As a specialist, my wife receives letters and
postcards (sometimes twice a week) from recruiters and health systems all over
North America. They never explicitly state which hospital it is specifically
but they all guarantee: top salaries, high quality of life, national sports
teams, major universities and “…a wonderful place to raise children”.
My wife is working very hard with a practice
covering seven hospitals in three states and feels as though her employers’ commitment
to her is as not as significant as her commitment to them. She always says “Your first job is never
your last…” So, after 5+ years of interest from Sanford Hospital in South Dakota,
we’ve decided to take a look. Although we couldn’t imagine living in South
Dakota... we did some research on Sanford Health and decided it was worth the
visit. At the very least, it would be an opportunity for my wife to catch up
with an old friend and former colleague for whom she has a tremendous amount of
FAST FORWARD 7 WEEKS…
When we arrived in Sioux Falls South Dakota, we were
simply blown away at this hospital’s whisper of a “Talk” and thunderous “Walk”.
Thanks to Premier One Bankcard founder Denny Sanford (and his $700MM in gifts
so far…), Sioux Valley Hospital has been renamed “Sanford Hospital” (surprisingly) and transformed
into a region-shaping health care network with an infrastructure of physicians
in leadership and an outreach spanning 126 communities throughout 8 states. They
several initiatives including global children's clinics, multiple
research centers and finding a cure for type 1 diabetes and breast cancer.
With both domestic and overseas satellites opening at a record-pace, Denny
Sanford is creating an unprecedented momentum of ensuring the highest caliber of
healthcare both in the Midwest and in 18 countries throughout the world (now developing international clinics in Ireland, Ghana,
Israel and Mexico). Organizational growth and development with cutting-edge medicine,
sophisticated research and advanced education like
this isn’t seen in cities ten times their size.
We arrived the weekend of Sanford Hospital’s Annual Gala ( benefiting the expansion of their cardiac division) and graciously accepted what
we believed would simply be an opportunity to meet some folks on the team and
have a nice dinner. I’ve been to a lot of these events and they always seem to
follow the same syllabus: cocktails followed by a President’s greeting, a few
words of promise by the CEO or COO then a video presentation of the good work
being done by talented physicians and administration’s plans for the future.
Then it’s back to dinner and some dancing afterwards.
The Sanford Healthcare gala we attended not only
brought one of the better meals I’ve had this year to our table (a perfect medium
rare filet, roasted brussel sprouts and truffled potato gratin), but also tears
to my eyes…and handkerchief. Never before have I been so moved by the parents
of children whose life-changing stories were shared …or by the teams of dedicated
people working orchestrally, from top to bottom, who selflessly make such a
monumental difference. But the Sanford story did not end when the lights came
back on. This was not a benefit injected with a presentation of “good work
being done”. This was simply a spotlight on life at Sanford whose message of “Improving the human condition through exceptional
care, innovation and discovery” didn’t end with a video. Improving the
lives of children, specifically, didn’t seem like “just a job” people are doing
here…it seemed more like a calling. An ingrained way of living life. A belief
system that is evident in everything from the conversations between fulfilled
guests at every table and the LED-illuminated spinning magic wands handed out
on the dance floor (that surely made many a baby-sat children at home delighted
in the morning) to the child prodigy pianist who led the orchestra all evening
I guess it’s just an overall feeling of genuine commitment
to care and to the community of people who provide it…and there doesn’t seem to
be a sense of (or pre-occupation with) time clocks, budgets or superfluous layers
of administration associated with it. The passion was palpable and contagious.
It’s hard to be around people like that and not feel a moral imperative to join them. It’s hard to be a father and not want an
amenity like them for your own child.
Now that some of our preconceived notions regarding the Midwest
have been obliterated, we have a lot to talk about on the flight home.