USD med school receives $10M

USD med school receives $10M by David Lias The University of South Dakota School of Medicine will receive $10 million over the next decade from Sioux Valley Hospitals and Health Systems.

The funding will put the medical school at forefront of the nation's research into the leading health maladies of the day.

Sioux Valley and USD officials made the announcement of the growing financial partnership of the two entities at a press conference held at the USD Science Center in Sioux Falls where a Cardiovascular Research Institute is taking shape.

"This is actually an investment, a formation of a growing partnership between the USD School of Medicine and Sioux Valley Hospital," said Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and chief executive officer of the Sioux Valley system, in a phone interview with the Plain Talk Wednesday.

University of South Dakota President James Abbott said Wednesday that there is no question that USD's medical school took a giant step forward Tuesday thanks to Sioux Valley's commitment.

"We know that we have the talent (to conduct medical research)," Abbott said. "The continuing financial support by Sioux Valley, however, allows the university to not only retain that talent, but also allow those talented individuals to be involved in significant research along with fulfilling their teaching responsibilities."

Sioux Valley and USD School of Medicine officials organized the South Dakota Health Research Foundation last November. While the foundation will look at supporting research in other areas, it will concentrate first on heart failure.

The foundation was developed to serve as a mechanism for both organizations to fulfill the research roles identified in their mission statements through cooperative efforts.

This represents a commitment to an ongoing relationship that collectively supports and promotes the pursuit of the highest caliber publishable research, Krabbenhoft said.

The $10 million committed to the foundation by Sioux Valley will be distributed over the next 10 years, in $1 million amounts annually.

"The most important aspect of the investment," he said, "is its long-term nature."

Sioux Valley's investment to the foundation, Krabbenhoft added, will come from the health system's financial reserves.

"We have reserves in saving, and we invest those savings to maximize their potential," he said. "The return on that has been good, and it was decided that the foundation was a good place to invest some of those funds."

The research priorities of the foundation are the development and delivery of quality medical and healthcare services, the advancement of medical or scientific knowledge and skills, and the support of health science education research benefiting residents, health professionals and the general public.

The foundation is governed by a board of executives from Sioux Valley, The University of South Dakota, and the USD School of Medicine.

Every year, Krabbenhoft said, the foundation will try to solicit requests from the best medical researchers in the country.

"I think medical research can be and should be the direction where the USD School of Medicine should be headed, and we certainly couldn't do that without the investment from Sioux Valley," Abbott said.

Abbott doesn't envision a new medical research center built of bricks and mortar as he looks to the medical school's future.

"This is not so much a financial allocation to the facilities," he said. "It's the allocation to the research that's the most important.

"The hope is it will involve personnel from both Sioux Falls and Vermillion, with staff at both the undergraduate and graduate school level," Abbott added.

Abbott believes that "the sky is the limit" when one considers the USD Medical School's potential for substantive research.

"Nothing springs to life completed," he said. "When you look at anything that is substantial in this world, you realize that it started small and simply grew. Our efforts at medical research may be in an embryo stage right now, but this certainly is a great development that occurred this week. We now have the potential to perform medical research that we couldn't do before."

Martin Gerdes, the director of the Cardiovascular Institute at The University of South Dakota School of Medicine's Health Science Center in Sioux Falls, said that before this week, there was a danger that the medical school would begin to lag behind in its research efforts.

"If we hadn't developed a heart research center here," he said, "our medical school would have become less and less competitive."

"Obviously, I think this is a tremendous plus for the school of medicine, for Sioux Valley, and for the university," said Robert Talley, M.D., vice president and dean of the USD School of Medicine.

One of the programs being supported by the South Dakota Health Research Foundation, he said, is a cardiovascular research institute.

"We're bringing in some researchers; we're putting together an excellent staff to work on research in congestive heart failure," he said. "What we hope to do is to isolate the health signals that make it (heart failure) occur, and also the signals that make it reversible."

Talley shared Gerdes' view that the USD School of Medicine has had trouble in the past keeping pace with other medical institutions in research activities. That problem should now be eliminated, thanks to Sioux Valley's investment, he said.

"One of the areas that the university hasn't really developed is in clinical medicine," he said. "We need to make that jump between basic science and clinical medicine."

Sioux Valley's investment, he said, will stimulate and nurture the clinical sciences at the medical school.

"This should be a stimulus to help us conduct other types of medical research, such as in the area of renal disease, for example," he said. "This will allow us to be much more competitive. It will allow us to bring more dollars into South Dakota for research, especially through NIH grants."

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