Golfer Jack Nicklaus taps Sanford Health for pain relief

The Golden Bear says stem cell treatment helped him hit a golf ball without pain

By: Jacqueline Palfy .

Sanfod Health doctors with Jack Nicklaus and Sanjay Gupta
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VATICAN CITY -– Golf legend Jack Nicklaus told the world this weekend he trusted the work of Sanford Health –- and stem cells in his own body -– to repair a lifetime of injury.

The 78-year-old — who won 18 major championships, the most of anyone in history — told an invite-only crowd at a conference in Rome that he had nearly 40 injections in his back and hip to ease the pain from golfing, and none of it worked.

But a meeting with philanthropist Denny Sanford at a birthday party a few years ago changed his life. He heard about the adipose-derived stem cell work that Eckhard Alt, M.D., is doing at Isar Klinikum hospital in Munich, one of the Sanford World Clinic sites.

After considering, he took Mr. Sanford up on the suggestion, and Dr. Alt treated him with the stem cells.

“I’d like to get a result where I can stand up, hit something without hurting, and I can do that,” Mr. Nicklaus said on his conference panel, which he shared with Dr. Alt and two Sanford Health doctors: Jason Hurd, M.D., and Mark Lundeen, M.D.

“I’ve become a believer.”

He’s going back again, this time to treat his shoulder.

The news of his faith in the adipose-derived stem cell treatment, which was pioneered by Sanford Health with the first FDA-approved trial to treat rotator cuff tears in 2016, traveled around the world through coverage by CNN, The Telegraph, New Scientist and other media outlets.

This was just part of the presence Sanford Health had at “Unite to Cure: “The Fourth International Vatican Conference – How Science, Technology and 21st Century Medicine Will Impact Culture and Society,” which brings together leaders in health care, science and research from around the world as part of the Cura Foundation conference, which is held every other year in Rome.

Conversations at the three-day conference ranged from how to create a culture that puts patients first to the future of cellular therapy to the ethics of medicine, media and mindfulness.

“Patient stories remind us why we went into medicine,” Dr. Hurd said after talking about Nicklaus’ success and Sanford Health’s other trials.

The rest of the conference included Sanford Health president and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft discussing the growth of the world clinic initiative and how an integrated system –- including primary care, research and a health plan -– can create a sustainable business model.

“We can combine a strategy of health care and innovation,” Mr. Krabbenhoft said.

Rare disease also made a strong appearance, with Sanford Health researcher Jill Weimer, Ph.D., talking about her work.

“All of you probably know one person with a rare disease,” she said.

The conference also included famous faces.

Singer Katy Perry talked about how meditation has helped her disconnect from the world to reconnect to herself, and Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ron Suskind shared how he and his wife were able to find a way to connect with their son, who has autism, and help him flourish.

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