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A Helping Hand Yankton ‘Servant’ Receives State Honor For His Humanitarian Work

By Cora Van Olson cora.vanolson@yankton.net

Dr. Tim Irwin, a board-certified cardiologist at YMC, was selected by the COPIC Medical Foundation to receive its 2022 South Dakota Humanitarian Award for his volunteer work at Yankton’s Servant Hearts Clinic. That free clinic helps patients with limited access to healthcare due to income, language, legal status and other variables.

“I am accepting this (award) on behalf of an incredible team,” Irwin told the Press & Dakotan. “I am humbled and happy to be a part of that. Without clinics like Servant Hearts, some of the people that I take care of would get no other health care.”

Servant Hearts Clinic is a Christian-based organization that concerns itself with both the physical and spiritual wellbeing of its patients, he noted.

“If the greatest need is not physical, but is spiritual, we want to be there to support that,” Irwin said. “Part of that is mental health, emotional health, depression and anxiety.”

Servant Hearts Clinic partners with Yankton’s Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health Services for higher-level mental health care.

“They wonderfully support the same mission, where they are more interested in helping people than the bottom line, per se,” Irwin said.

In addition to giving the award, COPIC donates $10,000 to a healthcare non-profit of the honoree’s choosing. Irwin chose Servant Hearts Clinic as the recipient.

“We have an annual budget of $60,000, so to receive a $10,000 donation is absolutely incredible,” Frani Kieffer, executive director of Servant Hearts Clinic, told the Press & Dakotan. “At our next board meeting, I want to brainstorm, ‘How can this (money) kickstart some great new programs, and what can we do to impact our patients the most?’”

The award, co-sponsored by the South Dakota Medical Association, is presented each year to honor one physician in each of several states for volunteer medical services and contributions to their community.

“We specifically look to recognize those individuals who volunteer outside of the spectrum of their day-to-day lives,” said Chris Niemeyer, COPIC senior market manager for the Midwest, who presented Wednesday’s award to Irwin.
“The best way to recognize his work is to share a bit about him directly from Dr. Susan E. Fanta’s nomination form,” he noted. “She stated that, ‘Even with his busy schedule, Servant Hearts Clinic is his passion. He is dedicated to the mission of Servant Hearts Clinic and ensuring it continues and thrives. Whether he is assisting with IT issues, recruiting physicians or taking care of patients who have no other access to healthcare, he goes above and beyond. …”

There are many other physicians who are doing incredible work, Niemeyer told the Press & Dakotan.

“Right now, doctors are in the crosshairs with medical malpractice lawsuits and with being overburdened with either COVID or with staffing shortages,” Niemeyer said. “For them to keep showing up every day is challenging enough, but then to go above and beyond, like Dr. Irwin did, is truly remarkable.”

Everything Servant Hearts Clinic provides its patients, including medication, labs or services, is free, Kieffer said.

“We don’t receive any federal or state funding,” she said. “It’s all because of local support from our donors, so it’s incredible to have this donation.”

Also, there are many in the community in need, Kieffer said.

“We believe everybody deserves access to health care, no matter your story, no matter where you’re at in your life,” she said. “We have amazing volunteers. Dr. Irwin and all our physicians and nurses provide their time because they truly believe there is a need in the community.”


For more information about Servants’ Hearts Clinic, visit www.servantheartsclinic.org.