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New CyberHealth Strategic Alliance

November 18, 2020

Dakota State University and Sanford Health announce pioneering CyberHealth Strategic Alliance


“DSU students will have the unique opportunity to be part of that hands-on, real-world process, working side by side with DSU faculty, researchers, and Sanford’s professionals, wrestling with problems and developing solutions.” José-Marie Griffiths, President

Sanford Health of Sioux Falls, SD, and Dakota State University (DSU) of Madison, SD have announced a pioneering CyberHealth Strategic Alliance between the two organizations that will drive cyberhealth innovation and research, and create workforce and economic development opportunities for South Dakota.

What is a strategic alliance?

A strategic alliance is formed when two or more organizations find alignment in their needs, challenges and aspirations as well as complementary strengths and resources to address the needs and challenges of each other. As Josh Robinson, Chief Information Officer of Sanford Health, and José-Marie Griffiths, President of Dakota State University, learned more about each other and their respective organizations it became clear that they needed a way to bring them together. Griffiths said, “What we envisioned was much more than a partnership – more a partnership on steroids, a long-term, multi-dimensional relationship between our two innovative organizations, a strategic alliance.”

What is the CyberHealth Strategic Alliance and what will it mean for Sanford Health, Dakota State and South Dakota?

Griffiths and Robinson met last summer and as a former and current CIO they shared common experiences of ensuring that their respective organizations used new and emerging technologies to maximum effect. Over the next several months they quickly identified that Sanford Health and DSU share many complementary assets and competencies, along with mutual aspirations to enrich life in South Dakota and beyond.

Robinson concurred. “We were delighted to discover that the cyber resources and connections Sanford Health needs are at Dakota State in Madison, basically ‘just up the interstate’ from our headquarters in Sioux Falls. Dakota State is nationally recognized as a pioneer in cyber education and research in the same way that Sanford is a pioneer in health care.”

"We need to be working with the people who are at the leading edge of what’s happening in cyber now and into the future." - Josh Robinson, CIO of Sanford Health

Griffiths reported, “We quickly concluded that we had to find a way to bring the brilliance of our two organizations into one bright shining light of cyberhealth innovation, education, research, and application. This CyberHealth Strategic Alliance is the trailblazing initiative we have developed to do that.”

Robinson continued, “The need for effective, readily-available, affordable healthcare has never been greater. Sanford Health has consistently led the way in pioneering innovations to provide the highest quality care to more people in more places, even internationally. We’ve done it in large part by what’s behind the scenes: cost-effective, leading-edge, safe and secure cyber – technology – systems that support and advance the work of all the smart, caring, skilled people who are the essence of Sanford’s enterprises.”

Robinson continued, “The future of exceptional healthcare lies in our ability to harness the power of cyber to help people get well and stay well. To do that, we need a constant connection to the brightest and best in cyber. We need to be working with the people who are at the leading edge of what’s happening in cyber now and into the future, in all of the multiple disciplines that come together to take care of people, physically, mentally, and emotionally, throughout their entire lives. And we also need a pipeline to new cyber-savvy college graduates to fill the ever-growing cyber professional jobs here at Sanford. Those people are a scarce resource in our region. If we’re going to continue our success, we need the best of them to come work at Sanford.”

Griffiths explained the university’s perspective. “University students at all levels, undergraduate and graduate, benefit from any opportunity to work side-by-side with professionals in their chosen careers. We are eager to find more ways to give DSU students those invaluable career-building experiences that will enhance the already impressive worth of their DSU degrees. DSU faculty and researchers are eager to see their research driven by and quickly incorporated into solving real-world problems. Our sixteen Madison CyberLabs (MadLabs), are designed to address cyber-related research, technology application, workforce and economic development through the establishment of partnerships. This Strategic Alliance offers a powerful opportunity to come together and explore our collaborative potential in the domain of cyberhealth.”

Initially, the Alliance will focus on a number of Sanford’s and DSU’s well-matched present needs and interests:

  • Talent acquisition, development and retention – student enrichment opportunities, cyber executive education to enhance the pipeline and attract world-class talent
  • Collaborative research to drive operational excellence including creation of a state-of-the-art health care technology and cybersecurity operations center as a model for health care nationwide
  • Health data research to uncover new patterns of clinical significance, including the use of artificial intelligence, predictive analysis and machine learning to advance the pace of health care innovations
  • A Cyber Solutions Accelerator Lab, only the third in the nation, designed as a destination for testing and proving technology capabilities to solve real-world problems
  • Incubation and support of early start up and technology innovation companies to improve health care delivery across the spectrum
  • Exploration of a leading data science program focused on sports medicine and athletics for injury prevention and athletic performance
The Alliance will pull together the expertise, skills, and interests of professionals in both organizations who are eager to solve specific types of problems or advance certain innovations in these fields and others.

“The goal is to create a supportive environment for responsive, agile relationships and collaborations built on the significant abilities and aspirations of the people of Sanford Health and Dakota State University. We also know that the Alliance will generate new businesses, new jobs, and be a magnet to draw other professionals as well as cyberhealth and cyber-enriched businesses to the Madison and Sioux Falls region and South Dakota,” Griffiths stated.

Robinson explained further, “This DSU-Sanford Strategic Alliance ushers in a new era of dedicated collaboration between our two organizations. The CyberHealth Alliance will nurture active knowledge transfer between Sanford Health and DSU. It will bring together the abundant expertise and skills of Sanford Health staff and Dakota State faculty and researchers, along with the enthusiasm and contemporary perspectives of DSU students. Together they can develop innovations to solve complex healthcare challenges in a cyber-fueled world.”

Griffiths pointed out, “DSU students will have the unique opportunity to be part of that hands-on, real-world process, working side by side with DSU faculty, researchers, and Sanford’s professionals, wrestling with problems and developing solutions.”

Into the CyberHealth future

One of the goals of the CyberHealth Alliance is to make it possible for both Sanford Health and DSU to expand capacity and enhance capabilities. The partnership is designed to propel the activities of the Alliance forward as well as increase each organization’s individual rising path of influence, innovation, and impact.

Robinson stated, “The bottom line is that the Strategic Alliance will leverage the strengths of both organizations to enable each of us to go further faster than we could alone, to better carry out our individual and shared missions, to make life better for people across South Dakota and beyond.”

Griffiths elaborated, “DSU’s academic degree programs, applied research, and workforce/economic development are fueled by a cyber-savvy faculty and researchers, and students who have increasingly chosen to come to DSU to study with them. DSU faculty and researchers work at the pioneering edge of advancements in cyber-dominant fields like computer science, cybersecurity, information systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, health informatics/analytics, and data science, as well as disciplines being transformed by cyber, like K-12 education, business, arts and sciences.”

Robinson stated, “All of this correlates well with so many of the comprehensive cyber resources and barrier-breaking, disciplinary-specific applications of cyber that Sanford needs to power its present and future endeavors. And the Alliance’s various collaborations will create new opportunities for South Dakotans to jump on the global information highway to reach rewarding jobs and opportunities here at home and around the world – all from the comfort of their home communities.”

Griffiths continued, “The activities of the Alliance will establish Madison, SD; Sioux Falls, SD; and South Dakota as a nationally-recognized, CyberHealth innovation hub. The Alliance will increase and integrate South Dakota’s workforce in two of the most powerful drivers of local, regional, national, and global economic development in the 21st century: health care and cyber.”

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Jane Utecht
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