the Tuesday night open mic at the Viking Lounge. At first, he "had no musical outlet" in Rochester, but that all changed.

"I showed up at the open mic, and Brian (Archer) and Tracy (Sonnier) welcomed me in," he said.

Archer said, "Paul's songs move everyone from small children to 90-year-olds."

A jack of all trades, finding success in athletics, medicine, theology and music, Anderson humbly admits, "I've been given the chance to do a lot of cool stuff."

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