USDA Tours USD and Presents $500,000 Grant for Rural Health Care Project

Image Doug Jennewein and Kyle Gruhn Doug Jennewein, director of research computing for USD, and Kyle Gruhn, director of operations and development, during a tour of the university's server room with USDA representatives.

VERMILLION, S.D. — Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture toured the University of South Dakota Wednesday and discussed a project that will strengthen health care services in 24 rural South Dakota communities and give medical school and nursing students firsthand experience in rural practice and telemedicine.

Telemedicine allows health care professionals to treat patients through the exchange of medical information over two-way video, email, smartphones, wireless tools and other forms of electronic communications.

USD’s project, called “A Bridge to the Frontier: Preparing South Dakota’s Future Doctors and Nurses for Rural Practice," creates new telemedicine connections that link health education hubs at the USD campuses in Vermillion, Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls with 24 rural hospitals and clinics throughout South Dakota. It was made possible by a $499,897 grant from USDA and $376,000 in matching funds from USD.

“The funds will allow us to build a telehealth video network linking the university’s resources and educators to health care professionals and students across the state,” said Cheryl Tiahrt, deputy chief information officer at USD.

The immediate benefit for rural areas will be opportunities for existing health care professionals to stay current on the latest best practices over the telemedicine network through USD simulation centers. The three-year program will also help about 675 medical school and nursing students become more comfortable working in a rural environment, which increases the likelihood they return to those areas to fill the need for rural health care.

USD’s award was the second-largest of 75 grants in 31 states from a total of $23.4 million provided by the USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program.

The following South Dakota hospitals and clinics will be recipients or end users of the telemedicine connections, also shown in Google Maps:

  • Avera Medical Group, Milbank
  • Spearfish Regional Hospital
  • Avera Dells Area Hospital
  • Mobridge Regional Hospitals and Clinics
  • Winner Regional Healthcare Center and Winner Regional Clinic
  • Coteau Des Prairie Hospital and Clinic, Sisseton
  • Sanford Chamberlain Medical Center
  • Community Memorial Hospital, Redfield
  • Avera Medical Group Flandreau
  • Custer Regional Medical Clinic
  • Sanford Webster Medical Center
  • Avera St. Benedict Health Center, Parkston
  • Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital, Miller
  • Avera Gregory Hospital
  • Freeman Regional Health Services
  • Platte Health Center Avera
  • St. Michaels’ Hospital Avera, Tyndall
  • Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital, Wessington Springs
  • Landmann-Jungman Clinic, Scotland
  • Viborg Medical Clinic (Pioneer Health Services)
  • Philip Health Services
  • Faulkton Area Medical Center
  • Douglas County Memorial Hospital, Armour
  • Pioneer Memorial Hospital, Viborg


USD’s School of Health Sciences is a national leader in interprofessional health sciences education. South Dakota’s comprehensive School of Health Sciences develops scholars, practitioners and leaders in health and human services, including addiction counselors, dental hygienists, health science practitioners, medical laboratory scientists, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physician assistants, public health practitioners and social workers.


USD's Sanford School of Medicine is nationally known for excellence. With its award-winning curriculum, the school prepares medical students to practice in all fields of medicine and is particularly recognized and ranked for its reputation in family medicine and rural medicine. In addition to the M.D., it offers graduate degrees in basic biomedical science, sustains a vibrant and forward-looking research agenda, and is home to the interdisciplinary Center for Brain and Behavioral Research.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News