Duluth family medicine program sends docs packing in styleWhen Dr. John Wood joined the faculty of the Duluth Family Medicine Residency last October, he decided he wanted a better, more meaningful, parting gift for the 10 residents who would complete their third year of the program in late June.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
They used to give doctors completing their residency in Duluth traditional black leather bags, but that was just so Marcus Welby.
In recent years the departing physicians received gift certificates. Appreciated, but impersonal, and they didn’t say Duluth.
When Dr. John Wood joined the faculty of the Duluth Family Medicine Residency last October, he decided he wanted something better, something more meaningful, for the 10 residents who would complete their third year of the program in late June.
This being Duluth, he naturally turned to his neighbors for a solution.
Specifically, he turned to Ry and Aya Nakajima, artists from Japan who have made Duluth their home for the past eight years and started their own company, Lazy Monk, making handbags in their Congdon neighborhood home.
Could the Nakajimas make shoulder bags that would match the needs of today’s doctors? asked Wood, who lives two blocks away from them.
They could do that, the Nakajimas said.
“I did a little research, and I designed a bag specifically for this project that fits the needs of contemporary doctors,” said Ry Nakajima, 41, an associate professor of art and design at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Each bag was made in colors of the resident’s choosing and is monogrammed with his or her initials. The bags, which will be presented on June 23, have room for a stethoscope and a blood-pressure cuff as well as a laptop, iPad or similar device.
The residency program, which is managed by Essentia Health, is paying the $150 price for each bag, Wood said. That’s about in the middle of Lazy Monk’s price range, Nakajima said: from $50 for a simple tote bag to a messenger bag in Sashiko — traditional Japanese embroidered design — for up to $350.
All of this started more or less by accident six years ago when the Nakajimas decided to make a bag for their daughter, now 8. They also made a bag for the son of friends who live in San Francisco, Ry Nakajima explained.
The friends were so impressed by the bag that they gathered fabric scraps from a messenger-bag company in San Francisco and sent them to Duluth.
“We got boxes and boxes of fabric scraps from San Francisco and we make little bags for kids and we gave them away to kids all over the world,” Nakajima said. “That’s how we started.”
People started asking for bags for adults, and the Nakajimas formed their company. But they do it for fun more than for profit, Nakajima said.
“Our output is really limited,” he said. “We can work really hard and make 10 bags in a month.”
Nakajima doesn’t think they would have gotten into the bag-making business if they had stayed in Tokyo, he said.
“Here in Duluth there’s still a culture of handmade things,” Nakajima said. “Duluth Pack is a famous thing. Lots of people just make things by themselves. And I really enjoy that culture.”
Wood said he was glad to find a link to Duluth culture. He received his own black leather bag when he completed the Duluth residency program in 1991. The bags still can be purchased for $127. But they are no longer practical, he said.
“We decided that a black leather bag looks nice on your shelf, but most people aren’t going to use it,” Wood said.
The functional and fashionable Lazy Monk bags are much more likely to actually be used, Wood said, and they will carry an intangible asset as the doctors spread out to their practices: “It’s a nice reminder of Duluth.”