From North Carolina to South Dakota: Avera’s new surgeon feels at home in Sioux Falls

Oct. 24, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Avera.

Having recently joined Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care as a breast surgeon, Dr. Michelle Bryan remembers reflecting on her new career locale as she headed back to her office.

“I was thinking about it while I was walking up the stairs here at the Prairie Center. I love my job,” Bryan said. “The sentiment here in this building is genuine, calm and prayer-centered. I work with a strong team from top to bottom, and I get to live in a part of the nation that has real winters. It is a complete package – and I feel it was something God meant to be.”

Bryan, along with her husband and 5-year-old son came to South Dakota from North Carolina, and along with their dogs, look forward to cooling autumn days and even the chilly winter. But beyond the geography, the breast-cancer surgeon who has extensive research experience as well as entrepreneurial acumen said Avera Cancer Institute’s reputation was a distinct attraction.

“I trained in the same location where Dr. (Tricia) Merrigan had worked, and so many people remembered her, so I reached out to her,” she said. “Joining her, along with Drs. (Wade) Dosch and (Julie) Reiland, was an opportunity to be part of a great group. We have a well-developed, comprehensive and integrated program of care. The mission-forward nature of Avera really made an impression on me too.”

Bryan has found divine influence in many aspects of her life. She started a pre-med college program when she was 16, so she completed a doctoral degree studying infectious disease before attending medical school. As the oldest of four siblings, taking care of people has always been a part of her life, so that led her from the lab to a more patient-centered practice. One of the research grants she earned concentrated on a specific protein that is linked to HIV, which was her focus, but also is an aspect in some breast cancers.

She also trained with a general surgeon who reminded her that expertise in the operating room is important, but that the “chief medical officer” in the room must be remembered.

“No matter how knowledgeable, you have to be humble before surgery and realize that God is working through you; asking for his help was something that was critical to me and a reason why Avera was a good fit,” she said. “When I came here to interview, I sat in during one of the weekly breast tumor conferences, and you could see the intensity of the engagement for every patient, seeking the best plan and the best approach.”

That dedicated focus and the mission-centered nature of the health system have led her to feel at home already.

“The idea I would share with any patient facing breast cancer is that every person in this building, we all care and we’re going to take care of you,” she said. “Those are powerful words, and we mean them. No matter what the situation is, we all want the best and to reassure. We’re the ones who will do the worrying, the research and the work to make sure your outcome is the best it can be.”

As an upstate New York native, Bryan said the North Carolina heat wilted her and her family, and their large pets: a mastiff and a St. Bernard. So winter, in all its glory, cannot come soon enough for the entire clan.

“We feel very welcome and very blessed to be here,” she said. “God had a plan for us, and now, here we are.”


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From North Carolina to South Dakota: Avera’s new surgeon feels at home in Sioux Falls

“It is a complete package – and I feel it was something God meant to be.” Meet a new Avera breast surgeon who says she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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