Chief Executive Officer, Avel
When Deanna Larson came on-board to lead in 2006, she was one of four dedicated eCare staff who oversaw two service lines and one giant vision – to provide underserved and rural communities with unprecedented access to health care. Since then, Avel has become the world’s largest and most comprehensive telehealth system with six service lines reaching over 550 locations.
Rural and Global Connections
Larson grew up in Howard, S.D., and held her first nursing jobs in the surrounding small communities. It was there that she first learned about the challenges and limitations of rural health care.
Over the next 25 years of her career, she gained experience in nursing, administration, leadership and quality improvement that prepared her to lead Avel. It also instilled her passion to provide better access to quality health care and specialty services for residents of rural communities.
“It’s all about the people,” she says. “Our hope is to improve the lives and communities of those we serve by offering a new model of health care delivery.”
Trips to Nicaragua, Guatemala and Haiti expanded her vision for providing access to health care for rural and underserved communities across the world.
“Providing access to care is a great responsibility and we strive to be good stewards by not only providing telehealth services, but also sharing our knowledge and experience,” she says. “It’s exciting to wake up and go to work knowing that you will make a difference.”
Larson’s diverse background in health care gives her a broad perspective on the needs of patients, care providers and communities. With her expertise, she guides the development and implementation of Avel’s new technologies and service lines. She also supports federal, state and local quality initiatives and improvement processes that help integrate evidence-based care practices into the daily operations of health care facilities.
Within Avel, Larson has held leadership roles in acute care, critical care, behavioral health, long-term care and home care. She has spent more than 10 years as Vice President of Quality Innovation at Avera, and served on the National Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program since 2007. Larson received her Bachelor of Science degree from Presentation College and her Master’s in Nursing Administration from South Dakota State University.
Vice President of Operations, Avel
Jay Weems was raised on his family’s farm in rural Doland, S.D. Many of his childhood days were spent tending to cattle, chickens and crops while learning about the value of hard work and relationships.
Weems also learned about the challenges of receiving health care in rural communities after taking long trips to the small town emergency room. Little did he realize that one day, he’d be a part of the world’s largest and most comprehensive telehealth system – transforming the way health care is delivered to rural communities like his hometown.
As the Vice President of Operations for Avel, Weems is the “make-it-happen” guy. He evaluates the market needs and demands in order to shape Avel’s service line offerings. His goal is to create sustainable services that increase the quality of and access to health care while decreasing costs.
“My favorite part of my job is interacting with people to learn about their needs and discuss if Avel fits their health system and their goals. While the technology is fascinating, it’s all about helping people provide the best and most affordable health care possible,” he says.
Banking, Business and Telehealth
With 27 years of combined experience in business, finance, banking, economics and new-product introductions, Weems brings a diverse skillset to the Avel team. He joined eCare in 2009 as Executive Director. In his first assignment, he led the launch of Avel Emergency and Avel Pharmacy. Prior to Avel, Weems served as the business development director for CIGNA Home Delivery Pharmacy and spent 14 years in banking in California, Colorado and South Dakota. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in commercial economics and a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural business from South Dakota State University, and a Master in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota.
David Erickson, MD
Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Avera Health
As Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Avera Health, David Erickson, MD, provides senior leadership and oversight for Avel in addition to quality and clinical intelligence. Erickson has been in his current role since 2000.
He has been on the ground floor of Avel’s evolution. He recognized the need for a tele-intensivist program due to a national shortage of physicians in this specialty, alongside Dave Kapaska, DO, who was then Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, and is now Regional President and CEO of Avera McKennan.
At that time, Kapaska and Erickson presented the idea to Avera regional presidents, and gained their support. In September 2004, eCare ICU opened at four sites. Avel soon began reporting high outcomes, including shorter-than-expected lengths of stay and lower-than-predicted mortality rates.
Sustaining Avel’s Commitment
Avel’s commitment to telemedicine has grown out of necessity. “Covering the large number of geographical miles that we do, we have to be innovative and come up with new ways of serving our patients and rural communities,” Erickson said.
“They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Avel provides the tools we need to deliver high-quality care and better access, while at the same time supporting physicians, nurses and pharmacists so that they don’t feel isolated and without back-up when practicing in a rural location.”
Over 10 years, Avel grew from serving four sites to 235 locations across eight states. Thanks to recent expansion to the East Coast through a partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center of Lebanon, N.H., and to the lower Midwestern Plains in partnership with the University of Kansas Hospital, Avel is transitioning from a regional presence to a national presence. In addition, unlimited application exists on a global scale, as demonstrated through a 2015 visit by NATO.
Education and Experience
Erickson earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and biology from The University of South Dakota in 1979, and medical degree from the USD School of Medicine in 1983. He completed his residency at the Fort Collins, Colo., Family Practice Program in 1986.
Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, Erickson practiced family medicine in Dell Rapids for 15 years before joining Avera leadership in 2000.
As a family practitioner in Dell Rapids, Erickson well remembers the days of taking an emergency case in the middle of the night or on weekends that involved an illness or injury he hadn’t seen for some time. “To be in a rural situation and be able to immediately access a specialist in intensive care or emergency medicine is just a huge win for physicians in rural practice,” he said.
Erickson is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, South Dakota State Medical Society, and 7th District Medical Society. He holds a Specialty Certification as Diplomat of the National Board of Medical Examiners and Diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice. He is a member of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church and is involved in a number of other community organizations.
Lisa Lindgren, MBA, BSN, RN
Avel Nursing Officer
Lisa Lindgren started her career in a critical access hospital in northwest Iowa in 1989 and since then has gone on to serve as a bedside clinician in critical care and emergency departments, flight nursing and as Director of Emergency Services.
After joining the eCare team in 2009, she played a key role in the development of eCare Emergency, helping over 100 hospitals implement Avel’s telehealth services. As the Avel Nursing Officer, she also oversees the daily operations of all Avel clinical staff.
Lisa is motivated by her belief that patients deserve the same level of care regardless of their geographical location and that telemedicine can make that possible.
Nursing Education: Presentation College, Aberdeen. S.D.
Master’s in Business Administration: Colorado Technical University, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Specialties: Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), Certified Nurse Executive (NE-C)
Board Certifications: Emergency Nursing and Nurse Executive
Special Interests: Emergency medicine and flights
Professional Memberships: American Association of Critical Care Nurses and Emergency Nurses Association
Andrea Darr, PharmD, BCPS
Andrea Darr first connected to eCare Pharmacy when she volunteered to help launch a small project that involved remote pharmacy work for five critical access hospitals. Today, she oversees Avel Pharmacy services across seven states and nearly 70 hospitals.
“My vision is for Avel Pharmacy to be the most patient-centered remote pharmacy services available,” she says. “We have a group of highly skilled pharmacists with experience in hospital practice, infusion therapy, and a variety of clinical specialties which provide excellent service to our patients and customers. We value the collaboration we have with our physician and nurse colleagues in Avel ICU, Avel Emergency and Avel Senior Care, as they provide an additional layer of expertise to our service.”
As a pharmacist for over 25 years, Andrea has also developed a Drug Information Service, designed an ambulatory care practice with anticoagulation management service and worked with patients and caregivers in hospice and palliative care environments, as well as hospital inpatient practice.
She loves the field of pharmacy with its challenges and also the amount of creativity it requires to lead the Avel Pharmacy team.
Watch Andrea Darr's video >>
Pharmacy Education: University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, Minneapolis, Minn.
Clinical Pharmacy Residency: United & Children’s Hospitals, St. Paul, Minn.
Additional Certifications: Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)
- South Dakota Society of Health-System Pharmacists (SDSHP)
- Minnesota Society of Health System Pharmacists (MSHP)