Sanford Health sponsors a pair of scholarships at Augustana University that serve to honor the late Dr. Jeffrey Behrens and help support students who are pursuing a career in health care.
The partnership between Sanford and Augustana sports medicine goes back to the early 1990s when Sanford was known as Sioux Valley Hospital. The affiliation has grown steadily since then, with Augustana now offering a master’s of science degree in athletic training that incorporates hands-on clinical experience as part of the curriculum.
It’s all part of a collaborative effort that has helped raise the profile and reach of Sanford sports medicine in the region.
To that end, each year Sanford Health sponsors the Dr. Jeffrey Behrens Athletic Training Scholarship and the Dr. Jeffrey Behrens Sports Medicine Scholarship.
Megan Krull Driesen, about to complete her master’s in athletic training at Augustana, is this year’s athletic training winner. Taylor Beagle, a senior All-American swimmer for the Vikings, is this year’s sports medicine winner.
“The Behrens scholarships are great examples of how deep our partnership is with Sanford,” said Josh Morton, Augustana athletic director. “It’s a good combination. Augustana is excellent in the sciences and excellent athletically. Partnering with Sanford melds those two things together with our student-athletes.”
Treatment and training at Sanford
Driesen, who will have her master’s in athletic training this spring, will be headed for physical therapy school — she hasn’t yet decided where — by mid-summer.
Her connection to Sanford began her sophomore year of high school when she tore her ACL and had surgery with Sanford orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brad Reeves. Then a year later she tore her other ACL and had surgery with Dr. Reeves again.
A year later her sister tore an ACL and also had surgery with Dr. Reeves.
“We love the guy,” she said, laughing. “It’s almost like we’d look forward to seeing him even though we were injured.”
Driesen, who grew up in George, Iowa, worked as a patient care tech at Sanford Health Rock Rapids Clinic as a high school senior. She’s also sat in on surgeries with Sanford Health’s Dr. Kristofer Kimber and has worked with the physical therapy team at the Sanford Fieldhouse.
“It’s such a cool thing,” Driesen said. “It’s amazing that there is a scholarship just for athletic training and we have the opportunity to apply for it, especially since we have smaller classes.”
First impressions of college, health care
Beagle, of Lead, South Dakota, is a senior biology major who wants to go into genetic counseling. Earning the Sanford scholarship was both an honor and, in this case, very timely.
“With the COVID, we’ve seen a lot of financial hardships for a lot of people,” Beagle said. “It was a burden lifted off my shoulders this year. I can’t thank Sanford enough for supporting us.”
During a recruiting tour on Augustana’s campus coming out of high school, Beagle heard about the health care career opportunities that exist because of Sanford’s presence.
It left an impression that has now served her well.
“We heard about how willing Sanford is to work with students,” she said. “When you’ve graduated you know there is a place that will support you.”
Neither of them had the honor of meeting Dr. Behrens, but they’re familiar with his contributions to the programs. People like Brian Gerry, head athletic trainer at Augustana, knew him well.
Founders of athletic training program
Gerry, Dr. Behrens and Sanford Health’s Dr. Brian Aamlid were there when Augustana began providing athletic training education.
“Jeff was the one who really grabbed the bull by the horns and was willing to do whatever he could to help facilitate the relationship with Sioux Valley,” Gerry said. “Back in the infancy of the program, he was right in the middle of it. I don’t know that the program would have taken off as quickly or as well as it did without his persistence and support.”
Dr. Behrens’ legacy included a reputation as a willing and tireless volunteer when a medical presence at a sporting event or a workshop was important. He often got the call.
“He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back,” Gerry said. “His energy never seemed to stop. Whatever you needed, he was all on board. And he passed that passion on to those around him.”
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