Sanford Health, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine Partnering to Launch General Surgery Residency Program in 2014

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Program will include focus on surgery in rural areas.

This residency will be geared to train rural general surgeons hoping to meet the increasing national shortage of surgical access for patients.

The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and Sanford Health announced today that they will launch a surgery residency program focusing on general surgery, including surgery in rural areas, that will commence in 2014.

“This is a tremendous program for our students, the state of South Dakota and the medical community as it combines diverse surgical training opportunities with the expertise of so many outstanding committed teachers and physicians,” said Mary D. Nettleman, M.D., M.S., M.A.C.P., Dean of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine. “The end result will be highly-trained surgeons dedicated to enhancing health care in rural communities.”

The five-year general surgery residency program will include 15 (three students per year in the five-year training program) surgery residents, who will acquire a diverse skill set in 12 different surgical fields, including cardiac and thoracic, head/neck and endocrine, neurocritical care, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedic, pediatric, plastic, transplant, trauma acute care, vascular, urology and surgical critical care. Sanford Health will financially support the program and develop an innovative surgical simulation laboratory located in the Sanford Surgical Tower in Sioux Falls.

“This residency will be geared to train rural general surgeons hoping to meet the increasing national shortage of surgical access for patients,” explained Gary Timmerman, MD, chair of the Department of Surgery, Sanford School of Medicine.

The surgical residents will experience a wide range of hands-on experience and training with rotations in general surgery, including rural surgery at community-based and federal hospital systems in Sioux Falls, Yankton, S.D. and the VA. It will be the fifth rural focus program in the nation for general residency and the only surgical residency in South Dakota. The program’s plan recently obtained approval from the national Residency Review Committee. The first residents are scheduled to begin next summer.

“This residency is going to be a major stepping stone for surgical care opportunities, with an emphasis on producing experienced and well-trained surgeons for rural communities,” said Thav Thambi-Pillai, MD, a Sanford surgeon who will serve as the residency program director. “This is a building block for the future of health care in South Dakota.”

Sanford Health and USD have collaborated often to advance residency training in South Dakota. Sanford Health partnered with USD to develop a pediatric residency that launched in 2010 and a cardiovascular fellowship that launched in 2012.

About Sanford Health
Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas and is now the largest, rural, not-for-profit health care system in the nation with locations in 126 communities in eight states. In addition, Sanford Health is in the process of developing international clinics in Ghana, Israel and Mexico.

Sanford Health includes 35 hospitals, 140 clinic locations and 1,360 physicians in 81 specialty areas of medicine. With more than 26,000 employees, Sanford Health is the largest employer in North and South Dakota. The system is experiencing dynamic growth and development in conjunction with Denny Sanford's nearly $700 million in gifts, the largest ever to a health care organization in America. These gifts are making possible the implementation of several initiatives including global children's clinics, multiple research centers and finding cures for type 1 diabetes and breast cancer. For more information, please visit

About the Sanford School of Medicine
For more than a century, the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine has set the standard for medical education of students, residents and professionals in the state. The school’s mission includes education, research and service. It emphasizes family practice to help create the next generation of doctors for all parts of the state. The school’s economic impact includes attracting $17 million annually in research funding as well as hosting two of the four 2010 Research Centers designated by the governor.


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