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Read on below for current Bozeman Health Foundation events and news

Summer 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the life of patients, family members and health care providers in our hospital and intensive care unit to a profound degree. I would like to take this moment to express what I am thankful for and what has given me hope. First of all, I think we have been extremely fortunate in having had such low numbers of cases requiring hospitalization and ICU care. I credit this to our community’s health, rural geography and aggressive public health policies. I know we cannot live in perpetual isolation but taking proper precautions bought us much needed time to better prepare. We now have a more reliable supply of PPE , some of which has been developed by local companies such as Mystery Ranch and Simms. We now have rapid testing so we can quickly know if we are dealing with a COVID-19 case or not. We have treatments with some proven efficacy (e.g. remdesivir, decadron). Finally, thanks to our many donors, we have a new 20 bed critical care unit that will be functional by mid September.

I will always remember the fearlessness of the Bozeman Health employees. This includes the nurses, respiratory therapists, phlebotomists, radiology techs, environmental service workers and many others. They continue to provide excellent and compassionate care to patients with presumptive or known COVID-19 infection despite the early challenges we faced with limited PPE. I am thankful I have been able to witness their courage and will use it as inspiration for the challenges COVID-19 will present in the future.

Andrew Sullivan, M.D.

Pulmonology and Foundation Board Member


When Chicago and Big Sky based Eric Vassilatos first contacted Bozeman Health Foundation with a hope to make a meaningful charitable gift of some kind, COVID-19 had barely hit the global yet alone national radar screen. He and his wife Demetra had two initial goals as they and their children spend more time in southwest Montana: find a local cause with a powerful mission they could rally around and, ideally, support innovation that helped an organization to address changing needs. “It was important to us to find a cause where we could make an impact,” Eric shared. “The mission of Bozeman Health, to ensure local communities have access to superior quality medical services and care, really resonated with us.”

Initially, Eric and Demetra noted how important cancer care had been to them and expressed an intention to dedicate their significant generosity to help expand regionally available oncology services. Bozeman Health would have been honored to help them to do this. However, as COVID-19 made national headlines and as we began to see and prepare for the local impacts of the pandemic in Big Sky and Bozeman, the family demonstrated incredible flexibility, generosity and understanding of how powerful philanthropy works best.

“This amazing family did two things that blew us away at Bozeman Health,” said Jason Smith, chief advancement officer, who’d been in active conversations with Eric. “First, they nearly doubled the amount of their gift. Second, they allowed us to use as much of their gift as was needed to support our COVID-19 ‘Compassion Fund,’ and to direct any amount left over to support ongoing Cancer Center needs.”

Eric and Demetra saw the immediate needs surrounding COVID-19 and wanted to ensure that Bozeman Health could adapt quickly to addressing what might be required by our care teams at Big Sky Medical Center and Deaconess Hospital. As a result of their generosity, Bozeman Health has been able to purchase high quality lab analyzers to support COVID-19 testing for patients, first responders and staff. And, thanks to the generosity of many additional “Compassion Fund” donors and support Bozeman Health has received through the CARES Act, we know that their gift will impact the lives of cancer patients as well.

Why have they been so generous? Eric says it best: “The knowledge that you are helping others is hugely empowering. Having the ability to help improve the lives of others is a privilege that comes with its own sense of obligation. As we raise our children, we want to show them that from a young age they can make positive changes in the world.”


As Bozeman, Big Sky and communities throughout the region continue to address the impacts of COVID-19 on patients, families and businesses, the combination of health concerns, economic uncertainty and social isolation are leading to significant increases in the need for behavioral health services. This trend is consistent with what’s happening throughout the US. In June, one in four in American adults were deemed to have met the criteria for serious mental distress and illness, a nearly 700% increase over pre-pandemic levels. The State of Montana once again has the highest suicide rate in the nation, with 29.8 suicides annually per 100,000 population.

Bozeman Health and a network of community partners active in mental health services, including Western Montana Mental Health and Gallatin Mental Health Center, the Gallatin City/County Health Department, Gallatin County and its Sheriff’s department, and Community Health Partners, have come together to form the Gallatin County Crisis Redesign Committee. Funded by a grant to Bozeman Health Foundation by Montana Healthcare Foundation, this group of healthcare leaders is working to fully understand and improve upon the current continuum of available crisis response services in Gallatin County. Together, the committee will improve early intervention in behavioral health crises and overall mental health crisis care so that the number of crises we see locally are decreased and overall wellbeing is increased. The group meets twice each month.

At the same time, building on the work of the Elevating Behavioral Health consortium and early successes in integrating new behavioral health services into its primary care, pediatrics and women’s specialists clinics, Bozeman Health has recently taken important steps forward in expanding available crisis response and mental health services for those in need:

• In March 2020, Bozeman Health began partnering with Gallatin Mental Health Center and the Help Center-211 to open the community’s first Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC). To date, the BHUC has served nearly 100 clients in need, with 17 of them requiring intensive intervention, 35 of them continuing to receive care, and none of them requiring referral to a higher level of care outside of the community.

• In May 2020, Bozeman Health hired and placed a behavioral health crisis interventionist within the Deaconess Hospital based emergency department. This highly trained individual collaborates with patients and available support systems to evaluate, diagnose and assess a patient’s risk to themselves and others, complete and implement risk reduction/mitigation plans to ensure patient and community safety; provide crisis evaluations and develop care plan for patient including out-patient resources and follow-up appointments.

• In August 2020, to address unique and well documented challenges facing the Big Sky community, Bozeman Health Bg Sky Medical Center began implementing specialty behavioral health services, providing community members with access to a psychiatrist and a therapist. It is also continuing its efforts to place an additional full-time therapist made possible through the generosity of the Charles and Peggy Stephenson Family Foundation. Also in August, Bozeman Health announced that Dr. Johnathan Brigham, a psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins University has joined Dr. Anne Thomas on the organization’s medical staff.

• And in September 2020, Bozeman Health will launch its new telepsychiatry program for patients and care team members in Bozeman and Big Sky. Telepsychiatry is an innovative practice at Bozeman Health that applies telemedicine to the field of psychiatry. This term refers to the delivery of psychiatric assessment and treatment via telecommunications technology, usually video conferencing. Telepsychiatry is one of the most promising developments in our efforts to provide more patient-centered, affordable, and effective interventions for individuals who need psychiatric care 24 hours/ day.

Much of Bozeman Health’s work to advance behavioral health services has been made possible through the generosity of donors. The ongoing expansion of this important work remains one of Bozeman Health Foundation’s top fundraising priorities, with proceeds from its next Hospitality gala event sent to support this cause. To support this effort or to learn more, email


Steve Tuttle joins the Bozeman Health Foundation as system director of philanthropy. Steve is a highly experienced philanthropy leader with more than two decades of experience raising funds and guiding non-profit organizations toward new levels of success.

He and his wife Diana come to us from the Baltimore, Maryland area where, most recently, Steve served as national vice president of development and outreach for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS). Prior to joining LIRS, he spent 15 years raising charitable support in healthcare for Kennedy Krieger Institute, the Sheppard Pratt Heath System and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Steve and Diana have three grown children, and in their spare time enjoy hiking, biking and exploring the great outdoors.


Vince McElligott, FCEP, is a longtime Bozeman Health partner and vice president of Thompson & Associates. Vince continues to help many Bozeman Health physicians, staff, board members, volunteers, and other friends through the estate planning process.

Key reasons to utilize the Thompson & Associates Estate Planning Process:

  • Complementary - Bozeman Health Foundation offers no-cost private meetings to you, our supporters
  • No Time Limit - Work at your own pace, while receiving a thoughtful, values-based perspective
  • No Competition - Thompson & Associates doesn't draft documents, sell products, and will never ask you for money

“Vince McElligott is great to work with. He is knowledgeable, compassionate and really drew out the answers to the tough questions none of us want to ask ourselves. He was patient with us as we worked through all the estate planning issues. We are extremely pleased with the results and would recommend Vince to anyone!"
-Richard B. Deming, President, First West Insurance and past Bozeman Health Foundation Board Member

Contact us today to make your estate planning appointment! Currently accepting teleconference or in-person appointments (406) 414-5441 •


Funded by several donors, the Gordon Davidson Scholarship was established upon Gordon Davidson’s retirement in honor of his longstanding service to Bozeman Health. He retired in 2018 as chief financial officer after a career that began at Deaconess Hospital in 1981. His service to the health of our community included decades of fiscal oversight, serving as interim CEO three times, and a long tenure with Bozeman Health Foundation’s finance committee, campaign committees, and board.

One $2,000 scholarship is awarded annually, to a junior/senior student from a Montana community attending Montana State University (MSU), pursuing a degree in accounting through the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship.

The 2020 recipient, Erin McHugh, graduated from Glacier High School in Kalispell, Montana. She is a Senior at MSU pursuing a degree in Accounting and a minor in International Business through the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. After graduation, she plans to work in the public accounting industry, build meaningful professional and personal relationships through her work and never stop learning. An active and engaged student, Erin is a member of the International Business Club and Enactus and spent her last semester abroad studying international business in Ireland at the National University of Ireland Galway. She is also involved in the community and has worked with youth at Tanya’s Dance company and The Children’s Museum of Bozeman throughout her years at Montana State University.


Katie Mazurek is a family law attorney and the founder of Element Law Group, PLLC. Katie is passionate about helping families through the difficult transition of divorce. To this end, it is her life goal to improve the divorce process for parents and children in Montana. A helper and problem-solver by nature, Katie is always looking for ways to humanize hardship and to inspire courage and compassion.

Katie started Element Law Group in 2016, four days prior to her Stage III breast cancer diagnosis. During treatment at Bozeman Health, Katie started a share her life-changing journey through cancer. Her powerful writing has been featured locally and nationwide, earning blog awards and recognition in the process. She often presents on vulnerability, courage and authenticity, with TEDx Bozeman, Leadership Montana, and the popular podcast “The Moth” being among her recent favorites.

Katie lives in Bozeman with her husband of 13 years, Tom and their three children, Elle (9),
Sophie (6) and Tommy (2). While originally from Northern Michigan, Katie has called Montana
home for 16 years and jokes that she first fell in love with the mountains, then the people, and then head-over-heels for the love of her life, Tom. Katie can be found hiking, biking, writing, creating art and enjoying the beauty of our area with her family.


Bozeman Health continues to be as prepared as possible concerning COVID-19 and is working closely with its community partners to stay informed on the infection rates in our community. They are monitoring and managing carefully to maintain their inpatient capacity, necessary available staffing and required PPE. With the start of school almost upon us and the fall and winter months approaching, Bozeman Health has developed a surge plan should we see a significant rise in cases in our community.

As always, Bozeman Health’s number one priority is keeping the staff, patients, and community safe and healthy. The health system continues to be incredibly proud of the work each care team member does each and every day, however, they continue to ask the community to be diligent in practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings indoors and in public spaces, using good hand hygiene, as well as staying home when not feeling well.

Bozeman Health Clinical Research is also proud to announce plans to participate as a study site for the Phase 2/3 global study sponsored by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE of an investigational vaccine, BNT162b2, against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the current global pandemic (COVID-19). Bozeman Health’s clinical research study site is one of more than 120 global clinical investigational sites that will collectively enroll up to 30,000 participants, non-pregnant adults ages 18 to 85 years old of any gender, race, and ethnicity. It is anticipated that we will enroll several hundred participants.

Winter 2020


At a private gathering of more than 100 donors, volunteer leaders and health system executives in the still-under-construction new main lobby of Deaconess Hospital, Bozeman Health and Bozeman Health Foundation announced that the Caring Forward Campaign, which ran from April 2018 through December 2019, received a record-breaking $18,203,895 in gifts and pledges, exceeding its $15,000,000 goal by over 21%.

The Caring Forward Campaign offered donors the opportunity to support four major Bozeman Health Priorities: enhancing critical and intensive care for adults and neonates, expanding community outreach and charity care programs, investing in innovation in cancer and cardiac care and helping to grow the new Big Sky Medical Center. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and trust provided to Bozeman Health by our donors,” said Robyn Erlenbush, foundation board member and campaign co-chair. “We took a few risks as we launched Caring Forward, including inviting support for programs that help our community’s vulnerable, and our friends and neighbors rallied behind us in ways we never could have imagined. We’re humbled and truly grateful.”


Over the past 18 months, donors have provided just over $1 million in gifts and pledges to support a wide array of new and expanded local behavioral health offerings. Of that total, more than $200,000 in gifts and pledges have been received to support Big Sky Medical Center’s targeted plans.

With much of that behavioral health funding coming in the form of “venture philanthropy,” or philanthropy to help build and grow innovative programs that will ultimately be self-sustaining, Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, Big Sky Medical Center and several of its primary care clinics have already begun to realize positive results for their patients in need. Additionally, new partnerships with area schools have helped to increase understanding of mental health, to reduce the
stigma around seeking care and to address suicide risk among our community’s young people.

The Charles and Peggy Stephenson Family Foundation, with its strong ties to the Big Sky community, awarded Big Sky Medical Center a $350,000 challenge grant to establish an Integrated Behavioral Health program within the medical center’s primary care clinic. The Stephenson family has already inspired more than $300,000 in new local giving and hopes their generosity will continue to motivate additional donors to support investments in tele-psychiatry, community education and suicide prevention programs, specifically in the resort town south of Bozeman. Yellowstone Club Community Foundation quickly provided an additional $150,000 in essential support. Together with giving from the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation and numerous individual donors, total giving toward that challenge currently stands at $208,800, leaving just over $140,000 still to be raised.

In Bozeman, the Montana Healthcare Foundation has been joined by dozens of individual donors in supporting Bozeman Health’s early work to expand behavioral health services. While several of Bozeman Health Foundation’s leadership level supporters have chosen to make their gifts anonymously, donors Rich Deming and Julie Bennett were among those looking for a way to shine a spotlight on their community’s needs and opportunities to give. In memory of Julie’s sister, Andi, the two chose to establish Bozeman Health Foundation’s first-ever Behavioral Health Endowment Fund.

“We’re truly thankful to all of those who’ve rallied around Bozeman Health, Big Sky Medical Center and our vision for addressing this enormous community challenge,” said Jason Smith, Chief Advancement Officer. “Thanks to the generosity of many, we’re off to a great start, but the work is far from done and the need is far from met.”



Dr. Mark Williams moved to Bozeman, MT in March 2019 as Bozeman Health’s chief physician officer. Dr. Williams received his bachelor’s of science degree in chemistry from the University of Alabama, a medical degree from the University of South Alabama, an MBA from Samford University, and a juris doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law. He completed his post-graduate medical training in anesthesiology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) Medical Center.

Dr. Williams has more than 20 years of experience in physician leadership and executive roles. He joined Bozeman Health from Palmetto Health System in Columbia, South Carolina, where he served as both the chief clinical officer for the system and the chief academic officer for the USC School of Medicine. Prior to that role, he was the chief physician executive at Brookwood Baptist Health in Birmingham, Alabama. He also held the position of chief medical officer for North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo for six years before being asked to assume the role of interim chief executive officer. North Mississippi Health System remains the only health care organization to have twice been awarded the National Malcolm Baldridge Award. Along with additional physician leadership roles, after residency, Dr. Williams was an associate professor of anesthesiology and division chief at UAB Medical Center and UAB Health Services Foundation for over 12 years.

Dr. Williams is currently the senior physician leader within the executive team, providing leadership for system-wide professional activities directed at improving the safety, quality, effectiveness, and the overall clinical excellence provided to the community by the team members of Bozeman Health. He joined the Bozeman Health Foundation board in June 2019.

He and his wife Sandi are thrilled to be in Bozeman and to have the privilege to join this growing and innovative health care system. They are also much closer to their two grandchildren and daughter who currently reside in Billings.


Courtney joined Bozeman Health Foundation in January 2020. She comes to Bozeman after being with the Gritman Medical Center Foundation in Moscow, ID for over two years as the development program and events coordinator. Before her time at the Gritman Foundation, Courtney worked at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. in Pullman, WA as an event coordinator and marketing specialist. Courtney graduated from BYU-Idaho in 2015 with a degree in Communication, specializing in public relations and event management.

At Bozeman Health Foundation, Courtney is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the donor database, effective office management, and acts as the liaison to the Foundation’s board of directors, finance committee, and finance staff.

Courtney married her husband Jonathan—who is currently in the WWAMI Medical School Program at MSU—in December 2019 and moved to Bozeman after living in North Idaho for 26 years. In her free time, Courtney enjoys antiquing, volunteering for organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Distinguished Young Women, and watching current and past seasons of Gonzaga Men’s Basketball.

Summer 2019


Bozeman Health Foundation’s 19th Annual Hospitality event was held April 27,2019. Proceeds from the event, We Can Be SUPER Heroes: Celebrating the Hero in
Us All will support our region’s first neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The event welcomed costumed heroes of all types, from The Incredibles, Wonder Woman
and Thor, to NICU parents, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, health care workers and first responders. Total proceeds, all in support of our region’s tiniest and most fragile
patients, surpassed $500,000 this year!

As part of the evening’s program, Matt Elwell shared his experience as the parent of a baby who spent more than 120 days in a NICU.
His heartfelt remembrance of the tense days and sleepless nights culminated in attendees meeting his now 14 year old daughter,
Campbell, who joined him as his date for the event. Her sweet, shy smile lit up the room!
Together, the popular live and silent auctions featured more than 100 items and packages, and raised more than $94,000. Propelling
the night’s success was the Live Drive with a total of $306,500 in contributions, including a match gift from the Lehrkind family and
Dr. Mark and Sandi Williams totaling $75,000, and a $75,000 anonymous gift.

We’d like to extend our gratitude to our all of the event attendees, our sponsors, live and silent auction item donors, match donors,
Live Drive contributors, and our friends and emcees John Parkes and Matt Elwell, who helped make Hospitality 2019: We Can Be SUPER
Heroes a wild success. A special thanks to the many volunteers and the Marvels, the Hospitality planning committee, for their countless
hours and hard work that helped bring the event to fruition.

Mark your calendar for the 20th annual Hospitality scheduled for Saturday, April 25, 2020.



• $2.85 million in new gifts and pledges
• Over $1 million in charitable impact across Bozeman Health
• $310,908 in pledges and contributions from just over 577 Bozeman Health employees
• $28.8 million in total assets under management
• $16.3 million in total assets in long-term endowment


$1.1 million
In gifts and pledges from more than 110 physicians. Special thanks to our medical staff for more than tripling their remarkable generosity made toward the Emergency Department campaign.


Mindy joined Bozeman Health Foundation in May 2018 as development coordinator, eager to start a new career in the non-profit sector. Prior to working at the foundation, Mindy worked in the Conference and Event Services Department at Montana State University and has extensive experience in the customer service and planning industry. Originally from Pennsylvania, Mindy attended Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. After graduation she started her career at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa where she worked for five years before deciding to start a new adventure in Montana.

In July 2019, Mindy moved into the role of system manager of special events and donor stewardship. In her new role, she is charged with managing the foundation’s annual Hospitality auction, organizing other foundation events throughout the year, creating the foundation’s publications including Dividends, and helping ensure our donors experience our gratitude and realize the impact of their generosity. With all Montana has to offer, you can find Mindy and her husband Matt hiking, skiing, fishing, volunteering, and spending time with their four legged feline.


Funded by several donors, the Gordon Davidson Scholarship was established upon Gordon’s retirement in honor of his longstanding service to Bozeman Health. He retired in 2018 as chief financial officer after a career that began at Deaconess Hospital in 1997. His service to the health of our community included decades of fiscal oversight, serving as interim CEO twice, and a long tenure with Bozeman Health Foundation’s finance committee, campaign committees, and board. One $2000 scholarship is awarded annually, intended for junior/senior students from Montana communities attending Montana State University (MSU), pursuing a degree in accounting through the College of Business. The 2019 recipient, Bronson Myrstol, graduated from Shields Valley High School in Clyde Park, Montana.

Bronson spent summers working on a cattle ranch outside Casper, Wyoming, since 2013, instilling integrity, honesty, responsibility, and true character in him. He’s a junior at MSU pursuing a degree in finance through the Jake Jabs School of Business and Entrepreneurship with the intention of completing a master’s in accounting.

An active and engaged student, Bronson is a member of the finance club, accounting club, Beta Alpha Psi accounting club, and a student member of the Montana Society of Certified Public Accountants (CPA). After reaching his goals of achieving both a CFA and CPA, Bronson intends to pursue a career in wealth management right here in Montana, so he can raise a family in the Shields Valley where he grew up.


Bozeman Health Foundation has been granted a generous $350,000 capstone grant by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust in support of the new Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. The Foundation’s Caring Forward Campaign is committed to raising $6 million toward the capital expenses of the ICU. Toward that goal, to achieve the $350,000 grant, only $1.9 million remains. We are excited to soon offer tours of the site as construction moves forward, to spotlight the amazing new space, and welcome our community to learn more about why supporting critical care is so important.

M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust was created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, who was a co-founder of Tektronix, Inc., in Beaverton, Oregon, and a resident of Vancouver, Washington. Since its establishment on June 30, 1975, with a bequest of about $90 million, the Trust has focused its grant making efforts primarily in five states of the Pacific Northwest: Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. The Trust’s current assets are valued at about $1 billion, and over the life of the Trust, more than $900 million has been distributed through more than 6,000 grants.

Spring 2019


Bringing a child into the world is one of the most gratifying of life’s experiences. But for parents of babies born premature or with medical complications, the time surrounding their children’s first weeks of life can also be frightening and stressful. Bozeman Health plans to add a new superpower, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), to help ease that burden and better serve the newest and tiniest members of our community. To give that effort a huge boost, funds raised at Bozeman Health Foundation’s Hospitality 2019: We Can Be Superheroes will benefit the new NICU, which is slated to open in 2020.

A NICU combines advanced technology with a team of highly trained health care professionals to provide specialized care to medically fragile newborns. Currently, babies born at Bozeman Health who need this level of care are stabilized and transferred to a NICU at another hospital—usually Billings, Missoula, or Great Falls. “When a baby is transferred out of town, it’s not usually a quick stop,” explains Kim Kusak, RN, Nurse Educator at the Family Birthing Center. “These families can spend weeks or even months away from home, which can create a huge financial and emotional strain.”

Giving birth to a sick or premature baby can be an unexpected change in course for any family. Being forced to quickly uproot and travel to another city for a prolonged medical stay only compounds the feeling of crisis. “Parents of sick babies want to be home with their support system around them,” observes Kim Herring, RN, Bozeman Health’s Director of Nursing. “Having our own NICU could prevent transfers for higher level babies.”

A Bozeman NICU will also benefit families in the smaller communities surrounding Bozeman, adds Susan Connell, RN, Manager, Family Birth Center. “Babies from areas like Ennis, Sheridan, and White Sulphur Springs will be able to come to Bozeman. The families won’t be in their own communities, but they won’t have to travel quite as far.”

In 2018, more than 1,100 babies were born at Bozeman Health and approximately 20% needed some sort of special care. The new NICU, to be located in the future women and children’s tower, will accommodate high-tech equipment, such as ventilators, incubators, and monitoring equipment. It will also feature a specially trained team of providers led by a neonatologist due to come on staff this spring. “A NICU team is more than nurses and doctors,” notes Herring. “It includes pharmacists, respiratory therapists, nutrition services, speech and occupational therapists, and more.”

As construction on the facility continues, Family Birth Center staff will coordinate with a variety of hospital departments to build competencies. “We want to make sure everyone across the continuum is ready to treat these tiny patients,” explains Kusak. “For example, imaging will require special, smaller x-ray plates and radiologists who can read the images and the lab will need to able to run tests from a tiny amount of blood. We will be also be working very closely with the neonatologist, lactation specialists, and the pharmacy to supply oral and IV nutrition to these patients.”The most common problems addressed in the NICU are those related to premature birth, according to Kusak. Babies born before 32 weeks usually have underdeveloped lungs, which means that breathing is difficult. The NICU will provide specialized equipment and highly trained staff to address this most essential function. adds Kusak.  

“This is a really exciting time for us here at Bozeman Health as we prepare to care for the smallest and most vulnerable patients in the valley,” says Connell. “I’m feeling optimistic about the upcoming fundraising efforts,” adds Kusak. “Our community wants to support families and the NICU is a great way to do that.”


Jim was born and raised in Havre, Montana.  Graduating from Havre High School in 1982 and from Northern Montana College in 1987, he received a Bachelor’s degree in Business and a minor in Information Technology. 

Jim began his banking career at US Bank in Havre in 1979 and after college he began working at Three Rivers Bank in Kalispell as a junior lender. He continued working in the banking industry working his way up to Executive Vice President of Big Sky Western Bank in Bozeman in 2013 and then being promoted to President in March of 2014.   Last June, Big Sky Western Bank merged with First Security Bank and Jim is now the President/CEO of First Security Bank.

Jim’s volunteer and community work dates back to his time in Kalispell where he was chairman of the Board of the Kalispell area Chamber of Commerce and also served as President of the Kalispell Downtown Association.  He served on the board of the Gateway Community Center and the Kalispell Police Commission as secretary. Jim was also board chair for two years while serving on the board of the Samaritan House, the local homeless shelter.

Jim’s involvement in the Bozeman community currently includes serving on the Board of the Bozeman Health Foundation as Treasurer, and chair of the Finance Committee as well as the Finance Committee of the YMCA and board chair for the Prospera board of directors.  He is a member of the Gallatin College Advisory Board and the Sunrise Rotary Club and a past board member for Bozeman Fiber.

Jim and his wife Lori have one daughter, Jaymie who is married and lives in Kalispell. In his free time, Jim enjoys golfing, skiing, racquetball, running, biking, ping pong, playing guitar and spending time with my family.


Emily Heard, of Billings, Montana, and Neil Rodenbeck, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, met on the slopes of Red Lodge Mountain Resort. With a shared passion for Montana’s outdoors, the two began dating and fell in love. In early 2016, Emily and Neil were overjoyed to learn they were expecting their first child. They’d planned to have children at some point, but were surprised when they found out they were going to have twins. As Emily’s pregnancy progressed, she faced complications. She developed preeclampsia and sought treatment at the Family Birth Center at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital.

“I was really sick and I was worried we weren’t going to be able to have the babies here, because I found out that as great as Deaconess is, they were without a true NICU,” Emily said. “That caused a lot of stress.”

Emily and Neil’s twins, Silas and Axel, were born at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital prematurely at just 33 weeks and 3 days. Luckily, they didn’t need supplemental oxygen and both were doing well, but Emily’s delivery was complicated. She had both a natural vaginal birth and a Caesarean section.

Silas and Axel were transferred to the Special Care Nursery at the Family Birth Center where they were held in new incubators—made possible through past charitable support—to keep their body temperatures stable. After two weeks in the Special Care Nursery at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, Axel developed necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition of the bowel that required a higher level of care right away. Because there was no pediatric surgeon able to treat his condition in Bozeman, Axel was flown to a NICU in Missoula. Neil, Emily, and Silas travelled separately to Missoula to be with Axel. They remained in the NICU there for two and a half more weeks.

“There was a lot of stress at that time because we had one baby that was doing well and kind of on his own and we were new parents but not in our home,” Emily said. “That was really hard—to be able to care for one baby that was healthy, but have another of our babies very sick in the NICU. It was hard staying at the hospital.”

“You’re already stressed out about just having had two children, especially when things didn’t go as planned, and adding that extra level of stress where you have to be away from your home and family is really hard,” Emily said. “It would be good to offer that extra level of care in Bozeman so people could stay with their families and not have to be hundreds of miles away.”

After two and a half weeks in Missoula, Emily and Neil returned to Bozeman with Axel and Silas. The boys are now healthy and doing well, finally bringing a sense of normalcy to the family and the kind of joy that Emily and Neil imagined all along.

“When I could hold them in the nursery for the first time, it was a pretty cool feeling,” Neil said. “Seeing them laugh for the first time and knowing they are part of your life, that little ‘coo’ you get to hear—experiencing that every morning is amazing.”


The Caring Forward Campaign has received record-breaking support from the local physician community.  Recent gifts from Dr.’s Anne & Chris Rich brought total physician contributions to $1,003,371. Since that gift, more physicians have been inspired to give as well bringing the total contributed amount to date to $1,053,000.

Bozeman Health Psychiatrist, Dr. Anne Rich shared, “Many people in our community and in Montana face issues with mental health. The lack of providers and resources to help people who suffer from mental health disorders is reaching a crisis level in our community. If Bozeman Health is going to further its mission to provide exceptional health care to our community, we must also provide mental health care. Unfortunately, there continues to be a stigma around mental health that affects people’s willingness to seek out care, but also to donate money and resources to this cause. I am happy that my husband and I are putting 100% of our donation to the Caring Forward Campaign to strengthen the mental health services at Bozeman Health.”  

Bozeman Health Foundation has always been strongly supported by physicians and the diverse priorities within the Caring Forward Campaign have allowed our physician community to designate their resources to the area(s) that mean the most to them individually. The majority of gifts received from physicians have been in support of Critical and Intensive Care, though the other priorities including Community Outreach and Access, Innovation and Excellence in Cancer and Cardiac Care and Big Sky Medical Center have benefited from the generosity of this community.

“The level of commitment that our physicians have shown with their generosity is a powerful message to the community showing that we are dedicated to providing quality healthcare in Bozeman and Southwest Montana.  We hope it inspires more people to get involved,” shared Dr. Andrew Sullivan, Critical Care physician and chair of the Caring Forward medical staff steering committee.

For more information about the Caring Forward Campaign, please call the Bozeman Health Foundation office at 414-1085.

UPDATE: December 2019

Physician giving to date has grown to more than 115 physicians committing just over $1.25 million, a remarkable four times the prior campaign's investment.  We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of our community's physicians.

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