Nathan Peterson: ‘Health care is a calling’

nathan peterson with Kelby Krabbenhoft and Dr. Oz

Nathan Peterson loves policy.

And after you listen to him talk about it for a while, you start to love it a little, too.

He’s rapid-fire and direct, the words spilling out so quickly that you can see why he once dreamed of going to law school. Listen a little longer and you understand why when he was introduced to politics he chose to go that way, instead.

It’s all confidence and argument, organization and passion.

And now the 36-year-old Beresford, South Dakota, native is serving as vice president of strategic planning and governance for Sanford Health and also chief of staff for president and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft.

It’s a big job at a big organization that Peterson says brings together everything he loves: Building relationships inside Sanford Health and then translating that along with strategy to an experience and perception for patients and their families.

Peterson moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 2005 after earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota. In 2010, he went back to USD and earned a master’s in business administration.

In between, he worked as a political consultant in Sioux Falls and Washington.

“Then I began taking master’s degree courses,” Peterson says. “I was married by then, and we had our first child in 2010, and so the notion of pursuing a law degree for the next three years, well, that’s not how things worked out.”

Now he and his wife have three kids: Harper, 7, Liam, 5, and Elin, 1.

It’s a busy life.

Peterson confesses to relieving the stress of work with reading and golfing and, in his words, “watching bad comedy movies, with very little cinematic value.”

Peterson joined Sanford Health in 2011 as the director of legislative affairs for the state of Minnesota.

“I loved it,” Peterson says. “I didn’t have a health care background, and it exposed me to a broad range of issues. I was able to immerse myself in it.”

He says his work as a political consultant helped prepare him, showing him what these policy conversations look like from the other side and how to construct arguments about how decisions affect the greater good.

He moved through the Sanford Health ranks, serving as vice president of marketing for Sioux Falls and then enterprise vice president of marketing. Three years ago, he took over a hybrid role with governance and strategic planning.

One of his favorite projects has been helping create the Sanford Department of Veterans and Military Services.

“I’m entering my 20th year as an enlisted member of the Air National Guard,” Peterson says. “It was a passion of mine to help set that up and see that happen. My grandfather served during World War II, and I have an uncle and a cousin in the Guard and a family history of military service.”

It’s a lot to be proud of.

“I like looking at the organization and seeing how we’re positioning ourselves and then figuring out how to help patients when they walk through our doors,” Peterson says. “Health care is a calling, and it’s easy to be passionate about working for an organization that affects people in such a meaningful way.”

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