A New Opportunity From Avera Health, USD Sanford School Of Medicine


A new opportunity from Avera Health and the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine is working with some of KELOLAND’s most vulnerable people. 

23-year-old Brenden Amiotte is the first recipient of the Avera Health American Indian Scholarship, and just began his first year at USD’s medical school. He’s also a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe at Pine Ridge. The scholarship is for $24,000; Amiotte will get $12,000 in the first year and $4,000 annually for the last three years. Tuition and fees at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine total about $32,000 annually. Loans carry interest.

“Especially with how long you’re going to … medical school, all that interest accrues, so it’s nice to have that weight off my shoulders, so I can focus on really learning the material and becoming a better physician in the future,” Amiotte said.

“The scholarship recipients will be encouraged to provide their services and go back to serve those under-served areas that exist not only in South Dakota but in many parts of our rural footprint,” Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton said.

KELOLAND News asked Amiotte to fast forward 10 years and tell us where he hopes to be.

“I’m hoping to move back to Rapid,” Amiotte said. “Right now the plan is like a general practice, maybe working at Sioux San Hospital there, or maybe even on one of the reservations around there.” 

J.R. LaPlante, director of tribal relations with Avera Health, is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

“Some of the most serious health disparities in our country exist on our Indian reservations here in South Dakota and our upper Midwest region of the United States,” LaPlante said.

But that’s not the only need.

“One of the things that’s most lacking on Indian reservations are Native American physicians and providers … who can help improve those conditions,” LaPlante said. “And so this is an investment in the long term.”

Scholarship recipients will be enrolled members of a tribe in South Dakota or another part of the upper Midwest.

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