Rheumatologist Leann Bassing has strong ties to Yankton, having grown up in the community of 15,000; she even chose to return to her hometown to practice at Yankton Medical Clinic and raise her own kids. Today, Dr. Bassing is one of five doctors from her medical class to settle in Yankton.
“I think I always knew I would come back home,” says Dr. Bassing. “Yankton is the perfect sized community. It’s close to larger towns, I still get to see my family and best friends from high school, and I know many of my patients personally. It is the ideal place for me.”
Bassing says a high school program on health care careers first sparked her interest in medicine. She studied psychology at the University of Nebraska and went on to medical school at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine. After an internal medicine residency in Vermillion – and a brief flirtation with geriatrics – she returned to University of Nebraska Medical Center for a fellowship in rheumatology.
“I really considered doing a fellowship in geriatrics, but I ultimately landed in rheumatology, which is the right fit,” says Bassing. “I still get to take care of a lot of patients in that older population, but I enjoy working on a number of complicated rheumatological conditions, too.”
One aspect of rheumatology that was particularly appealing to Dr. Bassing is the chronic nature of many of the conditions she treats. Conditions such as systemic vasculitis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus often require complex planning and ongoing care that Bassing finds both challenging and rewarding.
“Lupus, in particular, is different in every patient who has it and can require aggressive treatment,” says Dr. Bassing. “I really like the fact that I am going to work with many of my patients for the rest of their lives. That is more fulfilling to me than seeing a person once or twice.”
Dr. Bassing has special interest in rheumatoid arthritis, a complex condition that affects
1-2% percent of the population.
“Because it is so common, there is always a lot of new research on rheumatoid arthritis and in rheumatology in general,” says Dr. Bassing. “The field is always pushing to advance, looking for better treatments and treatments that are better tolerated. This is great from a physician standpoint because it gives me a lot of options.”
As much as she enjoys complexity, Dr. Bassing says simple can be gratifying, too.
“I love treating gout, which is a pretty simple form of arthritis,” she says. “It is easy to confirm and it is great to be able to tell your patient that you can definitely make them feel better. A lot of times, gout patients are in a lot of pain.”
Whether the condition she is confronting is complex or straightforward, Dr. Bassing says the ability to consult with other specialists on-site is an invaluable aspect of working at Yankton Medical Clinic.
“If I need to talk about a patient with nephritis, I can just walk downstairs and talk to a nephrologist in five minutes,” says Bassing. “Another example is ulcerative colitis. These patients can develop inflammatory arthritis and I get to work with the gastroenterologist in the office right next to mine. The level of coordinated care here is just so efficient. It is a huge benefit to patients.”
Despite working in a relatively small area, Bassing says she never feels isolated or out of touch with advances in rheumatology. She attends symposiums and reads journals, follows American College of Rheumatology guidelines and maintains ties with her rheumatology colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and at Avera in Sioux Falls.
“I feel fortunate because rheumatology is a relatively small group and we all tend to know each other,” she says. “I always feel like any of us could call the other any time we need to.”
Those relationships allow Dr. Bassing to live, work and raise her family in the community she loves.