Melissa Magstadt, South Dakota Secretary of Health
South Dakota Department of Health

125 Years of Health in South Dakota - Health Pioneers


Fellow South Dakotans,

     As we celebrate the 125th year of statehood for South Dakota, it is important to reflect on those individuals who, through the decades, have helped make this a great state. At the Department of Health we are particularly interested in noting those who have played key roles in advancing the health of the citizens of our state. In the coming weeks we will be featuring some of those individuals and health milestones on this site. Any such listing will inevitably be incomplete but it is our hope that these brief snapshots will introduce South Dakotans to some of the health pioneers whose efforts have helped create the quality of life we enjoy today.

Doneen Hollingsworth

Secretary of Health
February 2014


Dr. Dennis Knutson

Dr. Dennis Knutson


1940 -

  • Developed skills in electron microscopy

  • Received the American Academy of Dermatology’s Gold Award for Original Work which focused on diseases of the sebaceous (oil) gland

  • Was associate professor of medicine for both the Mayo Medical School and the University of Minnesota

  • Moved to Sioux Falls in 1975, where he initiated the teaching of dermatology for the newly established USDSM where he served as the clinical professor and chair of the Dermatology Division

  • Served as the South Dakota Dermatology Society’s first president

  • Helped establish the first free Skin Cancer Screening Clinic

(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. J. Michael McMillin

Dr. J. Michael McMillin


1940 -

  • Served as a clinical professor of endocrinology as the USDSM and raised funds for a new research facility in Sioux Falls which include an electron microscope

  • Solved the “Great Thyroid Mystery” when more than 100 South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa citizens were afflicted by a severe case of thyrotoxicosis

  • Researched diabetes among American Indians and the analysis between thyroid disease, depression, and bipolar disorders



(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Rev. Dr. Donald Messer

Rev. Dr. Donald Messer

Theologian and Author

1941 -

  • Worked worldwide to combat HIV/AIDS

  • Founded the Center for the Church and Global AIDS which supports and advocates for persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS around the world

  • Published Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence: Christian Churches and the Global AIDS Crisis in 2004



(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Jon Soderholm

Jon C. Soderholm


1941 -

  • Began his career as an administrator at Sioux Valley Hospital in 1966, eventually becoming the executive vice president

  • Helped design, finance, construct, and staff the new cardiovascular specialty hospital, Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota, in 1999

  • Saw the Avera Heart Hospital named one of the top 100 hospitals in the United States and being ranked as South Dakota’s number one hospital for customer service

  • Co-founded and served as president of what is now the Center For Active Generations in Sioux Falls


(Information and Photo courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Amiel Redfish

Amiel Narcell “Doc” Redfish

Radiology Technologist and Physician Assistant

1942 -

  • Learned herbal healing from his Lakota grandmother

  • Became a radiology technologist and served as a chief technologist for seven years

  • Became a pioneering physician assistant in South Dakota, working for the Indian Health Service at the Rosebud Reservation

  • Began his 21 year career in Arlington and Kingsbury Counties in 1989, as a physician assistant

  • Named the ”National Rural Physician Assistant of the Year” in 1998

  • Was a founding member of the South Dakota Academy of Physician Assistants

(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. James Reynolds

Dr. James Reynolds

Cardiac Surgeon

1943 -

  • Was instrumental along with Dr. Robert D. Willis in bringing cardiac surgery to South Dakota and the area

  • Performed his first procedures in 1978, at Sioux Valley Hospital

  • Had success in coronary bypass and valvular heart surgery

  • Was instrumental in the founding of the North Central Heart group in 1981

  • Was a significant influence in establishing the Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota

  • Served as the president of the American College of Surgeons

(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. Paul Wright


Dr. Paul Wright


1946 -

  • Established a private practice in general ophthalmology in Rapid City in 1977

  • Provided a wide variety of surgical procedures including cataract surgery, corneal transplants, retinal detachment procedures, and eye plastic surgery cases

  • Saw his dream come true when the Black Hills Regional Eye Institute opened in 1983

  • Received the prestigious “Honor Award” from the Academy of Ophthalmology  in 1992


(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame and the Sanford Consortium website)

Dr. Julie Gerberding

Dr. Julie Gerberding

Medical Doctor

1955 -

  • Born in Estelline
  • Former director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an expert on American infectious diseases
  • Developed CDC’s patient safety initiatives
  • Worked extensively on smoking cessation, screening for heart disease and stroke, and increased physical education in U.S. elementary schools
  • Helped lead the CDC’s response to bioterrorism
  • Named several years to Forbes List of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the world


(Information and Photo Courtesy CDC's Division of Media Relations online)

Dr. Vance Thompson

Dr. Vance Thompson


1959 -

  • Pioneered work in laser and implant refractive surgery, including the LASIK procedure

  • Helped restore the vision of tens of thousands of people

  • Established a medical practice in Sioux Falls



(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. Yvette Roubideaux

Dr. Yvette Roubideaux

Medical Doctor and Administrator

1963 -

  • Is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe

  • Became the director of the Indian Health Service in 2009

  • Served as a clinical director and medical officer at reservation hospitals

  • Served as an assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine

  • Focused her research on diabetes in American Indians/Alaska Natives and on American Indian health policy


(Information and Photo Courtesy: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website)