Site director Dr. Tom Huber, center, with the Pierre Rural Family Medicine Residency Program's first two residents. He hopes philanthropy can help keep young talent in the area.

Giving to bridge the care gap in central South Dakota

December 17, 2019

“We have to get rolling to get some new young physicians out here,” says Dr. Tom Huber, site director for the newly established Pierre Rural Family Medicine Residency Program, a joint initiative between Sanford Health and Avera.

As a Pierre native who also practices at the Sanford clinic in town, Dr. Huber is passionate about securing a pipeline of talent to address the region’s growing family physician shortage.

In addition to leading the residency program, which prepares doctors for the challenge of practicing in rural areas, he’s helping target the shortage through philanthropy.

In partnership with the Sanford Health Foundation, Dr. Huber and others in the Pierre community have created an endowment that will provide financial incentives to young physicians wishing to stay in the area.

“The fund will make it easier for a finishing resident or any family physician who’s looking to come practice in the Sanford clinic in Pierre,” Dr. Huber said.  “It’s designed to help alleviate some of the expense they’ve generated over their training both in undergraduate and graduate medical education.”

Essentially, he says, it helps take money out of the equation when residents are choosing where to start their practice.

“I’m more than overwhelmed by how this effort has been received,” Dr. Huber said. “It has tremendous support within the community already. People are acutely aware of the need.”

Sanford rising to the challenge

With a generation of rural doctors looking ahead to retirement and fewer young physicians ready to fill their shoes, communities across the state could increasingly face limited access to primary care.

By sponsoring initiatives like the residency program in Pierre, investing in telehealth technologies and embracing a single electronic medical record (EMR) platform, Sanford is committed to keeping communities connected to expert care.

“Health care happens best when it’s delivered close to home,” says Eric Hilmoe, vice president of operations at the Sanford Health Network. “That’s one of our guiding principles here at Sanford.

“With community partnership and philanthropy like we’re seeing in Pierre, we can do more, faster, to advance creative solutions, protect access to local care and strengthen the quality of life across the state.”

Ready to invest in your community?

To support the Pierre physician recruitment endowment fund or discuss other ways to support rural health care, contact Lisa Karsky at (605) 312-6745 or lisa.karsky@sanfordhealth.org.