Women lift up other women at Sanford Health

For International Women’s Day, women across organization reflect on their work

Collage of women who work at Sanford Health

Women are well represented throughout the workforce at Sanford Health.

Doctors. Nurses. Directors. VPs.

They contribute to the health system year-round. On International Women’s Day (March 8), people across the world can celebrate women’s achievements and rally for gender parity.

To celebrate, Sanford Health News asked women working at Sanford Health to reflect on how they got where they are, how they use their voices for equality, and what they would say to the next generation of girls and young women. Here are some of their thoughts.

On calling out gender bias

Erica DeBoer, chief nursing officer: “Stay focused and stay true to you no matter the situation. Be grateful, be kind and never stop believing in the difference you can make every day. ‘Empower’ is the word that I selected for 2021, so I work daily to put my word into action.”

Lisa MacFadden, PhD, director of engineering and applied sciences: “Above my desk at work is the phrase ‘we rise by lifting others,’ which I believe is essential for challenging and calling out gender (and all) bias and inequity. I am honored to work with women (and men) who advocate for and encourage one another, which is essential to creating a culture where bias and inequality can be confronted safely and openly.”

Tamara Fuller-Eddins, MD, OB/GYN, Sioux Falls, South Dakota: “My staff and I choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity daily by letting our patients know we are always here to care for them no matter who they are and no matter what their exterior physical appearance may exemplify. As an African-American physician in the Sioux Falls community, I attempt to lead by example, caring for all ethnicities and gender groups.”

Melanie Allen, inpatient clinical care leader, COVID-19 unit, Fargo, North Dakota: “We simply provide the best care possible in any situation before us. I have always been an outspoken woman. I find speaking out in the moment to correct any issues helps to keep things from building up and causing resentments.”

Terra Johnson, CHILD Services manager, Sioux Falls: “When we work alongside each other in the spirit of collaboration and not competition, we are moving forward. When we stop to truly listen to each other, ask clarifying questions and stop making assumptions about others’ words and actions, we are raising the bar. When we look into the eyes of our women counterparts and know each of us is doing our best every day, we stop the stereotypes that have long plagued women in the workforce.”

Andrea Patten, MD, emergency medicine, Bemidji, Minnesota: “As a young female physician, you are sometimes faced with challenges associated with gender. Often patients question that you’re really a doctor or ask why they never got to see a doctor. I try to practice medicine and conduct myself in a way that instills confidence in my patients and team members, regardless of my gender, and hopefully play a small role in bridging the gender gap.”

Sara Zoelle, MD, vice president, medical officer, Health Network: “The time that stands out for me was an email that was addressed to ‘Gentlemen.’ I messaged back, politely asking if that person wanted the women’s input that was also listed in the email as well, or just the men. This was met with an apology, and has not happened since. I am proud to be part of the graduating class of the University of South Dakota School of Medicine in 1997, where we were the first medical class that had a majority of females.”

Kimber Severson, chief marketing officer: “From a very young age I was taught and encouraged to ‘be a leader, not a follower.’ I’ve always known I could achieve anything my heart set out to do and for that, I’m very lucky. That’s the kind of confidence I hope to build in others since I recognize those who have gone before me to forge the path helped build mine. I understand that as a female leader I have a responsibility to continue paving the way for future generations. Luke 12:48 says: To whom much is given, much will be required.”

Tisha Wallace, senior clinical informatics analyst, Fargo: “Coco Chanel said, ‘A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.’ You will encounter people who don’t like you and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or need to do something different. It’s just a part of life. What matters in the end is that you like you and are happy with what you’re doing. If not, change it.”

On working at Sanford Health

Tania Gonzalez Santiago, MD, dermatology, Fargo: “We support and empower female patients on taking care of their skin and feeling better about themselves. We also provide emotional support while in our clinic for unrelated skin issues. We go above and beyond to make them feel special and pretty. I’m proud but also humbled by touching people’s lives in many ways. It’s a very rewarding field.”

Diane Kraft, MD, cardiology, Bismarck, North Dakota: “I am proud to work at Sanford, which supports an open and equal environment to practice medicine. Sanford is an institution which consistently works to ensure excellent health care for both male and female patients. In health care, and particularly cardiology, it is important to understand though males and females are equal in so many respects, presentation of heart disease can be a striking difference. It makes me proud to be a female in cardiology to have an interest in and be an advocate for women’s health.”

Rochelle Rindels, vice president, nursing and clinical services, Good Samaritan Society: “I’m proud to say I followed my role model, my mom, into nursing. Health care is unique because of the diversity in experience and specialties that it offers. I’m proud to work for this organization because of the mission and values that are shared by so many of the team members.”

Leah Hochstein, nurse practitioner, ambulatory care, Detroit Lakes Clinic, Minnesota: “I am proud of Sanford’s initiative to promote a safe and reliable work environment. SAFE (Sanford Accountability For Excellence) skills are taught and expected of all employees. This creates an environment of equality.”

Jean Marie McGowan, MD, internal medicine, Fargo: “I am director of the Women’s Health rotation for UND internal medicine, family medicine residents and geriatric fellows. By having these early career physicians spend time with me and my patients, they are made aware of how often women’s concerns are not heard and many symptoms have been dismissed. By being made aware, they can then learn to be a better physician and advocate for women’s health.”

Cyndy Skorick, executive director of women’s and children’s, Fargo: “In working with community organizations you learn a great deal about the hardships and biases that burden and hurt others. It drives my passion to call out bias and inequity. We strive to empower women to take on new roles, to further their education, and sponsorships are a great way to lift others up and provide needed resources. In our STAT (Strategic Talent Advisory Team) we bring discussion of inclusivity into our work and ask our employees to share what matters most to them.”

Terri Carlson, executive director, women’s, family medicine and psychiatry, Sioux Falls: “I am so proud to work at Sanford as I am afforded the great opportunity to make a positive difference in others’ lives. The integrity, compassion, hard work and perseverance that I witness each day amongst the medical professionals in every facet of this organization I work with is amazing. It is a true privilege to work with such a devoted health care team each day.”

Jody Huber, MD, pediatric critical care, Sioux Falls: “I have the pleasure of working in the Department of Pediatrics, where the culture focuses on support, promoting our colleagues, and celebrating each other’s successes. A group of women in our department organized SMART Women (Support Medicine, Authenticity, Resiliency, Truth). This organization is composed of female physicians with a mission of women physician support and wellness. We discuss the challenges for women physicians and tools to succeed.”

On the next generation

Cassie Maish, LPN, COVID-19 testing site, Bemidji: “Never doubt that you are valuable, fierce, and strong. You have a soul full of fire so let it burn wild and never let someone try to put it out.”

Andrea Polkinghorn, RN-BC, immunization strategy leader: “I would advise women not to be afraid to speak up. If you’re at the table, then you are just as deserving of having your voice heard as every other person in the room.”

Kendra Siemonsma, executive director of enterprise project management: “I love this question and have had opportunities to develop mentoring relationships that are rooted in authenticity. My message is to lean into who you truly are. Embrace it, rather than try to mask it all in the name of fitting in. This is encouragement that I was given early in my development and stays with me today.”

Sarah Prenger, MSA, senior executive director, primary care and behavioral health service: “When my daughter was 8, she posted a homemade sign to her bedroom door that read, ‘Girls will change the world!’ I wrote beneath her crayoned words, ‘You bet your booty we will.’ My message to young girls and women is not to filter your dreams by what you think applies to you as a female. True gender equity means no limits. No limits for girls, no limits for boys. All are equally free to achieve their own personal definition of greatness and to change the world if they so choose.”

Kortney Krick, nurse practitioner, ambulatory care, Westbrook, Minnesota: “Ignore and work to break down what you may think is the ‘expected’ way to act, or barriers that you feel are in place for you. Set your goals high, whatever they are because they are achievable.”

Meghan Goldammer, senior vice president of quality and patient experience: “You have to know your skill sets and be comfortable with what you bring to the table and be the best version of yourself, not someone else’s version of you. It can be difficult to do, but it comes with knowing yourself and having confidence in how you view yourself.”

Pilar de la Puente, PhD, cancer biology and immunotherapies researcher: “Your thoughts and opinions matter. You are more than your appearance (intelligent, strong, bold, leader). Do what you are most passionate about; forget stereotypes.”

Erika Brauner, nursing ambulatory manager, Fargo: “Embrace who you are and what you stand for. Don’t let someone else tell you what you can and can’t achieve. I am someone who got into leadership at what many would consider a younger age and early in my career. Yes, it was nerve wracking and yes, it can be challenging at times, but don’t let that stop you from doing the work you love and making the difference you want.”

Tawnia Netland, nurse practitioner, ambulatory and emergency medicine, Mahnomen, Minnesota: “Never give up. These are the most important words I can give to young women. There will always be challenges in your life. Those challenges will make you better. Overcome and learn from your mistakes. This will teach you to get up and push forward as there is nothing that you cannot overcome. Don’t let bias and inequity work against you — push through until you become the leader.”

Larissa Kohler, physician assistant, Dickinson West Clinic, North Dakota: “Never give up on your dreams. That would be giving up on all the women who worked so hard to create a world where women can truly do whatever they put their minds to!”

Tania Brost, nursing manager, Dickinson West Clinic: “Surround yourself with positive and like-minded people. Always dream big — with dedication and hard work, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.”

Bethany Freel, student researcher, Sanford Research, Francis Lab: “As the world around us begins to recognize the systemic issues that have negatively affected women and minority groups, it provides an opportunity to also correct those mistakes. As a young LGBTQ+ woman in STEM, I encourage other girls and women to find something that they enjoy and chase it relentlessly. If you love to do something, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks — be a trailblazer for yourself and the women who will come after you.”

Colleen Swank, MD, FAAP, vice president of clinics and pediatrician, Bemidji: “In your world there is a girl or woman who is bright and capable, and you should encourage her. If you are a parent, talk to your girls about leadership and allow them to lead by creating opportunities for them to make decisions and solve problems. Within your own work, be a mentor to a female colleague — help her see what opportunities and possibilities are open to her. Provide her constructive feedback and compliment her publicly so others can know how successful she is. Remember that mentoring women is not limited to women; men play a pivotal role in empowering women as they aspire to obtain leadership roles.”

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Posted In Bemidji, Bismarck, Detroit Lakes, Dickinson, Fargo, Inclusion at Sanford, Leadership in Health Care, People & Culture, Physicians and APPs, Sanford Stories, Sioux Falls