Nov 20, 2012

Native Student Services director recognized for outstanding counseling work, commitment to health disparities reduction

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Gene D. Thin Elk, director of Native Student Services at the University of South Dakota, was named a recipient of the Dr. George Blue Spruce Jr. Award presented by Pathways Into Health at the 2012 Achieving Excellence, Harmony, and Balance Conference at Rapid City, S.D. this fall.

The Dr. George Blue Spruce Jr. Award recognizes an individual that has demonstrated a genuine commitment to the reduction of health disparities; is an advocate of increasing AI/ANs into the health professions; is a strong mentor and serves as a positive role model for AI/AN youth and health professionals. George Blue Spruce Jr., DDS, MPH, is an enrolled member of the Pueblo Tribe (Laguna/Ohkay-Owingeh), is the first recognized American Indian dentist and the first American Indian dentist to hold the title of Assistant Surgeon General.

Thin Elk, a Sic’angu, C’okan-Towela Band, Lakota from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is the originator of the Red Road Approach – a culturally-based, therapeutic recovery and wellness model based upon Lakota, Dakota and Nakota indigenous cultural life ways and teachings. During the past three decades, Thin Elk has utilized the Red Road Approach in his services consultations, healing and cultural training work with numerous Native Tribal Nations, Corporations, Rancherias and Pueblos, and has advised and consulted with major universities, banks, hospitals, and corporations as well as with the United States Army Psychiatric Hospital and Sanford Health’s Health Disparities Research Center.

As director of Native Student Services at USD, Thin Elk has been recognized nationally and internationally for his exceptional leadership in the field of Native American drug and alcohol rehabilitation, wellness and cross-cultural training. He has been featured in several publications, including Time Magazine’s Top 100 People of the Year, Newsweek’s New American Heroes and as a Who’s Who in Business World Wide.

About The University of South Dakota
Founded in 1862, The University of South Dakota is designated as the only public liberal arts university in the state and is home to a comprehensive College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, the state's only School of Law, School of Medicine, the accredited Beacom School of Business and the College of Fine Arts. USD has an enrollment of more than 10,000 students taught by more than 400 faculty members. More information is available at

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Peter Carrels
The University of South Dakota
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