SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO)– The Sanford Center for Digestive Health just received accreditation for its gastroenterology fellowship program, the first of its kind in the Dakotas. How this new program could help fill the shortage of these specialty providers in tonight’s Your Money Matters.

“In 2025, they forecasted a shortage of 1,600 GI physicians in the United States,” Dr Jeff Murray, the Director of Sanford Health’s GI Fellowship Program said.

It’s a shortage of specialists that stems from a number of causes.

“Sub-specialists are in an aging population. We know that 50 percent of us are 55 years old or older,” Murray said.

Dr. Murray says it’s also because their patients are living longer, in part thanks to improvements in preventative medicine.

“In 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force lowered the screening age for colonoscopies for colon cancer screening from age 50 to age 45, which really dramatically increased patient volumes,” Murray said.

This is another reason GI specialists are in such a high demand, and why patients are finding months-long wait lists to get in to see one of these physicians. It’s why Sanford’s Center for Digestive Health in Sioux Falls is so excited to begin hosting Fellowship students beginning in July 2025.

“The reason it’s important is because we know that fellows tend to stay and practice in the region, they stay and are trained,” Murray said.

The fellows will train in the Sanford Digestive Health Center that will take over the top floor of the new Medical Building One set to open next summer.

“The top floor is 45,000 square feet; it will house the procedural side of GI care as well as the clinic,” Murray said.

The new GI center will have space for 31 specialty physicians. Right now Sanford has about half that number with hopes to fill more positions through the new GI fellowship program.

“There will be six fellows over the next three years that will be trained as well. We’re going to be able to increase the gastroenterology care in this community substantially,” Murray said.

Sanford broke ground on the new MB1 building in 2022. The 5-story facility is scheduled to open in the summer of 2024. The first GI fellows will train in the building beginning the following summer.