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Helmsley Charitable Trust Grants Nearly $2 Million to Help CentraCare Purchase State-of-the-art Ultrasound Equipment

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The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has granted $1,999,471 to CentraCare to purchase ultrasound equipment for eight facilities across the health system as part of a $26.4 million ultrasound initiative in Minnesota. The initiative includes nearly $18.3 million to help Minnesota hospitals and health centers purchase ultrasound imaging devices and an additional $8.1 million to boost sonography and point of care ultrasound (POCUS) training opportunities across the state.

“This generous grant will increase access in every corner of CentraCare’s 18-county service area, allowing our patients in rural areas to get the same state-of-the-art technology as they would in specialized clinics,” said Dr. Ken Holmen, CentraCare President and CEO. “We are blessed by this continued collaboration with the Helmsley Charitable Trust, building on a previous grant of $1.2 million for construction of the EmPATH behavioral health unit at St. Cloud Hospital.”

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures inside the body. This safe, cost-effective tool supports other clinical information to help providers make timely diagnoses and provide appropriate treatment.

This grant will provide funding to purchase 23 units of ultrasound equipment including general ultrasound, heart echocardiogram ultrasound and Point of Care Ultrasound (POCUS) equipment that will go to all eight of CentraCare’s non-tertiary locations in Benson, Melrose, Monticello, Long Prairie, Paynesville, Redwood Falls, Sauk Centre and Willmar. The units will go to hospital, emergency room and clinic locations based on need.

“CentraCare seeks to make rural life healthier. The new units, generously granted by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, will help us to enhance our ultrasound services with faster access and improved image quality in many locations including our emergency rooms,” said Joe Klaers, Senior Director of CentraCare’s Imaging Services. “Standardizing our equipment based on the different specialty needs will allow providers and staff to more seamlessly move between facilities and will increase patient satisfaction knowing that the quality of their ultrasound is excellent wherever they need to receive care.”

Walter Panzirer, a Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust, said the grants will help improve access to exceptional medical treatment for all Minnesotans, whether they live in the heart of Minneapolis or a smaller rural or underserved community.

The grants were announced Tuesday during a news conference at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis.

More than half of the 196 devices purchased through the grants (109) are POCUS machines, which are used by providers at the bed or tableside for immediate assessment of a patient to quickly determine a course of action. The grants will also provide 69 general ultrasound systems and 18 cardiovascular ultrasound systems, which aid in imaging of the heart.

The initiative also includes more than $8.1 million to train new sonographers, offer continuing education to sonographers and ultrasound technologists, and provide comprehensive POCUS training to doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. The training grants include more than $917,000 to the Minnesota Rural Health Association to support sonographer training in rural and underserved areas of the state, more than $1 million to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to expand St. Cloud Technical & Community College’s sonography program, and nearly $6.2 million to the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians Foundation which will partner with High Quality Medical Education (HQMEDED) to provide POCUS training across the state.

“These grants are a game changer for rural hospitals across the state,” said Thomas Pahl, PA-C, an emergency department clinician, instructor with HQMEDED, and member of the Minnesota State Trauma Advisory Council. “Clinicians and sonographers will not only have access to the newest ultrasound equipment on the market, but they will also be able to pursue educational opportunities to become more proficient at use of the equipment, expand the studies they can perform, and incorporate these skills into their clinical practices.”

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $3.5 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $600 million to organizations and initiatives in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nevada. For more information, visit

Caption: Walter Panzirer, Trustee, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and Dana Woelfel, Director of Imaging Services and Sleep Center at CentraCare in Willmar, at the grant announcement on March 21, 2023.