Sanford Announces $300 Million Initiative to Transform Rural Health Care Delivery

(Fargo, ND) -- Sanford Health announced Friday a groundbreaking $300 million initiative to transform rural care delivery, improving access to affordable, high-quality health care for generations to come.

The $300 million initiative starts with two key efforts, including a significant expansion of graduate medical education and an investment in community health and wellness, while planning continues for a third major initiative focused on building a virtual hospital of the future.

“This initiative will allow us to bring transformative health care opportunities to the rural Midwest,” said Bill Gassen, president and CEO of Sanford Health. "We’re focused on thinking big and pursuing bold, innovative endeavors to meet the needs of our patients, our people and the communities we serve. This effort will position Sanford Health as a global leader in rural care delivery, allow us to bring top clinicians to our region and enhance the health and well-being of the communities we serve.”

Sanford Health will begin working with academic partners to create eight new graduate medical residencies and fellowships in critical specialty areas. This training after medical school further prepares physicians to practice in certain medical specialties.  While almost 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, recruitment and retention of health care professionals is an ongoing challenge in rural America. By doubling the opportunities for graduate medical education, Sanford Health will build a stronger workforce, prepared to lead the next generation of health care. This initiative will bring highly sought-after clinical expertise, resources and subspecialties to the region so patients can access high-quality care close to home.

The initiative also includes a significant expansion of the Sanford Sports Complex in Sioux Falls to promote community health and improve access to sports opportunities for all youth, including those from underserved communities.  The development will offer year-round athletic opportunities for all ages, interests and abilities including new soccer, baseball and softball fields. This premier, highly versatile sports facility is an important investment in the community that will help families lead healthier and more active lifestyles and spur significant economic development. Sanford Health expects approximately one million new visitors over five years will participate in tournaments, sports training programs and youth and adult league games, driving significant economic activity for the region.

“Making our communities stronger and healthier is at the core of everything we do at Sanford Health,” said Micah Aberson, executive vice president at Sanford Health. “We’re committed to meeting the broad needs of our communities through investments in quality-of-life and health and wellness initiatives that support the people who live and work across our region.”

Finally, planning efforts are already underway to establish a cutting-edge clinical initiative to create one of the world’s leading virtual hospitals to provide affordable care in rural and underserved areas of the Midwest.

The state-of-the-art virtual hospital will deliver medical services to communities, patients and long-term care residents across Sanford’s footprint and beyond. The virtual hospital will serve people from all over through our network of hospitals and clinics, expanding opportunities to receive care in our communities as well as our long-term care locations. Sanford Health expects to announce more details, including an additional philanthropic commitment of support, in the next year.

“This initiative will transform the health care experience for those in rural areas, bringing affordable, comprehensive and seamless medical care to people no matter where they call home,” said Jeremy Cauwels, M.D., chief physician at Sanford Health.

“Using the best of technology, the virtual hospital will enable us to more easily provide a wide range of care, including for complex chronic diseases as well as care transitions, in a way that is convenient and accessible for our patients and residents,” said Erica DeBoer, chief nursing officer for Sanford Health.

These new initiatives are being supported by a $300 million philanthropic commitment from Denny Sanford, bringing his total giving to the nation’s largest rural health care system to more than $1 billion.

“Today I am renewing my commitment to my most cherished charitable cause, Sanford Health,” said Denny Sanford.  “I have a deep appreciation for the life-changing mission of Sanford Health and its work locally and around the globe, and my gift will ensure it continues to be a vital asset across our region for generations to come.”  

The gift announced Friday follows a legacy of transformational giving by Denny Sanford to the health system. His gift of $400 million in 2007 propelled the health system from a small regional provider to one of the largest health systems in the nation.