The South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO) presented eight South Dakotans with Distinguished Service Awards for exceptional contributions made to the health care field. The winners were announced at SDAHO’s annual convention on Sept. 19. Recipients are as follows:

Post-Acute Champion Award winner Erica Peterson with Eric Hilmoe, Sanford Health, and Sarah Talbott of Sanford Chamberlain

The Distinguished Service Award for Post-Acute Care Champion is Erica Peterson, Executive Director at Sanford Chamberlain. Erica was selected for her tireless and passionate work as an advocate for post-acute care. She strives to build and maintain great relationships across the state to promote access to healthcare services, transportation and employment opportunities. She truly finds opportunities in life’s daily challenges, all while bringing together a diverse group of employees, patients and communities to influence positive and effective change.


Distinguished Award Winner Dan Eisenbraun with SDAHO Board President Bryan Breitling

Dan Eisenbraun, trustee for Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, received the Distinguished Service Award for a Trustee. Dan has served Avera Health for many years as a member of committees and boards. He provides excellent leadership, both as a board member and chair. Dan focuses on the big picture and keeps others moving forward in new and challenging ways to help Avera grow and meet the mission.



Young Professional Award Winner Sean Bortnem with  Erica Peterson of Sanford Chamberlain

The Distinguished Service Award for Young Professional went to Sean Bortnem of Sanford Chamberlain. Sean serves as the Sanford Chamberlain imaging department manager, along with supervising the lab, therapy and dietary departments, he serves on several Sanford Health Network committees. Sean’s passion for quality and providing access to patients in a rural environment, are evident in his commitment to his work.



Health Care Hero Award Winner Judy Blauwet with SDAHO President/CEO Tim Rave

Judy Blauwet of Avera Health received the Distinguished Service Award for Health Care Hero. Judy Blauwet is a health care hero because of her tireless dedication to safe, high quality patient care across the course of 47 years. Judy’s impact on the quality of care both at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center and across the Avera Health system has been significant. Over the course of her career, Judy has distinguished herself as someone who is passionate about mentoring, coaching, influencing and developing others in a way that ensures that the future of healthcare will be in good hands. This has been demonstrated by her willingness to consistently serve in formal preceptor and mentor roles as well, informal mentoring and positively influencing those around her.

Media Personality Award Winner Sophie Heinemann with Corey Brown and Mitchell Rave of Sanford Health and Tim Rave of SDAHO

The Distinguished Service Award for Media Personality was presented to Sophie Heinemann. Sophie reports a daily HealthBeat for KELOLAND TV. She continiously looks for diverse topics to cover, from research to family medicine to women’s health. Sophie is a compassionate reporter who is able to help patients tell their stories in meaningful ways. She always gets a professional perspective to help viewers understand complex issues. She has a particular gift for helping patients open up on camera.

State Legislator Award Winner, Justin Cronin, with Mitchell Rave and Corey Brown of Sanford Health, Deb Fischer-Clemens of Avera Health, and Tim Rave of SDAHO

State Senator Justin Cronin was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for State Legislator.  This past legislative session, Senator Cronin was not only a strong advocate for increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes, he was absolutely instrumental. As Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Cronin used his experience, budgetary knowledge, and role to double the recommended increase to Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes in the Governor’s budget address. In addition to the work Senator Cronin has done towards funding, he has also been exceptionally involved in quality and healthcare access issues.  Sen. Cronin strives, as a lawmaker, to ensure quality health care services continue throughout South Dakota, but he is tireless in his efforts that support those in need. He serves as a board member for both Avera St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre and Avera Gettysburg Hospital. With his firsthand knowledge of necessities in farm country, he is able to guide good decisions and use finite resources most effectively so that the various communities in the region receive the timely support – regardless of condition, injury or illness – that they expect and deserve.

State Official Award winner of Sarah Aker with Corey Brown of Sanford Health and Deb Fischer-Clemens of Avera Health

The Distinguished Service Award for State Official was awarded to Sarah Aker. Sarah has been a valued member of the Department of Social Services since 2012 and For the past three yes served as  the Deputy Director. In that role, she has consistently gone above and beyond the normal expectations of the job. As the lead for Medicaid program policy development, Sarah has been instrumental in pursuing and initiating many statewide initiatives.  Sarah has also been instrumental in designing and implementing programs recommended by the South Dakota Health Care Solutions Coalition that have saved the State of South Dakota more than $12 million over two years, som​e of which is being reinvested to strengthen South Dakota Medicaid.

Health Care Hero Award Winner Tad Jacobs

Dr. Tad Jacobs of Avera Health recevied the Distinguished Service Award for Health Care Professional. During his 37-year career with Avera, Dr. Tad Jacobs has had a significant and lasting impact in many realms: rural family practice, the launch of telemedicine, the launch of electronic medical records, physician leadership, service line development, physician care and burnout prevention, and top administrative leadership for the health system, representing the best interests of patients, families, providers and employees.  Dr. Jacobs represents Avera and the medical profession with the utmost integrity. He has set the standard of those who would follow in his footsteps as a physician who has served his patients and community with compassion, concern and courage.


Congratulations award winners!