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



  • The responsibility for the prevention of unnecessary human radiation exposure in mines, medical facilities, and any other site indicating a presence of radiation was delegated by the Legislature to the Department of Health.

  • The recently appointed Public Health Advisory Committee held its first meeting September 12.

(USD Medical School studied the effect

of radiation on monkeys using a

National Institutes of Health grant, 1957.

USD Archives and Special Collections)

(Anatomy Department technician Dorothy Guenther

sets up a review of tissues samples

with a technicon machine, 1953.

USD Archives and Special Collections)

  • South Dakota completed and opened the first two Hill-Burton funded nursing homes in the United States, which were located in Vermillion and Chamberlain.

  • A comprehensive survey of rural occupational hazards was completed by the South Dakota Department of Health.



  • Approximately 90 septic tank pumpers were licensed by the South Dakota Department of Health.

  • Virtually every public pool and beach in the state was a regular participant in bacteriological water sampling and analysis with 826 samples procured.

  • Shoe fitting machines, radiation-using equipment which was used in shoe stores to see how feet fit inside shoes, were eliminated in the State because they produced unnecessary human exposure to radiation.

  • The Environmental Sanitation Section of the South Dakota Department of Health inspected each of the 27 organized church and agency–type camps in the state, every South Dakota state park, and conducted a survey in conjunction with the national Public Health Service of the National Parks in South Dakota.
  • The South Dakota Department of Health opened the Northeastern South Dakota Mental Health Center in Aberdeen.

(USD medical technology student in Sioux Falls

laboratory, McKennan and Sioux Valley hospital labs were

used for clinical studies, 1957.

USD Archives and Special Collections)

(CPR training was an instrumental part of

physical education coursework at USD, 1959.

USD Archives and Special Collections)


  • The Department of Health along with several professional associations organized and maintained the Museum of Health exhibit at the State Fair in Huron.

  • Five new personnel were employed to perform field inspections of eating, drinking, lodging, locker, slaughter house, carbonated beverage bottling, and food warehouse establishments on a statewide basis.

  • The Department of Health developed and distributed the bulletin, “South Dakota’s Public Water Supply, 1959.”

  • The inspection and licensing of restaurants, motels, and rooming houses was transferred from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Health.

  • Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was a new technique which was approved by the South Dakota Department of Health, Public Health Service, and Red Cross.


  • A massive microfilm program was started in the early 1960s, to lessen the space needed for paper storage especially for Vital Records.

  • According to the 25th Biennial Report of the Department of Health 1960-1962, it was during this time period that a training program was initiated to use the Civil Defense Emergency Hospitals in cooperation with the State Office of Civil Defense.
  • The South Dakota Museum of Health Foundation was incorporated and proposed to have a museum of health at the State Fairgrounds in Huron, for all ages to understand more about health and the human body.


  • A survey was done in South Dakota on air pollution in the state by the South Dakota Department of Health; the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare; and Public Health Service.


  • A comprehensive report on the state’s water pollution control was conducted.



  • The last case of polio in South Dakota was recorded.

  • Mandatory reporting of communicable diseases began.

  • The Department of Health made application and received the state’s first grant award for funding from the 1962 federal Vaccination Assistance Act.

  • The Legislature passed the first comprehensive tuberculosis control and eradication program for the state.

  • The life expectancy for white males was 68.19 and for white females, 75.4.


  • The state experienced a tularemia outbreak which is a tick-borne disease.

  • The Department of Health acquired funds from legislation to inaugurate a program to microfilm all marriage and divorce records and 50 years of death records.

(Second year medical students conduct

a history and physical exam on a patient

in a Sioux Falls clinical clerkship, 1957.

USD Archives and Special Collections)



  • The Division of Vital Statistics converted its punch card equipment to an IBM system and started using a computer to prepare listings of births and deaths.

  • Governor Nils Boe designated the Department of Health as the agency of the state to administer the Medical Insurance Program for the aged under Title XVIII of the Social Security Amendment of 1965.