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Published on September 21, 2021

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Stronger Together: Avera and Partners Combine Strengths to Improve Communities

Health care and education were both community-building ministries that were important to the Sisters who founded Avera over 125 years ago.

That mission mindset is a key reason why Avera continues to partner with educational institutions today.

Development of a highly skilled workforce is a driving force, as well as helping aspiring health care professionals achieve their goals, and improving the lives patients.

“With our high schools, colleges, technical schools and others, Avera can help foster workforce development that’s a win-win for all involved,” said Micki Lundin, Director of Community Partnerships with Avera. “Across our footprint, we have strong relationships, working together to help students learn in a collaborative environment.”

Developing the Caregivers of Tomorrow

Concrete contributions to a number of higher education entities around South Dakota help prepare professionals who one day might work at health systems like Avera. Examples of programs that help equip college students ready themselves for careers include:

  • At Mount Marty University in Yankton and Presentation College, Avera contributed to development of health care simulation labs on campus to help health majors apply what they learn.
  • Via the Avera Academy, future health learners at Sioux Falls Public Schools and Southeast Technical College are gaining real-time exposure to careers in health. Students explore careers with the program Avera funds, and it also helps provide tuition assistance to students who continue into college in these areas, such as nursing, surgery technician and others.
  • Back in 2007, Avera made a pledge to support health sciences research and education at South Dakota State University, including the Avera Health & Science Center near the center of the campus where allied health professions students, pharmacy students and others develop their skills. Every student at SDSU who pursues a health or science education has classes in this building.

“We work to find those opportunities that can provide students and employers successes,” said Pam Hilber, Director of Workforce Planning for Avera Health. “We realize not every student will end up working at Avera, and that’s OK. Our goal remains helping our communities, their citizens, and a great way to do that is with programs like those we support.”

Hilber said the Build Dakota scholarships are another great example of the health system’s efforts and its conjunction with local, state and regional entities that can lead to student successes. Avera provides a number of American Indian scholarships via its tribal partnerships, and it’s also a contributor to the new South Dakota “Freedom Scholarships.”

Developing New Programs for All Students

Where formal programs that could help students do not exist, Avera professionals have created new opportunities, like the program Avera Medical Group Abdominal Transplant Undergraduate Internship. This program enrolls college students for a nine months, giving them up-close and personal experiences with health care specialists in many fields.

“Our program brings students into a multidisciplinary setting, so they can see all the facets of care,” said physician Sujit Sakpal, MD, FACS, an Avera Medical Group specialist in critical care, transplantation and surgery. “We’re excited to start our second year, as the examples we show help students better understand possible careers. When they go beyond all the terms and jargon of our industry, they better understand if it’s truly something they want to pursue.”

Each partnership Avera enters offers the health system means to accomplish its mission of benefiting people and communities.

“Opportunities come from many places, and we’re looking for situations where we can step in and contribute to success,” Lundin said. “Without our education partners, Avera would not have its current achievement. We realize the vital nature of continuing relationships we have while seeking new allies in the work we do going forward.”

Learn more about Avera Foundation scholarship opportunities.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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