Half a century ago, a small but inspired group of people had a vision for offering treatment, research and education in neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry in Fargo. Neurosurgeons Dr. Lee Christoferson and Dr. M.B. Gustafson, psychiatrist Dr. M.J. Geib, and certified public accountant Charles E. Bailly made their vision a reality when they established The Neuropsychiatric Institute (TNI) in 1955. TNI experienced two defining moments in their first decade; one being the affiliation with St. Luke’s Hospital in 1961, and the other occurring in 1964 when they opened their own facility. Each solidified TNI as a prominent regional center for patients who needed specialized treatment of neurological and psychiatric problems, as well as radiation therapy treatment for cancer. During the first 30 years of operation, TNI attained many “firsts” in the field of neurological and psychiatric treatment in the Red River Valley. In the early 1960s, TNI was the first to use a Cobalt Radiation Therapy unit designed to treat certain cancers. It was also one of the first to use a CAT scanner in 1976, and in the early 1980s, operate one of the first sleep laboratories in the Red River Valley. In 1986 the board of The Neuropsychiatric Institute reevaluated their mission and decided to focus their efforts on advancing the knowledge and treatment of human nervous system disease through research and education in neuroscience. To align with their new direction, they reincorporated in 1989 as the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute (NRI).
In the 1990’s, NRI established a more formal relationship with the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Drs. John Vennes and Clayton Jensen worked together to forge this collaborative association which was successfully culminated in 1996, when Dr. James Mitchell was hired as the President and Scientific Director of NRI and also the Chair of Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Medicine. During that time, NRI, the School of Medicine, and Meritcare all collaborated to develop a clinical research program in the area of eating disorders, obesity, and later, bariatric surgery. This collaboration resulted in the development of the Eating Disorder Institute (EDI) which was a joint venture between Meritcare, NRI, and the School of Medicine. EDI provided treatment for individuals with eating disorders and problems with obesity for patients in our region, but also served as a clinical center in which various research protocols and scientific studies could be conducted. The staff at NRI successfully secured funds from the National Institute of Health for a variety of projects in the area of eating disorders and bariatric surgery for a period of almost 20 years.
In 2015, Ron Erickson and Dr. Stephen Wonderlich served as Co-Presidents of the Institute and ultimately, Dr. Wonderlich became President and Scientific Director of NRI. Currently, NRI continues to conduct research on eating disorders and bariatric surgery and also works with the state of North Dakota on projects to develop strategies to assist children who have been victims of child abuse or neglect. NRI continues to move in a direction of increased collaboration with the School of Medicine, the broader UND campus, NDSU, and Sanford Research, as well as the former Eating Disorders Institute, which is now referred to as the Eating Disorders and Weight Management Center at Sanford Health. NRI scientists routinely work with faculty and scientists from these regional institutions and continue to successfully pursue funding from the National Institutes of Health and other funding sources to support their scientific study of eating disorders and bariatric surgery.