HomeLatest NewsConvention SpotlightSDAHO Recognizes Healthcare Affiliate Society, ACHE, LifeSource and More Award Recipients at...

SDAHO Recognizes Healthcare Affiliate Society, ACHE, LifeSource and More Award Recipients at 2023 Annual Convention

The South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO) celebrated its 97th annual convention September 20-22, 2023, at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. During the celebration, an award luncheon was held to recognize healthcare leaders from across the state including several Affiliate Society award recipients.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) earlier this year presented two AHA awards to SDAHO members, which were recognized and celebrated during the 2023 SDAHO Award Ceremony.


The Grassroots Champion Award is presented to an individual who demonstrates exceptional leadership in generating grassroots and community activity, in support of a hospital’s mission, who most effectively educates elected officials and who has done an outstanding job in broadening the base of community support for the hospital. The 2023 recipient of AHA’s Grassroots Champion Award was presented to Corey Brown, System Vice President, Government Affairs, Sanford Health.


The AHA Political Action Committee’s Most Valuable Player Award is given to those who understand the value of a robust PAC by taking leadership roles in developing strong PAC bases in their organization and working to strengthen their relations with legislators. This year’s recipient of AHA’s PAC Most Valuable Player was presented to Jason Merkley, President/CEO Brookings Health System.

The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) presented two awards this year. Mark Longacre, Vice President of Operations with Rapid City’s Market, Monument Health who also serves as ACHE’s Regent was on hand to help present both awards.


Ashli Danilko, CEO of St. Michaels Hospital Avera in Tyndall was presented with the ACHE Senior Level Healthcare Executive Regent’s Award.

Prior to her position at St. Michael’s, Ashli served in several leadership roles over 8 years at Avera Sacred Heart, Yankton, South Dakota, including Vice President of Administrative Services & Strategy and Executive Director of Organization Excellence. Ashli is board certified in healthcare management as an ACHE fellow, Ashli serves as the current chair of the South Dakota Healthcare Executive Group (SDHEG) and has held previous board roles as the Education Chair and Vice Chair.  Ashli has also served on the ACHE fellow exam committee and has been a member of ACHE since 2001.


This years Regents Award for Healthcare Leadership was presented to Jesse Naze, the Chief Financial Officer with Fall River Health Services in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Jesse is responsible for the financial health and viability of the organization. As the largest employer in Hot Springs, Jesse takes great pride in making sure the organization continues to be financially sound to support our local economic base. Jesse is nationally certified with the Health Financial Management Association (HFMA) as a certified healthcare financial professional.

LifeSource, was on hand this year, with Emily Larimer the Hospital Partner Liaison presenting to two awards.


The South Dakota Hospital Partner Award Excellence in Donation for 2022-2023 was presented to Sanford USD Medical Center. Last year, LifeSource fulfilled the wishes of more organ and tissue donors than any other year prior, with 760 organs transplanted and lives saved. This was a 33% increase from 2021. Sanford Sioux Falls launched its long-anticipated donor remembrance wall. Last year 15 organ donors and their families at Sanford Sioux Falls were honored and this year, Sanford Sioux Falls is on track to surpass that with 13 donor wishes fulfilled to date. Accepting this years SD Hospital Partner Award Excellence in Donations was:

  • Kristina Hofer, Director of Nursing Inpatient, and Critical Care.
  • Dana Heidebrink, Executive Director of Emergency, Trauma, Critical Care and Hospital Based Services.
  • Katie Dewall, Director of Transplant Services Nephrology and Neurocritical Care.
  • Holly Madison, Clinical Nurse Manager, PED/PICU/ PED Outpatient.

This years Excellence in Partnership Award was presented to the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO). This past year SDAHO supported a donation education webinar, taking place in March, in addition continued messaging through the association’s webpage throughout the year.  SDAHO continues to be committed to raising awareness about organ, eye and tissue donations with members. Currently donor registration in South Dakota for this year is at 60%, with the national average at 50%.

Accepting, this year’s Excellence in Partnership Award was Sheena Thomas, Marketing and Communications Coordinator with SDAHO.


The South Dakota Association of Healthcare Quality presented the Quality Professional of the Year award to, Cheri Fast with the South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care and the Healthcare Associated Infection Consultant for South Dakota. In addition, Cheri is co-leading Project Firstline.

Cheri is responsible for coordinating, consulting, and performing infection control and prevention risk assessments across South Dakota in healthcare facilities and assisting with healthcare acquired infections throughout the state. She played a pivotal role in the development of a national home health infection prevention toolkit and was selected to serve as a technical reviewer for the national organization. She was a master trainer for Better Choices Better Health in diabetes, chronic disease management, and pain.

Cheri has served on the SDAHQ executive committee for the last two years and is currently the secretary elect.


This years Leadership in Excellence Award with the Health Information and Management Systems Society of the Dakotas Chapter was presented to Eli Seely, past President for the affiliate group and a current Strategist for Avera Health.

The Leadership Excellence Award is bestowed upon a HIMSS of the Dakotas Chapter member that shows outstanding leadership within the chapter, their community, and their organization.

ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (HIMSS of the Dakotas Chapter)

This years Achievement Award with the Health Information and Management Systems Society of the Dakotas Chapter was presented to Holly Arends, a Senior Consultant with Health Tech Solutions, Quality Consulting, LLC. This award is bestowed upon a member that is making extraordinary contributions to the chapter.


The South Dakota Organization of Nurse Leadership presented their Nurse Leadership Award to Carol Stewart, Associate Professor of Nursing, and Director of the Graduate Nursing Program at Mount Marty University. Over the years Carol has been an active SDONL member and most recently a key player on the board. Carol currently serves as treasurer, with aspirations to serve in other positions on the board.

This organization is a resource to network South Dakota nurse leaders and aspiring nurse leaders. It serves to connect leaders to the best thinking, tools, and information nurses need to excel as nurse leaders.


This years Social Worker of 2023 presented by the South Dakota Healthcare Social Work Association was awarded to Kassandra Frey, a Coordinated Care Social Worker with Avera Medical Group Family Medicine Clinic in Yankton, South Dakota.

Kassandra began her career as an intern in 2015 with the South Dakota Social Services Center in Yankton, then graduated with her master’s in social work from USD. Kassie has been part of the Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health team, in addition to working as a certified social worker and private independent practitioner in our state, specially trained in dialectical behavioral therapy. She joined the Avera Family Practice Medical Clinic in Yankton earlier this year.


Retaining South Dakota nurses is an important initiative to SDAHO. Nurse leaders, whether at the bedside or in nursing management, play a vital role in nurse retention buy influencing the quality of work, the stability of the work environment and improved patient outcomes. The SDAHO Nurse Leadership program began in 2019, with growth occurring every year. The 10-session program includes both in-person and virtual sessions, with current and emerging nurse leaders taking part. During the 2023 Annual Convention, SDAHO recognized the Nurse Leadership Participants from this past year.

  • Amanda Karrels | Monument Health Sturgis
  • Amanda Jans | Pioneer Memorial Nursing Home
  • Caitlin Broek | Prairie Lakes Healthcare System
  • Caitlyn Clements | Wagner Community Memorial Hospital
  • Dixie Artz | Mobridge Regional Hospital
  • Emily Larimer | LifeSource
  • Emily Hofman | Madison Regional Health System
  • Heather Brewster | Prairie Lakes Healthcare System
  • Jenna Jacobs | Madison Regional Health System
  • Jessica Matthies | Avel eCare
  • Karla Nygren | LifeSource
  • Kassidy Dietterle | Mobridge Regional Hospital
  • Kelly Soulek | Wagner Community Memorial Hospital
  • Kristi Meyer | Madison Regional Health System
  • Melissa Jurgens | Prairie Lakes Healthcare System
  • Micaela Rice | VA Black Hills Health Care System
  • Sheri Reichert | SD Human Services Center
  • Tammi Hotz | Community Memorial Hospital
  • Tracey Mehlhaff | SD Human Services Center
  • Valerie Rude | Milbank Area Health Care Campus
  • Vance Caffe | Hand County Memorial Hospital

Registration for the 2024 SDAHO Nurse Leadership Program will open October 2023, so look for information in the Unified Voice Newsletter and online.

SDAHO congratulates all recipients recognized during the 97th Annual Convention!

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