USD School of Medicine celebrates 50 years of producing physicians

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VERMILLION — The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine is celebrating a monumental occasion this year: its 50th anniversary of becoming an institution granting four-year medical degrees.

Since 1907, the USD School of Medicine has provided high-quality medical education and served as the only school of medicine in South Dakota.

During its first 67 years of existence, the USD medical school granted two-year degrees, necessitating that medical students transfer elsewhere to finish an M.D. degree. USD became a four-year, M.D.-degree granting institution in 1974, after then-Senator (later Governor) Harvey Wollman and Medical School Dean Dr. Karl Wegner rallied the state of South Dakota to garner a unanimous legislative vote to approve the transition. In 1977, the medical school graduated its first class of 39 physicians.

In those 50 years, the School of Medicine has conferred thousands of medical degrees and touched every corner of South Dakota through health care, research and education.

“We are extremely proud of the medical school’s accomplishments from the past 50 years, but we are also incredibly grateful to our past leaders who had the vision and perseverance to make this school as impactful as it is today,” said Dr. Tim Ridgway, the 15th dean of the USD medical school. “We would not be able to effect change in health care as we do today without the leadership and innovation of those individuals decades ago.”

In five decades, the School of Medicine has achieved prestigious honors and made significant impacts.

  • Recipient of the Shining Star of Educational Innovation award from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for the Longitudinal Integrated Curriculum (LIC).
  • Recipient of the AAMC’s Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service, considered the highest award a medical school can attain.
  • Ranks in the 99th percentile of graduates who practice in rural settings.
  • Created the innovative FARM (Frontier And Rural Medicine) program that places 13 medical students in eight rural South Dakota communities, producing 65 physicians.
  • More than 75% of its graduates who complete residency in South Dakota stay in South Dakota to practice medicine.
  • More than 2,000 South Dakota practicing physicians teach SSOM students each year.
  • Sponsors, or is affiliated with, nine residency and four fellowship programs.