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A $125 Million Gift

January 7, 2014, 6:11 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

A $125 Million Gift

The latest multimillion dollar initiative at Sanford Health aims to combine internal medicine and genetics to improve your health.

Patients see internal medicine doctors for several reasons. For Jane Sahly on Tuesday, it's simply to get her yearly checkup.

"Make sure everything is going right," Sahly said.

Other adults visit internal medicine physicians to manage health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure.

"Internal medicine really is the primary care of adults. We take care of patients from 18 or 16-years-old on," Sanford Internal Medicine Dr. Eric Larson said.

Larson is one of the internal medicine doctors who will take part in the new program to combine his field with genetics.

"No one is doing this in primary care in any significant way because it takes a massive amount of money," Larson said.

Through this program, doctors will take a patient's DNA and apply it to a slide to figure out how a person will respond to more than 400 different medications.

"It will give us information about how people may react to medications before we give the medications," Larson said.

Larson says that could be potentially life-saving.

"Now we might know someone needs a cholesterol drug or a blood-thinning type of medication because they have coronary artery disease or some other problem, but we don't know how they'll react to that particular medication," Larson said.

Later on, doctors hope to also use the genetic information to prevent and catch diseases early.

"I think we'll be able to say, 'You will be at increased risk for cancer or diabetes or certain other diseases,' so you can change your approach to screening," Larson said.

That way doctors can be more proactive, instead of reactive, when treating patients like Sahly.

Part of the new program, including a new building in Sioux Falls, will bear the name of Dr. Larson.  Larson is T. Denny Sanford's personal physician and recently treated him for two nearly-deadly blood clots in his lungs.

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