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Three Specialists Join Yankton Medical Clinic Care Team

Jan 13, 2022 07:08PM ● By Med Magazine

Dr. Elizabeth Nicholas
Family Medicine

For Dr. Elizabeth Nicholas, the Yankton Medical Clinic is the perfect place to continue her medical career. Upon graduation from the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and completion of a family medicine residency at the University of New Mexico, Dr. Nicholas has returned to the place where she spent her third and fourth years of medical school. 

During her medical education, she rotated at YMC with Dr. McKenzie Hanson, currently also in the family medicine department at YMC, and with Dr. Susan Fanta, internal medicine. “Working alongside these women definitely played a role in me wanting to be in Yankton,” Dr. Nicholas explained. “I saw that they were able to have both successful careers and families. While I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids at the time, I knew that’s what I wanted, and I knew this was a place where I could be a physician, wife and mother.” 

Dr. Nicholas explained that the physician-patient relationship is valuable to her and specializing in family medicine allows her to foster a relationship over a patient’s entire lifetime. “You’re with them through life’s ups and downs,” she said. “I really enjoy talking to people and getting to know them. It’s a humbling specialty and I’m really grateful to be able to provide this care for my patients.” Her special interests are in preventive medicine, mental health and women’s health. 

“I’m a true believer in the teamwork approach to medicine,” Dr. Nicholas said. “The bottom line is, I love my job and I love getting to know my patients. Medicine is constantly changing; I’m up for that challenge. I want to find out what my patient’s goals and motivations are and what their barriers are to optimize their health. I strive to work with them to help them become the healthiest version of themselves.” 

Yankton Medical Clinic is one of the most unique clinics she’s been involved with, she said, because “everything is under one roof—specialists, a lab, in-house diagnostic imaging, plus a surgery center,” she said. “I have worked in other places where it was difficult for patients to navigate through all the services they needed.” 

Originally from Eureka, South Dakota, Dr. Nicholas looks forward to raising her family in Yankton. “There are great schools here, great opportunities for kids, and plenty of outdoor activities,” she said. 

Dr. Nicholas is married to Dr. Robert Nicholas and the couple has two children, a 2 ½-year-old and a seven month old. She is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and joins Drs. McKenzie Hanson, Carrissa Pietz, Abigail Reynolds, Jordan Schild, Scott Weber and Certified Nurse Practitioner Jennifer McGinnis. To schedule an appointment, call 605-665-8910.


Dr. Robert Nicholas
Ear, Nose & Throat

Yankton Medical Clinic’s newest otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) specialist is no stranger to the clinic or his colleagues. While a third-year medical student, Dr. Robert Nicholas completed rotations with Dr. Micah Likness and Dr. David Abbott, both ENTs at YMC. 

“Those two are a huge reason why I wanted to come back to Yankton to practice,” Dr. Nicholas explained. “They are both tremendous surgeons, wonderful people, and they fostered my interest in ENT and I was excited to come back and work with them. As a student, I was so impressed with the quality of care at the Yankton Medical Clinic and how professional everyone is. That is a big reason why we decided to return to this community that has such a great legacy.” 

Dr. Nicholas is a 2016 graduate of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and completed a head and neck surgery residency at the University of New Mexico. “I always knew I wanted to go into surgery because I like working with my hands--it was just a matter of figuring out what type of surgery. My first year in medical school, I realized I really liked working on the head and neck,” he said. After his clinical rotations in Yankton’s ENT specialty area, he fell in love with the specialty. 

Of special interest to Dr. Nicholas are ear procedures, such as chronic ear surgery, hearing restoration and cochlear implants. “I did a lot of those procedures during residency and really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s so intricate. There is so much to know, and I was drawn to it.” 

He cares for his patients like they were members of his own family. “I think about each patient as if they are a family member and think about what I’d want for them. It’s important to have real conversations with patients rather than lecturing. I enjoy having discussions with patients--it gets them invested and interested in what is going on.”

Professionally, Dr. Nicholas is a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. “I’m excited to take care of folks in South Dakota and Nebraska,” he said. He travels once or twice per week to see patients in Norfolk and sees patients in Vermillion every other week. 

Originally from Huron, South Dakota, Dr. Nicholas and his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Nicholas, have two children, a 2 ½ year old and a seven-month old, and the family likes to travel, hunt and read. A resident of Yankton for only a short time, he looks forward to getting involved in the community in the future. 

Dr. Nicholas joins Drs. David Abbott and Micah Likness and is now seeing patients at the Yankton Medical Clinic, P.C. – Ear, Nose & Throat (2525 Fox Run Parkway, Yankton) location. Make an appointment with Dr. Nicholas at 605-665-0062.


Dr. Alan Spanel
Internal Medicine

Internal medicine specialist Dr. Alan (A.J.) Spanel is now seeing patients at Yankton Medical Clinic, P.C. – Norfolk. Dr. Spanel has joined a health care team at the clinic that also includes Dr. Charles Harper and Certified Nurse Practitioner Kelly Jueden. 

Dr. Spanel graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha, Nebraska, which is where he also completed a residency in internal medicine/primary care. His Bachelor of Science degree is in biochemistry from Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. 

“I chose internal medicine because I really enjoy dealing with the variety of conditions an internist treats,” Dr. Spanel explained. “As an outpatient internist, I especially enjoy coordinating care for patients with complex medical conditions, evaluating undiagnosed medical complaints, evaluating nonsurgical orthopedic issues such as joint and back pain and focusing on preventative care.” During his internal medicine residency at UNMC, Dr. Spanel participated in research projects in the areas of palliative medicine, management of severe COVID-19 cases, novel oral diabetes and heart failure medications, and he has done some training in sports medicine. 

“I particularly enjoy outpatient treatment because I enjoy the process of building relationships and trust with patients over time,” he said. “I like helping them get control over their chronic conditions, something that is so important to quality of life. I also enjoy the challenge that comes with diagnosing unknown conditions. 

“Above all else I strive to provide patient-centered care,” he continued. “I work hard to provide my patients with evidence-based recommendations.” 

Dr. Spanel and his wife, Morgan, are both native to Norfolk, and the and the couple moved home to be closer to their family. “I always wanted to come back to practice in the community that raised me,” he said. “Growing up here, I have a unique understanding of the city and the values of people around the area. My fundamental motivation is to give back to this community, and I hope my patients can see that in the care I provide them. This clinic is a great fit for me. I’ve been so impressed with Yankton Medical Clinic’s dedication to excellence and the quality of care they provide. The group’s values align very well with my own values.” 

Dr. Spanel and Morgan have a five-month-old son, Brooks. The family enjoys being outdoors, fishing, running, and spending time with friends. As a former Doane College baseball player—he was a short stop and second baseman—he’d like to get involved with youth baseball in some capacity. 

The clinic is located at the Fountain Point Medical Community at 3901 W. Norfolk Ave., Norfolk, Nebraska. You can make an appointment with Dr. Spanel by calling 402-316-4606.