Walter Panzirer

Walter Panzirer, is a grandson of Leona Helmsley. Raised in California, he adopted South Dakota as his home. Having worked as a first responder in both states, Walter witnessed personally the significant disparities in quality health care available close to home – disparities that demanded attention. Serving as a paramedic, firefighter, and police officer also made him acutely aware of the range of situations encountered by these professionals – from cardiac and stroke events, to individuals facing a mental health crisis.

Upon the death of his grandmother, Walter was to his great surprise named a Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. He realized the opportunity for investing in better healthcare for Americans in rural communities as well as for supporting communities across rural Africa to build resilience. A passionate advocate for telehealth, Walter is committed to shortening the distance between a medical emergency and life-saving treatment, including outfitting first responders with modern equipment for managing emergencies. His curiosity, coupled with a get-it-done acumen, means that he’s always looking for healthcare leapfrog opportunities that can be readily implemented.

Walter studied business and history at Black Hills State University, and pursued pastoral studies at MidAmerica Nazarene University. An inductee to American Telehealth Association’s College of Fellows as well the South Dakota Hall of Fame, Walter has served on a number of nonprofit and educational boards. He, his wife, and their family own and operate a hunting lodge in rural South Dakota.

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Walter Panzirer Pens Op-Ed on Rural Healthcare Infrastructure

Trustee Walter Panzirer shares his perspective on how to increase access to quality healthcare in rural America for those who need it.

The key? Telemedicine. Read more here.

Walter Panzirer Pens Op-Ed on Rural Healthcare Infrastructure

Published Fri Sep 18, 2020

Walter Panzirer Inducted Into the South Dakota Hall of Fame

Helmsley Trustee Walter Panzirer was one of ten people inducted into the South Dakota Hall ...

U of M Twin Cities, Helmsley Charitable Trust, and Healthcare System Partners Aim to Increase Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates

A 24-7 mobile life support program serving Minnesota is the first in the nation to serve multiple health care systems. 

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL — Today, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and health care systems across the Twin Cities, announce the creation of the Minnesota Mobile Resuscitation Consortium (MMRC) and its mobile extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) vehicles. This is a collaborative initiative to treat cardiac arrest as quickly as possible in Minnesota.

The MMRC, made possible by an $18.6 million grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, aims to save the lives of cardiac arrest patients in scenarios which traditional resuscitation efforts have failed. Every 10-minute delay in treatment for these patients increases the chances of mortality by 15 to 25%.

“This program carries a message of hope. It is a remarkable effort that brings the University’s incredible resources closer to people’s homes, giving them a better chance at recovery, and, at the same time, training the next generation of physicians,” said Jakub Tolar, dean of the Medical School and vice president for clinical affairs.

In December, specially trained teams began serving people across the Twin Cities by using SUVs equipped with the critical life-support equipment. The SUVs meet the patient at participating emergency departments to be placed on ECMO. This type of heart-lung machine eliminates the need for ongoing CPR and allows physicians to treat the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest.  

Since the program’s launch, 20 cardiac arrest patients have been served by the MMRC SUV response teams across the Twin Cities — which has exceeded initial expectations. The MMRC health care system partners include Fairview Health Services, Regions Hospital (HealthPartners), and North Memorial Health Care System, with contractual partnership for physician services with Hennepin Healthcare and Lifelink III for clinicians. MMRC is the first program of its kind in the U.S. to serve multiple health care systems.

”The consortium of hospital systems and experts is built to get patients where they need to be to deliver the lifesaving therapies and expertise as quickly as possible,” said Jason Bartos, an assistant professor in the Medical School. “It’s unified, organized and it’s a community resource we can use to provide the best possible outcomes for our patients.”

The MMRC is an extension of the University’s ECMO resuscitation program that started in 2015 under the leadership of Demetri Yannopoulos, director of the Center of Resuscitation Medicine and a professor in the Medical School. The U of M has more ECMO experience than any other organization in the U.S., having treated more than 300 cardiac arrest ECMO cases since its inception, with a 40% survival rate — comparatively higher than the average survival rate of less than 10% at other locations that treat similar patient populations.

“Helmsley chose to fund this revolutionary work to bring the success Dr. Yannopoulos has shown beyond the walls of the medical center,” said Walter Panzirer, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “His work has been a game-changer and this program has the potential to change the way we treat cardiac arrest worldwide.”

“Our goal is to expand the University’s ECMO resuscitation program and extend the bundle of care to more Minnesotans by providing quicker access to impactful treatment,” said Yannopoulos. “This effort is not possible without cooperation from people across the Twin Cities, including all the EMS systems. It is not going to end here. We really need to take the next step to work at a state level to bring these resources to people in the more rural community.”

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program awarded the University an $18.6 million grant to fund the majority of the costs for the first three years. In addition to the Helmsley grant, more than $1.2 million in equipment and training funds have been contributed from industry and donors to support this broad community effort to reshape the management of cardiac arrest. Other recognized donors are Zoll Medical, Stryker Emergency Care, Getinge Incorporated and General Electric.

The next phase of the MMRC’s program will include larger mobile ECMO trucks equipped with medical equipment and virtual reality technology to help experts attend to patients remotely. This will allow experts to administer treatment on-site in the vehicle, shortening the time to treatment and broadening the area served by the program.

Video: Video credit: University of Minnesota.


About the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs

The Office of Academic Clinical Affairs is reimagining health by driving innovation and discovery through collaborations across the University of Minnesota, advancing interprofessional care and training, and being a strong partner to the state, industry and community.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $2.6 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $418 million to organizations and initiatives in the upper Midwest states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana.  For more information, visit 


Katrinna Dodge, Public Relations Consultant,, 612-624-4071

University of Minnesota Public Relations Office,, 612-624-5551

U of M Twin Cities, Helmsley Charitable Trust, and Healthcare System Partners Aim to Increase Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates

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