"The things that I’m able to do every day – like strategy and operations discussions and working alongside the Avera Medical Group vice president, director, surgeons and providers – to have that kind of a career while living in a town of approximately 1,300 people is a dream," said Schmidt, who currently resides in Freeman, South Dakota. "I always knew I wanted to have a career like this and thought I’d have to move to a big city to find it, but I can have it right here in rural South Dakota."

In this dream role, Schmidt manages specialty care clinics for hospital facilities in Yankton and Mitchell. Her duties involve supervising day-to-day operations, physician and employee relations, and fiscal management, coordinating staffing and schedules, maintaining compliance, and above all, ensuring her teams are providing the highest quality care to patients.

"Every day in health care presents new opportunities, and I’m grateful to work with teams that make such a positive impact on the health of our community members, especially in rural areas of South Dakota," said Schmidt, a 2023 recipient of the USD Alumni Association's 30 Under 30 award.

Schmidt’s strong affinity for rural communities is rooted in her upbringing. She grew up on an angus ranch in Artesian, South Dakota (current population 134), where her family sold purebred angus bulls. She learned to love the marketing and financial side of the family business, ultimately leading her to pursue her business degree at the University of South Dakota Beacom School of Business.

When looking for business schools, Schmidt wanted a place that could provide her with strong networking opportunities and connections with businesses in the state – she found that at USD. She also found an accelerated BBA and MBA program that expedited her journey toward her dream career.

"USD has a really unique joint BBA/MBA program, and I chose that route for multiple reasons: flexibility, affordability, and quality and reputation of the program," said Schmidt. "I was able to graduate a year sooner than most traditional programs, as my graduate-level classes also fulfilled the requirements for my senior-level undergraduate classes. This allowed for a streamlined education that made the degree much more affordable, and I was able to get in the workforce a year sooner."

Entering the workforce early proved to be beneficial for Schmidt, who immediately accepted an internship at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center and was quickly promoted to her current role as a clinic manager just a few months later. During her tenure with Avera Health, her roles and responsibilities have continued to grow, and so has her appreciation for the people she works with and serves.

"People are kind, and they care," said Schmidt. "When I walk through the halls of Avera Sacred Heart Hospital or Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, everyone always says 'hi' and asks how I’m doing. Our staff are smiling and welcoming, and we truly live out the Midwest hospitality in our values – that’s something you don’t find everywhere.

"People drop what they are doing to help patients and take time out of their busy days to walk them to their destination or help them get into their cars," she continued. "They go above and beyond their calling, and they are the people I want to continue to work with."

This strong sense of community and dedication to helping others is something Schmidt encountered during her time at USD. While earning her degrees in business, she took every opportunity to get involved and build relationships with professors, peers and industry leaders.

"USD does an incredible job at giving students various opportunities to get involved," said Schmidt. "The Beacom School of Business held award and recognition banquets, invited South Dakota businesses on-site to hold meet and greets and interview events, and there were even opportunities in various classes to work and consult with multiple businesses on real-world, real-time issues. All of these presented great resume builders that created strong talking points in interviews I don’t think I would’ve gotten elsewhere."

At the end of the day, Schmidt is driven by the meaningful impact her work has on both her colleagues and the people they serve.

"The care teams I get to work with truly know our patients; we know what sports their children play, we might run into them at the grocery store, we celebrate births and health milestones, and we work on community events together," said Schmidt. "We always say that we treat our patients like we would our mom, daughter, son, etc., and that’s important in a small town.

"We truly are taking care of our community, and that is such a special purpose."

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