MANKATO — The Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic in Mankato has for decades had an informal agreement to donate their services to treat injured athletes at Minnesota State University.

Now OFC and health giant Sanford Health have a five-year contract with MSU that includes $1.31 million in donations to athletics and $425,000 in donated medical services from OFC.

MSU will designate the two organizations as the exclusive providers of sports medicine for the university.

Andrew Meyers, CEO of OFC, said the philanthropy doesn't directly benefit OFC other than building some good will.

"It's a feather in your cap that you're providing orthopedics for a college athletic team. We don't want to lose that. And our sports med docs get into that because they are sports fanatics and they love working with athletes, especially high-performing athletes."

Meyers said they do hope the relationship may mean students who need surgery sometime may seek out OFC. "In today's market you can go anywhere you want and have your surgery done, so we hope some of them will go here."

OFC made a proposal to MSU in conjunction with Sanford because MSU was looking for a health provider that could also give the university's students some internship experiences. "MSU was looking for opportunities for their students to get exposure to nuke med and radiology, labs or sports science, and we're not a teaching institution," Meyers said. "Sanford has 4,000 paid internships every summer at Sioux Falls."

Sanford, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is the largest rural not-for-profit health care system in the nation with 45 hospitals and 289 clinics in nine states and three countries. It has 28,000 employees, including 1,300 physicians.

“At Sanford Health, we pride ourselves in providing the most advanced sports medicine services available in the industry,” Paul Hanson, president of Sanford said in a statement.

Drs. Jesse Botker and Scott Stevens of OFC are specialty trained in sports medicine and will continue to provide the sports medicine services.

OFC is a 62-year-old independent orthopedic surgical practice. Their main location is in Mankato, but the practice sees patients in nine additional places throughout central and southern Minnesota. They average 3,800 cases a year.

Kevin Buisman, MSU athletic director, said the new partnership will help the university transition from its current athletic trainers system. MSU now uses some full-time trainers and several grad assistants. But he said the move across the industry is to use trainers with master's degrees. The trainers attend games and practices.

"Those grad assistants won't be available to us anymore." He said the $1.31 million will be used to hire more part-time trainers with the right credentials. Each position has a starting pay of $35,000 to $45,000. "There's quite a difference in cost."

Buisman said they are discussing expanded partnerships with Sanford moving forward, including Sanford's interest in providing internships to MSU students in hopes of attracting them as employees someday.

"They're interested in a talent pipeline." He said Sanford has a need in many areas, from medical staff to business, finance and marketing candidates.

Follow Tim Krohn on Twitter @TimKrohn

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