From left is Dr. Greg and Karen Schultz and Charles and Nancy Zink.

The power of endowment: Making a difference 20 years later

July 22, 2019

In 1999, after practicing vascular surgery at Sanford Health for 14 years, Dr. Greg Schultz and his wife, Karen, wanted to give back to the organization that had provided so many opportunities.

The first was allowing Dr. Schultz to grow as a medical professional. That year, he joined Sanford Vascular Associates and was able to develop his specialty with a health organization that he found creates a positive and encouraging environment for its employees. It also allowed him to be part of a team that has earned global recognition for its vascular care.

“When I started, the vascular department was under the radar, if you will; nobody had heard about us,” Dr. Schultz recalled. “Then all of a sudden our name kept popping up across the country and around the world for the care we provide, and I’m really proud of that.”

In addition, because of Sanford Health, he was able to fulfill a personal goal of treating patients in his home state.

“South Dakota is home,” Dr. Schultz said. “I always wanted to return to South Dakota and take care of people in my area of expertise. It’s an honor and a privilege to provide care to people in this region.”

That sense of home also helped drive the Schultzes’ giving.

“It was important to give back to people where I grew up,” he said. “I have many family and friends here, so it just seemed like the natural thing to do.”

A gift with long term impact

When deciding the best way to give back to Sanford Health, the Schultzes knew they wanted to make a long-term impact and ensure the availability of advanced vascular care for years to come. The easiest solution was an endowed gift.

“I know the importance of perpetual giving and how institutions rely on that,” Dr. Schultz said. “If we want to continue to be world-class, it’s critical that we continue to invest in the institution to provide cutting-edge technology to the patients in this region.”

So, in 1999 the couple established the Dr. Greg & Karen Schultz Endowment for Vascular Programs. Over the years, the fund has helped ensure patients have access to the latest technology, equipment and advances in diagnostics and treatment.

Just this year, two decades after it was established, earnings from the endowment helped purchase the most advanced heart and vascular screening equipment available for the Sanford Mobile Screening Unit, which provides routine screenings to people in rural communities.

The new technology benefits both patients and health care providers by reporting higher frequencies and showing more vivid color images.

“The ability to clearly see the arteries and the aneurysms has been improved dramatically over the years, and the newer equipment just continues to make great strides in being able to identify people with problems,” Dr. Schultz said.

The new technology also processes data faster, so patients don’t have to wait anxiously for days for the results.

“We give patients in screenings peace of mind that they’re OK,” Dr. Schultz said. “That’s the vast majority of these people and that’s a wonderful thing.”

For patients with an abnormality, though, this new equipment provides even greater peace of mind because it can turn a routine screening into a lifesaving visit.

Charles’s story

When Sanford’s Mobile Screening Unit came to Brookings, S.D. earlier this year, Charles and Nancy Zink decided to take advantage of its convenience and services. Nancy’s screening seemed to proceed quickly, so when his took longer, Charles wondered why.

“Then the technician said, ‘Well, there’s something here that doesn’t look right, and I’m not going to let it go,’” Charles said.

The sonographer shared the screening images with the Sanford vascular team back in Sioux Falls. A follow-up appointment was scheduled with Dr. Schultz the next day, during which a CAT scan confirmed a tear in Charles’s aorta.

“I was surprised because I felt good,” Charles said.

But he and Nancy were not worried. They had complete confidence in Sanford.

Resolving the issue required minimally invasive surgery in which Dr. Schultz covered the tear by placing a wire mesh and fabric inside Charles’s aorta. This took stress off the weakened artery wall and prevented a major catastrophic vascular event like an aneurysm or even death.

Today, Charles said he feels better than ever. He and Nancy even celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a trip to Alaska this summer.

“We were reminded many times by the nurses that this was life and death,” Nancy said. “We just thank the Lord the technician was proactive. She saw something, and she didn’t let it go. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have my husband.”

Dr. Schultz is proud to be a part of Charles’s story.

“He could have developed a major complication that could have left him with a major debilitated state,” Dr. Schultz said. “Those are all certainly possibilities that Charles avoided, and I don’t think this story gets told enough. Hundreds of lives are altered, saved and improved by the vascular screening program that’s being done through Sanford.”

How can you make a lasting impact?

When you establish an endowment through the Sanford Health Foundation, your gift is an investment that drives innovation and keeps Sanford ahead of the curve in caring for your loved ones and neighbors for years to come.

“When you’re given so many gifts, to be able to give back to the organization and to the people in the community that has entrusted you with their care, it’s only natural,” Dr. Schultz said. “Philanthropy is an important part of who we are and what we do.”

To discuss the area of health care you’re most passionate about and to learn if establishing an endowment is right for you, contact one of our gift officers: