Dr. Peter Cole

Dr. Peter Cole received Safe Harbor’s annual Salt of The Earth Award for 2020, created to honor an “unsung hero” of the community who has consistently served others with compassion, integrity, humility, and consistency.

The award was created to honor “the salt of the earth’ – someone who is respected, reliable, trustworthy, caring, faithful, and honest – someone who deals with difficult or demanding situations without making unnecessary fuss. The award was created in 2019 to honor Ervin F. and Beverly A. Barrett, parents of Safe Harbor founding attorney Margaret Barrett.

As one of the first Co-Directors of Volunteer Emory, Dr. Cole played a significant role in serving people in need in the Atlanta area, and paved the way for thousands to follow. After college, Dr. Cole successfully completed 15 years of post-graduate work, followed by 3 years of orthopedic missions in Jackson, MS. Dedicated to “doing unto others,” throughout his 19-years of rigorous training, Dr. Cole managed to serve abroad with Christian organizations such as Doctors Without Borders (Haiti/Dominican Republic), New Tribes Mission (Brazil), and South America Mission (Peru).

Remarkably, Dr. Cole’s charitable service has continued in the Twin Cities – now as Division Medical Director for HealthPartners Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Program Medical Director for HealthPartners Trauma Network, Chairman of Region’s Hospital Orthopedic Department & the Scapula Research Institute, and full Professor at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Cole also travelled to Jackson, MS to take an academic appointment at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and provide service to needful populations there.

In 2004 Dr. Cole and his wife Nancy co-founded their non-profit ministry, Scalpel at The Cross, a mission seeking to be salt & light to marginalized people groups in Pucallpa, Peru. With Dr. Cole’s vision, they purchased a plot of rainforest in the Amazon Basin and built a tree house residence to house medical teams that they take down 3-4 times annually. Dr. Cole also built a medical clinic and fellowship hall, and recently purchased another plot of land to develop an orthopedic orthotics/prosthetics/physical therapy rehabilitation center.

As a trauma surgeon, Dr. Cole often operates on destitute people without insurance, frequently on an emergency basis in the middle of the night or on holidays. He routinely starts his workday between 3:30-4:00 a.m., even on weekends.

Remarkably, Dr. Cole has faced the heightened challenges of 2020 head-on, including those caused by COVID-19. He spent March to July of 2020 zealously seeking personal protective equipment for his department, finally resorting to purchasing a digital printer and making the PPE himself to protect his teams. He transitioned patients to make room for hospital ICU beds, attempted to prevent furloughs so that his teams could stay intact, worked with skeletal teams when “non-essential” staff were furloughed, planned for trauma related to the protests/riots in the area, and dealt with shortfalls related to coverage with staff succumbing to the illness. Through all of this, he rose to the occasion and persevered with God-inspired grit and ingenuity.

“Anyone can see that he is truly a crisis specialist, consistently serving with grace and compassion, regardless of circumstances that come.” – Margaret M. Barrett.

“It is very touching to receive an award that has been named after someone’s father. That in itself carries extra meaning for me. I was thinking about your logo, ‘Safe Harbor’ and thought about the channel markers at sea that guide people to safety. It’s things like brothers and sisters in fellowship and study and sharing in events like this that allow us to go into the world and be ‘saltier’.” – Dr. Peter Cole

The Salt of The Earth Award came with a donation of $1000 to be given to a charity of Dr. Cole’s choosing. He chose Anselm House, an organization founded in 1982 whose mission is to connect faith and knowledge with all of life at the University of Minnesota. Anselm House “…helps budding leaders combine sound intellect with deep faith in Jesus Christ.” – anselmhouse.org

Dr. Peter Cole encouraged Anselm House regarding the donation: “I know you’ve got huge plans, and this is just a drop in the bucket, but I hope that it multiplies somehow.”


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