SDAHO’s fourth healthcare hero is Dr. David Erickson, Chief Medical and Innovation Officer of Avera Health. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the nation and the world, our amazing healthcare professionals have risen to the challenge of improving lives not just today, but every day. The latest SDAHO Healthcare Hero embodies the true characteristics of a hero.
Meet Dr. David Erickson, Chief Medical and Innovation Officer with Avera Health. Dr. Erickson’s most recent role is Enterprise commander for the Avera Incident Command team – established in March of 2020 shortly after COVID-19 was detected in South Dakota. Dr. Erickson’s colleagues nominated him to be a featured as a healthcare hero because “his steadfast and unwavering leadership in leading Incident Command for Avera Health should not go unnoticed.” – Tom Clark, Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Avera Health
The frontline staff, physicians and advanced practice providers are often referred to as true heroes of today. There are however other heroes who are not directly on the front lines every day, yet their efforts are no less important for the success in caring for communities. Dr. David Erickson is one of those heroes. Those who work beside Dr. Erickson say he is too humble to toot his own horn as he prefers all attention be on those who are battling on the front lines.
Dr. Erickson is a South Dakota native earning his undergraduate and medical degree at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine and then trained at the University of Colorado. He and his family returned to South Dakota where he practiced family medicine in Dell Rapids for 14-years. Dr. Erickson says it was important to return home. “The opportunity came up to come back here and live, practice medicine and raise our two boys which are both married now, and we have two grandkids with one more on the way. It’s just fun to be in South Dakota.”
Growing up Dr. Erickson enjoyed math and science in addition to visiting with people, so drifting to medicine was easy. As he got further along in his career, he credits Dr. Loren H. Amundson for being his mentor and a wonderful influencer in the medical community founding the Department of Family Medicine.
Today, Dr. Erickson still enjoys examining data mixed with medicine “I have the responsibility of quality. I love data and quality and working with the Avera Medical Group, physicians and advanced practice providers and our clinical intelligence team. My heart has always been part of quality, data and analytics.”
“He has tirelessly led our efforts to standardize clinical protocols, ensuring adequate PPE, planning for surge capacity, and making sure that everyone across the Avera footprint is rowing in the same direction. “ – Tom Clark, Chief Strategy and Growth Officer
When looking back at his career, Dr. Erickson says as unusual as it sounds, the work he and his team have done during COVID-19 and the ministry through Avera Health have provided him the most rewarding experience as a healthcare professional. “I think for many, this will end up one of our highest callings and the opportunity to serve”, says Erickson. Looking back at the many decisions made during the pandemic, one that he is proud of, is the decision early on to keep patients as close to home as possible via Avera@Home, local critical access hospitals, regional facilities or tertiary care at Avera McKennan. Dr. Erickson is also proud of the many efforts to work together with others across the state which allowed his team to provide the level of care patients needed during a global pandemic.
When asked what he thinks about himself and so many others in the healthcare industry being called heroes, “I think it’s very fitting and I’m proud to call my colleagues heroes.” Dr. Erickson continues to shine the spotlight on those around him. He admits working through a global pandemic has been a humbling experience. “It has been an honor to serve as Incident Commander the past ten months, and the teams have done a phenomenal job. The regional presidents at each facility, chief nursing officers and chief medical officers – those entire teams have done a great job and everyone serving on the front line. Well done, we should all be very proud.”
If you want to read other healthcare hero stories or nominate someone to be featured, go to https://sdaho.org/heroes/