A new year brings a new but familiar face to the Sanford Health Board of Trustees. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin joined the board in January.
“I’ve really enjoyed and been inspired by watching Sanford Health evolve as a health system over the last 20 years in different ways that I’ve interfaced with the health system,” Stephanie Herseth Sandlin told Sanford Health News.
What attracts her most to the board, she said, is the same change, innovation trends and disruption that is happening in higher education.
“I think similar things are happening in health care and I think there can be some learnings both ways, some ideas that can be contributed, perspectives that will be valuable,” she said. “But certainly, the quality of care that I’ve received, and other members of my family have received as the health care system has evolved and made these strategic investments geographically in the types of care that are provided, inspire me to want to serve as well.”
Professional, political leadership experience
Herseth Sandlin became the first female president of Augustana University in 2017 and brings with her to the Board of Trustees an extensive, varied background including law and politics.
Prior to that, she served as general counsel at Raven Industries.
“From a governance perspective, I tend to look at certain things, ask certain types of questions,” Herseth Sandlin explained.
That legal training and policy experience have led her to serve on many different boards over the years.
“I also think what’s going to be exciting, and my approach is really how my perspectives, my views can support the strategic direction that has already been set and how that other ideas for how to implement it most effectively can be shaped and shared being an advocate and ambassador for the health system for the particular strategic direction now, as well as the mission and values of the organization.”
She served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives starting in 2004 as the first woman elected from South Dakota — and the youngest woman serving in Congress during that time.
The future of rural care at Sanford
Just as rural health care is a priority for Sanford Health, rural health is important to Herseth Sandlin.
She grew up in the northeast South Dakota community of Aberdeen before she later represented all of South Dakota in Congress.
“So, you see sort-of-rural, you see really rural, and then you still have frontier areas,” she said.
She attended the Summit on the Future of Rural Health in October and is impressed by what’s to come.
What excites her most about the future of rural care is to be a part of building on a strong foundation of Sanford Health accelerated by the $350 million philanthropic gift by Denny Sanford in 2021. That gift will fund the organization’s virtual care center to support a clinical initiative and create one of the world’s leading virtual care centers to provide accessible care to rural and underserved areas of Sanford’s footprint.
“My experience and my family’s experience with care at Sanford Health has been really significant, meaningful, high quality and trusting … whether that’s in Aberdeen, Bemidji or here in Sioux Falls,” she said.
Serving on the board
Herseth Sandlin said her goal is to bring as much value to this group of colleagues, in addition to the patients and communities they serve.
“I do think that as health care and policy evolve, in addition to just adding the value from my past experience in different settings, what academic providers throughout the footprint are able to provide in those perspectives is really helping the system find the openings, right? And adapting to the change,” she said.
She looks forward to getting to know her fellow trustees along with President and CEO Bill Gassen and his leadership team.
“I’m a very relational person. I think that when you have strong relationships, recognizing the different roles and responsibilities of those on the board and those in leadership that are managing the day to day, that a lot of wonderful things can happen when you have the synergies and the trust and the respect and the dialogue that can happen with a strong board and a strong leadership team.”
The Sanford Health Board of Trustees members are each elected by the full board and currently serve up to three three-year terms. The Board of Trustees Nominating and Governance Committee is responsible for identifying, evaluating, and recommending potential new members based on their qualifications and experience.
Trustees represent a broad range of backgrounds, with extensive experience in business and finance, health care, technology, and the nonprofit sector.
“It’s a wonderfully diverse geographic footprint, and I’m excited to meet and get to know better the people that are coming from the different parts of the system,” Herseth Sandlin said. “What we can do here together, I think, is special, unique and beneficial to population health in other areas of the country.”
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