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Other Views: Genetics initiative leads way

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

Sanford Health’s plan to integrate genetic information with primary care represents a cutting-edge development in health care, not only for Sanford’s five-state service region but also for the nation. It’s a groundbreaking program that will take full advantage of the accelerating pace of genetics-based medical research and advanced patient care.

A $125 million gift from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford of Sioux Falls, S.D., (one of Sanford Health’s four hubs in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota) initially will fund the marriage of genetic screening with internal medicine practitioners, the first effort of its kind in the nation. “Imagenetics” will begin offering patients genetic testing and genetic counseling later this year. Several of the medical geneticists and counselors leading the plan are in place already.

It’s a big deal in modern medicine that could only be undertaken by a health care delivery organization with a research/education focus as big and visionary as Sanford Health’s. The resources of the largest regional health care provider in the nation are considerable, and are growing. The genetic-based component is another indication that Sanford is emerging as a national health care leader.

Time and again, Sanford has announced ambitious plans for expansion — the hospital under construction on the west edge of Fargo or the big clinic in Moorhead, for example — and followed through with concrete results. The system has added specialized care and surgical procedures that previously were not available in North Dakota, thus reducing the need for patient referrals to distant out-of-state medical centers.

And now Sanford Health is moving into “the frontier of medicine,” as chief executive Kelby Krabbenhoft described the genetics-based information and care initiative at Tuesday’s news conference in Fargo. It really is a new era in medicine, and Sanford is leading it.