SDSMA Outstanding Young Physician Award Nominees

This award is presented to a physician under 40 years of age or within their first eight years of professional practice after residency or fellowship training. The recipient will have shown outstanding achievements in the area of dedication and service to community as well as contributions to the medical society, such as through local, state or national organizations.

: Kara Dahl, MD
Specialty: Emergency Medicine
Nominated by: Benjamin Aaker, MD; and Scott Vankeulen, MD

Excerpt from nomination statement (written by Dr. Aaker): "Kara has been in practice for eight years post residency and already has done much for our profession. She began practice in Florida and quickly realized she wanted to come back to her home in the Midwest...rising to Medical Director of her department and participating in her hospital's Medical Executive Committee, Trauma Committee, P and T committee, and Care Monitoring Committee, all at the same time! She is active in policy, becoming a member of SDSMA's District 1 and further being elected to SDSMA's Board of Directors, all while serving as president of the South Dakota Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Despite all of this, she has found time to purchase and run her family's farm in rural Minnesota from afar. In short, Kara Dahl has had an amazing career in the short time from graduating residency. I see her going far in the medical field. I can't think of anyone more deserving of becoming SDSMA's newest Outstanding Young Physician than Kara Dahl."


Nominee: Sujit Sakpal, MD
Specialty: Surgery
Nominated by: Nate Miller, MD

Excerpt from nomination statement: "Dr. Sakpal is a multi-organ abdominal transplant and heptobiliary surgeon who is known to be a team player at McKennan. He is committed to his patients, and also to the state of South Dakota. He has been active in maintaining the multi-organ transplant program at McKennan. He serves as a faculty member for the medical school, and is actively involved in a number of committees at McKennan. He is actively involved in ensuring underserved populations have access to transplant services."


Michelle Schimelpfenig, DO
Nominated by:
Samuel Schimelpfenig, MD

Excerpt from nomination statement:
"Dr. Schimelpfenig is the Pillar 3 director at the USD Sanford School of Medicine, where she oversees the final 18 months of the medical school’s clinical curriculum. She has...made several notable contributions to the medical school, including creating an elective in Medical Spanish as well as a one-week ‘Transition to Residency’ course that all students are required to complete prior to their graduation. Dr. Schimelpfenig is also the SD Chapter President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing all the pediatric providers in the state of South Dakota at the national level. During her tenure as president over the last two years, she has made huge strides toward uniting the pediatricians across our large rural footprint through better organization, increased communication, and overall member involvement in the chapter. During this most recent legislative session, she organized an “advocacy day,” where she was able to get the entire pediatric residency program at Sanford Children’s up to Pierre to voice opposition to a bill designed to limit care to transgender children. Later, she was also heavily involved in organizing opposition to HB1235, which would have eliminated vaccine requirements in the state. As a member of the first pediatric residency class at Sanford Children’s Hospital, she received several accolades including induction into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, Outstanding Resident, and an advocacy award given by the American Academy of Pediatrics.