HomeLatest NewsMember NewsNine Recognized with SDAHO Affiliate Society Awards

Nine Recognized with SDAHO Affiliate Society Awards

The South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations has 12 affiliated Societies. These affiliates consist of individuals whose work contributes to the provision of quality health care in South Dakota. Each year during the SDAHO Annual Convention, each society recognizes a member of the group with an affiliate award, decided upon by their members. Due to the climate of COVID-19, this year’s SDAHO Annual Convention was cancelled. SDAHO is recognizing this year’s affiliate society award winners.  

South Dakota Healthcare Social Work Association, (SDHSWA) 

Barbara Mechtenberg-Ruffinott, CSW PIP, Avera Medical Group 

Congratulations to Barbara Mechtenberg-Ruffinott, Coordinated Care Social Worker with Avera Medical Group for being selected as the 2021, Distinguished Service Award as part of the South Dakota Healthcare Social Work Association (SDHSWA) Affiliate group.   Barbara began her career in social work providing support to clients at Sojourn Group Home and in Child Protective Services.  In 1981, she became the first Social Worker at Sacred Heart in Yankton, South Dakota and traveled to Omaha, NE to complete her MSW @ University of Nebraska.  She served as the Director of Social Services while also in Rehab Services and the Employee Assistance Program at the hospital. In 2000, Barbara chose a new path as the Director of Social Services at the Human Services Center in Yankton, working within the adult and adolescent psychiatric units, geriatrics, chemical dependency, and psychiatric rehab programs. While there, Barbara developed relationships with statewide and community providers, taught a graduate level class at the University of Iowa and served as a consultant with the Avera Rehab program. In 2019, Barbara once again chose a different path, as the Coordinated Care Social Worker for Avera Medical Group in Yankton. Those who have worked alongside Barbara say she has been an advocate for those she serves and a mentor to her colleagues. “Barbara and I have worked together through the past 34 years, and I have witnessed as she provided encouragement and support to many social workers including myself. She has affected change to many individuals, families and groups.” Deb Kachena, Former HSC psychiatric social worker  

Barbara is a native of Parkston, South Dakota. She attended Mount Marty College where she earned a Bachelor of Social Work Degree. When she is not working Barbara enjoys volunteering, spending time with her husband and adult children in addition to traveling and being outdoors. Barbara says throughout her career she has had the best staff to work with and collaborating with providers and the community has been rewarding. “I am fortunate to have met so many amazing people throughout my career. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with many of our providers and professionals in our region so that we can better serve our patients and families.” Barbara Mechtenberg-Ruffinott, MSW PIP, congratulations on being the 2021, Distinguished Service Award recipient through the SDHSWA. Thank you for all you do.      

South Dakota Healthcare Social Work Association, (SDHSWA) 

Blair Sedlacek, Coordinated Care Social Worker/Hospice, Avera Health 

Congratulations to Blair Sedlacek for being the recipient of the 2021 Social Work of the Year Award, presented to her by the South Dakota Healthcare Social Work Association (SDHSWA). Blair began her mental healthcare career in 2005, as an intern for the South Dakota Human Services Center in Yankton, South Dakota.  Blair quickly secured a paid internship with Indian Health Services in Rosebud, where she formed lasting relationships. Blair then joined Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health as a therapist, later joining Avera where she worked in hospice, dialysis and cancer care for the Yankton and surrounding communities.  

Blair’s roots run deep in South Dakota, growing up in the Gregory area. In 2014, she would find herself back home where she worked for the Department of Social Services Adult Services and Aging, in the Winner and Mission area. Blair stayed in her home community – but reconnected with the Avera Medical Group in Gregory where she was hired as the first Coordinated Care Social worker outside of Sioux Falls. She continued to serve mental health needs in the area, joining Rising Hope Counseling in April of 2019 as a clinical supervisor and then a clinical therapist in 2020.  Blair continued to provide hospice and social work care for her community until retiring in April of 2021. Those who worked with Blair say she is a genuine caring professional. “Her smile is so welcoming and comforting as she strives to gain understanding of one’s pain and struggles. Blair has always encouraged good self-care and modeled how to ask for help. She taught those she met the more we give to ourselves, the more we give to others.” Barbara Ruffinott, SDHSWA  

Blair recognizes the challenges this past year has had on healthcare providers.  “This past year was all about challenges, especially in mental health. I am so thankful I was able to serve as a full-time therapist in addition to serving my community as a consultant in social work.” – Blair Sedlacek, Coordinated Care Social Worker / Hospice 

Blair is a graduate of the University of South Dakota. She is an active member of the National Association of Social Workers and a member of the South Dakota Healthcare Social Work Association, serving on the board in many different capacities. Blair is licensed at the highest level as a Certified Social Worker and Private Independent Practitioner in SD and holds a Mental Health Practitioner certificate.  Today, Blair continues to provide consultation to the Burke and Gregory facilities. During her free time, Blair enjoys the river, gardening, bowling, spending time on her farm and being with her family.  

Congratulations Blair on being the 2021 Social Work of the Year Award recipient through the SDHSWA. Thank you for all you do.  

South Dakota Organization of Nurse Leaders (SDONL) 

Kila LeGrand, Director of Nursing and Clinical Services, Sanford Aberdeen 

Congratulations to Kila LeGrand, Director of Nursing and Clinical Services with Sanford Aberdeen for being selected as the 2021, South Dakota Organization of Nurse Leaders (SDONL) Leadership Award recipient. Kila has been with the Sanford Aberdeen family since 2011. During the first four years of her career with Sanford Aberdeen, Kila served as the Director of Surgery. In 2015, Kila transitioned into the Director of Nursing and Clinical Services position where she continues to provide support to her team and serve her community and patients. In addition to her leadership role at Sanford Aberdeen, Kila serves as the President of the SDONL. Those who are part of this organization are thankful for her dedication to her volunteered position, especially during a pandemic. “Kila kept the business and objectives of SDONL moving forward while in the midst of a pandemic. As President of SDONL, she has represented the nursing profession well. She is a professional and worthy of recognition.” – Tammy Hillestad, SDONL   

Kila says she in humbled to be recognized by her peers. “It is very humbling, and I appreciate the recognition, I am so fortunate to work with the group of nurses affiliated with the SDONL.” Kila LeGrand, Sanford Aberdeen  

Kila was born and raised in Timber Lake, South Dakota and attended Presentation College in Aberdeen, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. When Kila is not working, she enjoys anything outdoors and spending time with her family and friends.  

Kila congratulations on being the 2021 SDONL Leadership Award Recipient, through the SDONL. Thank you for all you do.  

South Dakota Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS)

HIMSS South Dakota Chapter Leadership in Excellence Award
Brenda Soper, RN, MA, CNL, Avera Health 

Congratulations to Brenda Soper, RN, MA, CNL with Avera Health for being selected as the 2021, HIMSS South Dakota Chapter Leadership in Excellence Award recipient. The award recognizes an individual who exhibits excellence in volunteer leadership on behalf of the South Dakota Chapter of HIMSS. Those who are part of the SD Chapter of HIMSS say Brenda has served with distinction as a chapter board member for many years, most recently serving a three-year commitment as President Elect, President and Past President. Those who lead the SD Chapter of HIMSS must step forward and contribute their time and talents to advance the goals of the chapter. They must also provide HIMSS members throughout the state with quality education and networking events, which Brenda has done. “The South Dakota HIMSS Chapter is truly better because of the influence and leadership infused by Brenda over the years, and we can’t thank her enough for all that she has done.” Holly Arends, SDHIMSS. Prior to her leadership role with the organization, Brenda was the chapter secretary and has always been a willing participant on various committees including the program committee, sponsorship committee and nomination committee.  

Brenda has been a nurse for the past 28 years and has integrated her nursing education into every position she has had. In the field of health information technology at Avera Health she has served as an EMR clinical nurse Educator and Clinical Integration Analyst. In 2014, she took over the role of Director of Clinical Regulatory Compliance in the Avera Health Quality Department. There she collaborates with the IT department and end users to ensure regulatory compliance is being met through documentation.   

As Brenda looks back over the past 18 months, she admits there have been challenging times and just thinking about those times invokes many emotions. “Working under the COVID Incident Commander for Avera Health was an experience I will never forget. It took a great deal of courage to lead through a rapidly changing unknown. Courage on the part of our leadership, on the part of provider, and patient care staff.” Brenda Soper, RN, MA, CNL Avera Health, SDHIMSS Brenda also recognizes the courage displayed by so many people as they were asked to mask, social distance, quarantine, get vaccinated, accept differences in other another or even live without their loved ones. Brenda says at a time like what we are in today, words are inadequate but if she could offer one word it would be “courage.”  

Brenda grew up in Northwest Iowa and moved to Sioux Falls over 20 years ago. She is a graduate from SDSU with a Bachelor’s in Nursing. She then went on to Augustana where she earned a master’s degree in Clinical Nurse Leaders. When Brenda is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and puppy and anything outside. In addition, she enjoys quilting and playing cards.  

Congratulations Brenda Soper, RN, MA, CNL, for being the 2021 South Dakota Chapter HIMSS Leadership in Excellence Award recipient. Thank you for all you do.  

South Dakota Health Information Management and Systems Society – South Dakota Chapter (HIMSS) 

Chapter Achievement Award
Benjamin “Eli” Seeley, RN MSN RN-BC CPHIMS PMP, Avera Health  

Congratulations to Benjamin “Eli” Seeley, RN MSN RN-BC CPHIMS PMP with Avera Health for being selected as the 2021, Chapter Achievement Award recipient from the South Dakota Chapter of the Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS).   The award recognizes an individual who demonstrates effort and dedication as a volunteer leader for the SD Chapter of HIMSS. For the past two years, Eli has contributed his time and talents as the Communications Director. There he increased the quantity and quality of chapter communication to HIMSS members across the state. “Eli has also partnered with other chapter leaders to produce communication content for local and national events, in addition to raising awareness on a multiple of topics that are of interest to the HIMSS members.” – Holly Arends, SDHIMSS  

Benjamin “Eli” Seeley currently serves as a Project Manager for Avera Health Clinical Intelligence, which is part of the Quality Department. Before his role with Avera, Eli served in various healthcare roles for over 25 years including numerous leadership positions with the United States Army Medical Department. Eli retired from active duty in October of 2018. “This is the first non-military job I have had in the past 29 years. The army prepared me well to jump into the different roles I tackle today.” Benjamin “Eli” Seeley, RN MSN RN-BC CPHIMS PMP, Avera Health  

Eli holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Iowa. He is board certified as a Clinical Informaticist and holds certification as a Certified Professional in Health Information Management Systems.  

He and his wife who is a South Dakota native have three children. When Eli is not working, he and his wife are both very active in coaching the many sports their kids participate in. In addition, Eli is a volunteer member of the Beresford Fire Department, Ambulance Service, EMS, and VFW.  

Congratulations Benjamin “Eli” Seeley, RN MSN RN-BV CPHIMS PMP, on being the 2021 Chapter Achievement Award recipient for the SDHIMSS. Thank you for all you do.  

South Dakota Association of Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations (SDAHMPR) 

Avera Health Marketing – Mask up: Avera Health Public Relations Campaign to Combat COVID-19 

Congratulations to the Avera Health Marketing team for being the 2021 Bright Idea Award recipients, for their submission; Mask up: Avera Health Public Relations Campaign to Combat COVID-19. In the fall of 2020, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soared in South Dakota and the surrounding region, with no statewide mask mandates in place. Due to the high number of COVID-19 cases and varying degrees of mitigation efforts, South Dakota was the subject of national media attention. The Avera Marketing team collaborated with other healthcare providers to launch a public relations campaign to ask for the public’s help by voluntarily wearing a mask when out in public.  The campaign titled, Mask up: Avera Health Public Relations Campaign to Combat COVID-19 was a team effort. Input was included from experts in social media, marketing, media, writing and internal communications, media placement, digital both web and email, plus graphic design.  Tactics includes news releases, blogs, E-newsletter and social media posts. The campaign also used well known South Dakotans in the messaging to help give credibility to the campaign, including Avera CEO Bob Sutton, Jim Woster -Agri-Businessman /journalist, patients and more.  

The message was shared at the state and national level.  Avera also joined nearly 100 of the nation’s top health care systems across the U.S. with an urgent plea for all Americans to mask up.  In South Dakota, several communities passed mask mandates and Sioux Falls saw mask usage increase by 30%. South Dakota’s COVID-19 numbers began declining in early December and by late February the state reported its lowest number of new daily cases since July of 2020. The hard work of the entire Avera Health Marketing team played a huge role in public education on the use of masks during the pandemic.  The team was led by Lindsey Meyers, Vice President of Public Relations and Communications and Holly Shane, VP of Marketing, both with Avera Health. Additional oversight and leadership was provided by Kendra Calhoun, the Senior Vice President of Marketing, with Avera Health. “It has been incredible over the past two years, things our marketing team never imagined working on, we pulled together and excelled at. When it impacts the health and wellness of our communities, we all jump in to help. I’m grateful for this team and their dedication.” Lindsey Meyers, VP Public Relations & Communications, Avera Health.  

Congratulations to the Avera Health Marketing Team for being the 2021 Bright Idea Award recipients, through SDAHMPR. Thank you for all you do.  

South Dakota Healthcare Human Resource Association (SDHHRA) 

Kerri Severson, Human Resources Business Partner, Avera Health 

Congratulations to Kerri Severson, Human Resources Business Partner with Avera Health for being selected as the 2021, Human Resource Leadership Award Recipient from the South Dakota Healthcare Human Resource Association (SDHHRA).    

Kerri has been part of the Avera Health family for the past 15 years, providing strong leadership skills to her staff and patients. In her role as Human Resources Business Partner for Avera, she has handled complicated and challenging situations professionally and efficiently. Kerri has both strong leadership and communication skills which helps her bring key messages to individuals and large groups.  This past year, Kerri played a significant role that was outside of her normal work responsiblities. Kerri co-led the Avera system labor pool leading the coordination of Avera staff into the COVID-19 need areas. “This involved many 24/7 shifts, working with all regional leaders to ensure that we had qualified staff working with COVID-19 patients. This was completed at a time when we were furloughing staff to address the financial needs of the systems.” Lynn Bruchhof, VP of Human Resources Business Services, Avera Health  

During this time, Kerri made sure hundreds of clinical hours were filled with staff working in several regions. Kerri was also instrumental leading vaccine efforts. Avera was informed they would receive the first round of vaccines with two weeks’ notice. Kerri worked with other health leaders to staff the first vaccine clinics.  

Kerri is a South Dakota native who is proud to be a resident of the Rushmore state. She is always seeking to learn more about South Dakota and the workforce needs in the communities she serves. 

Congratulations Kerri Severson for being the 2021, Human Resources Business Partner Award Recipient. Thank you for all you do.  

South Dakota Healthcare Human Resource Association (SDHHRA) 

Marcia Taylor, Clinical Experience Coach, Monument Health Rapid City Hospital

Congratulations to Marcia Taylor, a Clinical Experience Coach with Monument Health Rapid City Hospital and Market for being the 2021 Spirit of Service Award Recipient, representing the South Dakota Healthcare Human Resource Association (SDHHRA). The purpose of this award is to recognize an employee who has performed above and beyond the call of duty and has shown extraordinary acts of kindness in the community and or for patients, visitors, or fellow employees.   

Marcia has been with the Monument Health (Regional Health) family for 46 years. She has served in several roles, including a nurse’s aide when she began her healthcare career at the age of 17. Today, Marcia focuses on initiatives and ensuring the patient experience is the best it can be. “As a Clinical Experience Coach, she works daily to ensure that patients have the best possible experience. The role allows her to give guidance in clinical situations and to work with patients, families and staff to find the best plan of care.” – John Pierce, Market President, Monument Health  

 During the pandemic, Marcia has been a tireless advocate for patients and families. She also played a role in creating the Healing Room. Its Lakota name is Wicozani Otipi, and the room serves as a private, spiritual place for families of hospitalized patients to gather. The room is specifically equipped to allow Native American smudging ceremonies, where sage is burned to cleanse the spirit.  

Marcia moved to South Dakota as a young child and attended SDSU where she earned a master’s degree in Nursing. She then earned a master’s degree in business administration from USD. When she is not working, Marcia enjoys outdoor activities, especially gardening and spending time with her family.  

Congratulations Marcia Taylor for being the 2021 Spirit of Service Award Recipient. Thank you for all you do.  

South Dakota Association for Healthcare Quality (SDAHQ)

Stacie Fredenburg, Quality Improvement Advisor, South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care  

Congratulations to Stacie Fredenburg, Quality Improvement Advisor for the South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care for being the 2021 SDAHQ Quality Professional of the Year recipient. Stacie serves as the lead for the four Great Plains Quality Innovation Network community coalitions in South Dakota.  She has been integral in connecting multiple partners and stakeholders across the state to discuss key healthcare topics and to share best practices. “Her passion for quality improvement is infectious and her leadership is second to none.” – Nancy McDonald, SDAHQ 

Stacie became a member of SDAHQ and hopped right in with both feet, taking on the secretary-elect role to fill a vacancy. Sharing SDAHQ’s focus on positive health outcomes, Stacie actively engaged in collaborating with other entities across the state to connect resources and unite around a common goal. With over 20 years in health promotion and education, she used those skills to enhance awareness campaigns and promote initiatives through education and resources for healthcare professionals.  

Starting her career with the Community Healthcare Association of the Dakotas (CHAD), the primary care association for North and South Dakota, Stacie spent 17 years promoting primary and preventive care with a focus on rural and underserved populations. She also served as a health systems manager in primary care for the American Cancer Society, where she credits learning and developing a passion for Quality Improvement. Stacie has led a variety of tasks groups, served as a grant reviewer, and completed a collection of intensive training sessions, including Leadership & Organizing in Action.  

Stacie is a North Dakota native and moved to the Rushmore state to attend the University of Sioux Falls, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications.  Stacie looks back on this past year and recognizes the challenges so many faced, but also recognizes the positives. “Throughout this past year, everyone came together. We realized how much we need each other. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we lift each other up through the struggle. It’s impressive to see the comradery in the healthcare industry and among our peers to improve the quality of life for the people they serve.” – Stacie Fredenburg, SDAHQ  

When Stacie is not working, she and her husband, a teacher, and head football coach in Sioux Falls, stay busy with their children’s sports and activities and enjoy being active outdoors  

Congratulations Stacie Fredenburg for being the 2021 SDAHQ Quality Professional of the Year. Thank you for all you do. 



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