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. Harold Schuknecht

Dr. Harold Schuknecht

Surgeon, Researcher, Professor

1917 - 1996

  • Raised in Chancellor and earned an undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota; later received an honorary Doctor of Science from USD

  • Pioneered new surgical techniques to restore hearing

  • Was noted for his skill in microscopic procedures

  • Served as professor of otology and laryngology at the Harvard Medical School

  • Served as chief of otolaryngology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Informatory

  • Was elected president of the American Ontological Society and the American Ontological Society

(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)



(no photo available)

Marcella LeBeau

Nurse, Lakota Elder

1919 -

  • Served as a nurse for 31 years

  • Received the  “O. Marie Henry RNDNSC Chief Nurse” and the “Mable Ann Wagner Award” for exemplary contributions during her nursing career

  • Chosen in 2004,as one of the 100 U.S. WWII Veterans to receive the French Legion of Honor

(Information Source: South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. E.B. Morrison

Dr. Ernest (E.B.) Morrison


1919 -

  • Served as the director of the Crippled Children’s Hospital and School (now the Children’s Care Hospital and School) for 33 years, starting in 1951, when the facility was being built

  • Raised funds and supervised three major building additions

  • Became an acknowledged authority on non-profit organization financial management


(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. Robert Quinn

Robert Quinn


1919 - 2001

  • Helped, as dean of the USDSM, develop and facilitate the four-year medical program

  • Improved the quality of treatment for people with mental illness

  • Served as a member of the regional planning committee for Nebraska and South Dakota to expand and improve health care in the two states

  • Worked on the development of the Dean’s Committee that served several of South Dakota’s hospitals


(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Hildreth Twostars Venegas

Hildreth Twostars Venegas

Community Activist

1919 -

  • Was the first American Indian woman in South Dakota to be given the prestigious “Spirit of South Dakota Award” in 1996

  • Chaired the state’s American Lung Association convention which united American Indians and non-Indians to discuss health issues that affect the citizens of the state

  • Received the “Agnes M. Holdridge Award” for outstanding contributions in the prevention and control of lung disease and providing a significant impact on the respiratory health of people around the state


(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. Robert Bartron

Dr. G. Robert Bartron

Medical Doctor

1920 - 2003

  • Received recognition for his 20 years on the State Board of Medical Osteopathic Examiners

  • Practiced medicine at the Bartron Hospital and Clinic in Watertown

  • Received a Bush Fellowship Award in the Study of Geriatric Medicine

  • Founded the Bartron Hospital Nursing School and was instrumental in the establishment of the USDSM

  • Served as medical director of the Prairie Lakes Nursing Home

(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)



(no photo available)

Sr. Blanche Kribell


1920 - 2004

  • Became a registered nurse in 1942

  • Received federal grants to study the care of premature infants

  • Served many years as a supervisor and clinical instructor during her more than 50 years of nursing at the Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton

  • Traveled with a group of obstetrical specialists on an educational tour of several medical schools in Eastern Europe where she lectured on related topics

(Information Source: South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. Robert Hayes

Dr. Robert Hayes

Medical Doctor and Administrator

1921 - 1991

  • Served as secretary of the South Dakota Department of Health, 1970-1975

  • Worked to improve rural health care in South Dakota

  • Served as the program coordinator for the South Dakota Division of the Nebraska-South Dakota Regional Medical Program

  • Was instrumental in getting legislation passed to be one of the first states to create the physician assistant (PA) as a health occupation in the 1970s

  • Served as a professor of clinical medicine and as the director of the Physician Extender Program at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine


(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. Warren Jones

Dr. Warren Jones

Doctor of Internal Medicine

1921 - 2004

  • Taught cardiovascular physiology at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine

  • Was the first physician in the state to perform an electrical cardio vision, a procedure that is used to restore a regular rhythm to the human heart

  • Instrumental in the development and application of the first implanted cardiac pacemaker in South Dakota

  • Served as chief of staff at Sioux Valley Hospital from 1958-1960 and again from 1962-1964


(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)

Dr. Vernon Nelson

Dr. Vernon Ronald Nelson

Inventor and Professor

1921 - 2012

  • Taught physics, math, and aeronautics at Augustana College in Sioux Falls

  • Received a telephone call on a Friday in 1954, from surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Cottam requesting him to design a “heart shocker” to be used in surgery on Monday

  • Had the heart stimulator ready for use on that Monday

  • Constructed later models for use in several South Dakota hospitals


(Information and Photo Courtesy South Dakota Hall of Fame)