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A large donation from a local couple is funding an expansion in pediatric specialty services offered by Bozeman Health.

Children in Bozeman who need speciality care in cardiology, oncology or orthopedics and other areas are often forced to travel to other states to see a doctor. But a $4 million gift from Tim and Carmen Sheehy will add a slew of pediatric specialists to Bozeman Health’s roster.

Bozeman Health CEO John Hill said the health care system began working a few years ago to expand pediatric services for the region.

“We know that the majority of pediatric specialties in the United States are affiliated with pediatric medical centers and academic facilities and are typically located in large metropolitan areas,” Hill said during a press conference Thursday. “Delivering high quality, safe services to pediatric patients living in rural areas, especially those with specialized healthcare needs, can be extremely challenging.”

A donation from the Sheehys — the largest in Bozeman Health Foundation’s history — is helping the effort by forming the Sheehy Center of Pediatric Excellence.

The health system is considering whether to build a dedicated space for the center in the future, Hill said.

Tim Sheehy, the CEO of Bridger Aerospace, said with all the industry in Bozeman, the lack of pediatric services is an issue.

The Sheehy’s have four kids — three of whom were born at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital — but Sheehy said it was also he and his wife’s experience overseas in the military seeing what can happen when children don’t have access to health care that inspired the donation.

“As our valley faces many challenges related to our explosive growth, water shortages, housing crisis, strained infrastructure, the health of our children should not be on that list,” Sheehy said.

Bozeman Health is partnering with Seattle Children’s Hospital for the effort. The two are planning for a pediatric cardiologist to join the Bozeman Health staff toward the end of this year, Hill said, and will build from there.

A pediatric surgery specialist is slated to start in early 2022. Other specialties include pediatric oncology, orthopedics, wellness services and integrated pediatric behavioral health.

Bozeman Health pediatrician Dr. Pepper Henyon said the health care system has seen increased rates of behavioral health issues in children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The specialists will live in the area and work out of Bozeman Deaconess and other parts of southwest Montana and the state, Hill said, but will also be members of the Seattle Children’s staff with access to care at that hospital.

Russ Williams, chief operating officer of Seattle Children’s, said they try to bring “care closer to home.”

“The barrier of travel that we put in between children who need care and the services that are available, especially in this area of the country where there’s just a lot of land in between many of us, is just unnecessary,” Williams said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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