How a Scholarship Fund for Future Doctors Ensures Faulkton’s Economic Health
3 Mar 2022
Health care is so personal that it is easy to overlook the importance of comprehensive healthcare services for a community’s economic wellbeing. Faulkton, South Dakota, not only realizes the throughline, community leaders are developing strategies to assure health care, and the health of the community, continue strong well into the future. The Faulkton Area Medical Center (FAMC) and local physician Ken Bartholomew, M.D. have partnered for the Dr. Ken and Twyla Bartholomew Scholarship Fund to recruit doctors to the Faulkton area as part of a “50-Year Plan.”
In a recent community meeting, Dr. Bartholomew outlined just how important FAMC is to the area. He gave examples of towns that lost 40 percent of their populations when their hospitals and clinics shuttered. In contrast, he offered examples of towns that kept millions of dollars worth of jobs and local business by maintaining thriving health care facilities. Keeping a hospital open in Faulkton over the past 50 years amounts to keeping an estimated $500,000,000 in the local economy through spending and job retention.
Dr. Bartholomew is no stranger to the power of scholarships for recruitment. Originally from Lemmon, SD — three hours northwest of Faulkton and slightly larger — he began at the University of Utah Medical School in 1972, but soon ran out of funds to realize his dream.
“Growing up, I looked up to the doctors; they were well-respected and did good things and I wanted to be like them,” said Dr. Bartholomew. “I saw that small town practice truly made a difference. When you saved a life . . . that would not have happened if they had no doctor.”
Luckily for everyone, Dr. Bartholomew’s dream was given new life. The Faulk County Commissioners had authorized a scholarship program to attract a medical student and Dr. Bartholomew’s brother, Tom, made the original connection. Dr. Bartholomew said it would have been very difficult to finish his schooling without that financial aid.
As a result, Faulkton welcomed its new physician in 1978 and has been reaping the benefits ever since. Dr. Bartholomew elaborated about his training and career.
“I did early research on computers in medicine with the world famous Dr. Larry Weed and co-authored a book with him. I was the first physician in South Dakota to computerize medical records back in the 80s — before most people had personal computers. Additionally, I have written four other books and am working on number five. However, saving a life when you only have seconds or minutes to act — that gratification is beyond compare.”
With semi-retirement, Dr. Bartholomew has closed his Pierre office, but is still working “one day a week at Faulkton Area Medical Center and taking lots of phone consults.” He is also launching a succession plan with the establishment of the Dr. Ken and Twyla Bartholomew Scholarship Fund. Dr. Bartholomew, and his wife, Twyla, have pledged to match the first $50,000.00 raised from private donations.
The FAMC Foundation, with its long history of fundraising for the hospital, is seeking community support to reach the $50,000 goal by the end of 2022 and it’s off to a great start. In just a couple of weeks, the fund has received over $35,000 from private donors and businesses, including a $25,000 pledge from Dacotah Bank.
Dr. Bartholomew is going beyond his generous pledge with active recruitment. “I am personally contacting the deans of multiple midwestern medical schools to see if they have students who are interested in primary care and who need financial aid like I did, coming from a family of 13 with no financial help from home.”
“I see this scholarship as almost the only way to attract a young doctor to a small town,” said Dr. Bartholomew. “It is hard work, being on call a lot and having so much responsibility on your shoulders. It takes a strong individual and someone with a will to succeed. Most would rather live in a larger city where they have more shopping and entertainment and less call time and responsibility.”
Dr. Bartholomew also enumerated the many benefits of small-town practice. “You are your own boss. You do not have a corporation or committee telling you what to do. You don’t waste hours and hours in meetings, you just get things done. In a city of 100,000, you are just a little cog in a big wheel, but in a small town, you truly make a difference.”
The long-term goal of the scholarship is to create a perpetual funding source — approximately $1,000,000 — to recruit future doctors to continue FAMC’s excellence in care. The Bartholomews and FAMC Foundation hope for each and every Faulkton area family to make a pledge over five or ten years to ensure local healthcare well into the future.