Joan Adam, Secretary of Health
South Dakota Department of Health


125 Years of Health in South Dakota - Milestones


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 on this site along with key health-related milestones. Any such listings 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



  • On July 1, the South Dakota State Board of Health issued their first printed bulletin.

  • The budget for the State Board of Health was $1,600.


  • Provision was made for the office of a full-time superintendent of the State Board of Health and P.B. Jenkins, M.D. was appointed to the position.

  • Dr. Jenkin’s State Board of Health office was in Waubay, where it remained until 1933, when it was moved to the Capitol in Pierre.

  • The State Board of Health was concerned about the pollution of streams from sewage and other contamination.



  • County health boards formed and began reporting to the State Board of Health about local health problems, primarily at schools.

  • A total of 554 people died of tuberculosis and 103 died of typhoid fever from 1912-1914.
1911 typhoid booklet
  • The State Board of Health minutes stated, “We have devoted our energies mainly to publications of an educational nature for the purpose of disseminating health knowledge.”
(Typhoid booklet published by South Dakota Board of Health, 1911;
South Dakota State Historical Society)



Nurses a Philip Hospital


  • Brown County was the first in its population class in the nation to support a fulltime physician health officer.
  • The South Dakota State Nurses Association of Graduate Nurses was organized, electing Mrs. Elizabeth Dryborough of Rapid City as president.


  • The Legislature passed the County Nurse bill strongly influenced by Mrs. E.P. Wanzer, who was considered the Mother of Public Health Nursing in South Dakota.

  • The first public health nurse in South Dakota was Mrs. Mary G. Fraser.
(Nurses at the Philip Hospital, circa 1912;
South Dakota State Historical Society)


  • A worldwide “Spanish flu” influenza epidemic struck South Dakota causing 846 deaths.



  • A viral strain of influenza struck during the winter killing 295 in the state.
  • The Legislature declared that venereal diseases were contagious and that it was unlawful for anyone infected to expose another person.
  • The Vital Statistics program was transferred to the State Board of Health, and became a separate division.
  • The South Dakota Legislature first defined “optometry.”


  • The Department of Health was vested with the responsibility to collect vital statistics and to provide data to doctors, hospitals, and county officials.
  • A total of 113 people died of influenza in the state.
  • The State Board of Health first employed a public health nursing supervisor with supplemental funds from the Red Cross and the State Public Health Association.
  • Much of the State Board of Health’s meeting time was dedicated to developing examination questions for medical licensure.
1919 flu brochure
(1919 influenza brochure published by
the South Dakota Board of Health;
South Dakota State Historical Society)