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Published August 28, 2011, 01:01 AM

Clinic Extends Sanford's International Reach

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — From an initial goal in 2007 to open five pediatric clinics in underserved areas, Sanford Health has seen its dream grow exponentially.

By: Pater Harriman, Argus Leader

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — From an initial goal in 2007 to open five pediatric clinics in underserved areas, Sanford Health has seen its dream grow exponentially.

"Last year, we announced 20 clinics around the globe. Where we are today, it is easy to imagine we can have 100 clinics around the globe. Within five years, we will see 1 million kids a year at these clinics," Dave Link, Sanford senior executive vice president, said recently.

Link announced ventures with local health partners that will result in new clinics in Israel, Mexico and Ghana. In many such areas, Sanford is, in effect, the face of the U.S.

"We feel the responsibility as a health care system," Link said.

Representatives from each country where Sanford announced new clinics welcomed the partnerships.

Gaby Polliack, a doctor with Maccabi Healthcare Services, which is working with Sanford on a clinic in Carmiel, Israel, likened Sanford's global health care relationships to a family.

"This family feeling is characteristic of all the people chosen to lead the Sanford mission," he said.

In Carmiel, the Sanford clinic will serve about 100,000 children in a city and surrounding villages in rural northern Israel. Polliack said the region is culturally diverse and populated largely by immigrants and young families.

Sanford has joined with Los Cabos Children's Foundation to build a clinic in the Baja area of Mexico. That nation's population of 100 million has an average age of 27, said Mexican Consul Ana Luisa Fajer Flores, and 50 million people are younger than 15.

"It is a very young population," she said.

In contrast to Israel, which has a sophisticated health care system, Fajer Flores called health care delivery in Mexico "a work in progress," and said Sanford's presence in Mexico is "a perfect fit."

"There is no better way to improve the quality of life in a community than improving the health of children," she said.

Like Mexico, Ghana faces daunting challenges in extending health care to all its citizens. The Sanford presence there will be somewhat different than in other countries, Link said. Sanford will open 10 clinics around the country focused on primary care for both children and adults.

"You can't take care of the child if you can't take care of the family," he said.

Kojo Benjamin Taylor, a Ghana native who returned to his homeland after a business career in Minnesota, is Sanford's partner there. His aim is to overwhelm common diseases such as malaria, upper respiratory infections, intestinal ailments and skin diseases that are either rare in the U.S. or considered minor health problems but that kill hundreds of thousands of people annually in Africa. He said he hopes the clinic model developed in Ghana can be replicated and spread throughout sub-Sahara Africa.

He also speculated about Sanford's motivation to serve Ghana.

"Is it because they realize the human race is all one?" he asked. "Because they are good stewards of God's resources?"

Perhaps because Sanford's vision was aligned with his own, "We were bound to come together by the law of attraction," he said, drawing a chuckle from the audience of several hundred who attended the announcement at the Sanford Center, 2301 E. 60th St.

Juan Bonilla, an advocate for the Sioux Falls Latino community and president of La Voz Hispa-a, a local Spanish-language media company, was among those watching the ceremony. He noted Sanford physicians already participate in a Spanish speaking television show La Voz Hispa-a produces, and he said the new clinic in Mexico will strengthen ties between Sanford and South Dakota's Latino community.

"The Latino community will see Sanford as the place to go for services," Bonilla said. Sanford is "viewing the future and acting now. This is great."

As its pediatric clinic network expands, Sanford is learning things that can make subsequent clinics function even better, Link said. Sanford aims to bring its medical skills and organizational expertise to an underserved area and to join with local officials to create an enduring health care delivery model. Experience allows Sanford officials to better analyze potential sites for clinics and form better partnerships with local leaders, Link said.

Also, clinical trials sprung from Sanford research can be carried out not only in South Dakota but around the country and world because of the clinics, Link said. The broader diversity of trials often yields better insights into the treatments being tested.

Even as he was announcing the three new clinics, Link said Sanford is investigating opening additional ones in two other countries and three states.

Two-time U.S. Open champion and golf analyst Andy North, a member of the Sanford Children International Board, attended the announcement.

"A great idea is nothing if it never happens," he said. But with the clinics, "the last two years have been amazing.

"Not only do they make things happen," North said of Sanford, "they make it look like it's pretty easy."


Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com