Color is revolutionizing the world of radiology, and Sanford Health is on the leading edge thanks to a family of forward-thinking donors.

Forward-thinking donors bring new technology to Sioux Falls

February 27, 2019

When the “Wizard of Oz” hit theaters in 1939, the bright colors amazed audiences and forever changed the movie-viewing experience.

Today, color is revolutionizing the world of radiology, and Sanford Health is on the leading edge thanks to a family of forward-thinking donors.

Dr. Daryl and Mary Wierda and their daughter Dr. Allison Suttle and her husband, Gary, made a gift that paved the way for Sanford USD Medical Center to purchase color-mapping software. The technology takes cartilage scans used to diagnose and treat orthopedic injuries from the world of black and white to color.

According to Sanford musculoskeletal radiologists Drs. Matt and Meredith Hayes, this donation allows Sanford to be on the cutting edge. This software creates a quality of image we’ve never been able to have before. The best comparison is going from black-and-white television to color.

Traditional scans show the difference between healthy and damaged cartilage but not minute changes as an injury heals or worsens. With this software, Sanford’s orthopedic team can better diagnose patients and evaluate therapies like those studied in Sanford’s stem cell trials.

“We’re not only able to improve the diagnosis of the disease, we’re actually able to quantify disease progression and improvement following therapies like stem cells,” Dr. Meredith Hayes said. “That’s huge.”

The family’s gift also funded the purchase of a new MRI head coil to enhance brain imaging. The head coil allows for a clearer neurological image than was available at Sanford previously.

“The new 48-channel head coil allows us to produce ultra-high resolution images of the brain, so we can see things in the brain that were previously not possible and in the same timeframe as a typical MRI, shortening scanning times for patients,” said Dr. Aaron Berg, a Sanford neuroradiologist. “We are excited as this new head coil will be used for cutting-edge research projects, including a Sanford study looking at the effects of concussion in athletes’ brains.”

This equipment also has the potential to take a scan of the brain working in real time while a patient performs a series of tasks, helping physicians treat complex neurological conditions.

Both Drs. Wierda and Suttle hold Sanford close to their hearts. Dr. Wierda spent the majority of his career at Sanford, and Dr. Suttle serves as Sanford’s chief medical officer. By giving back, the family has been able to make a real, tangible impact and improve patient care on a personal level.

“It’s a great feeling to know that this technology is being used every day to improve patient care,” Dr. Suttle said. “We’ve been able to have a bigger impact than we expected.”


A legacy of giving

Dr. Daryl Wierda will never forget his first exposure to philanthropy. As a child, he remembers sitting in his church’s Thanksgiving service waiting to hear how much his congregation had given to help others in need that season.

“I remember the excitement of wondering ‘how big is the donation going to be this year?’” Wierda said. “Giving back was always part of my upbringing.”

Dr. Wierda carried those values of giving back into the medical profession as a radiologist while also raising three daughters with his wife, Mary. Daryl worked at Sioux Valley Hospital and then Sanford Health in Sioux Falls for 33 years as a member of Medical X-Ray Center, which contracted out to the health system.

During his career, Dr. Wierda was a leader in radiology, always looking for the greatest and latest in his field. He helped bring ultrasound technology to the Sioux Falls area when he started practicing here in 1974.

He adapted as radiology transitioned from behind the scenes work in a dark room onto the front lines of medicine, working directly with patients. He was there when X-ray films became outdated, and the field transitioned to digital imaging.

He trained in musculoskeletal radiology and pushed his team to hire specialized radiologists. He helped grow Medical X-Ray Center from a group of seven radiologists to 35 at the time of his retirement.

“During my career, the profession changed dramatically,” Dr. Wierda said. “It was an exciting time in medicine and radiology as it became a high-tech field.”

After retiring, Dr. Wierda didn’t lose his passion for radiology and was excited to once again bring the latest in imaging technology to the Sioux Falls community.

“It’s a very warm feeling,” Dr. Wierda said. “You feel like you are able to contribute with moving something forward.”


Following in a father’s footsteps

Dr. Wierda passed his passion for medicine and giving back to the community on to his daughter, Dr. Suttle.

“I loved going to the basement of Sioux Valley to watch my dad look at X-ray films,” Dr. Suttle said. “That’s where I first got to know human anatomy, just by watching my dad. I think that’s why I pursued medicine.”

Dr. Suttle started her career as an OB/GYN and joined her dad at Sanford. Every once and a while, Dr. Wierda would come over in his white coat to see his daughter working in hers.

Like her father, Dr. Suttle was excited by change in the medical world and decided to go back to school for a master’s in business administration. She soon moved into a leadership role and helped facilitate Sanford Health’s transition to electronic medical records.

Now as chief medical officer, Dr. Suttle is part of the team setting the course for Sanford’s future both locally and across the globe.

“It’s always important to remember where you came from and that what we have today came on the shoulders of others, like my dad,” Dr. Suttle said. “I have a love for radiology and that profession. Advancing that field through this gift is a way to honor my dad and his career.”

By making this gift as a family, the father-daughter duo had the chance to make new memories together. They won’t forget returning to the radiology department where Dr. Suttle first dreamed of becoming a doctor to see the new technology made possible by their donation.

“Part of your legacy is your kids and your grandkids,” Dr. Wierda said. “By making this gift with Allison, I’m passing on the legacy.”


Make an impact

Because of the Wierda and Suttle families’ generosity, Sanford Health is able to bring the newest technology to patients sooner. If you are interested in making a difference for patients, we’d love to visit with you.

To learn more, please contact a member of our team: