About Us

School History

More Than a Century of Service

The Sanford School of Medicine has provided high quality medical education and served as the only school of medicine in the state since 1907.

We strive for excellence in education, research and service. The 2023-2024 Data Reference card highlights the current enrollment of the medical school as well as the economic impacts the school has on the state and region.

Humble Beginnings

Our school began as a two-year medical program with two students enrolled. The following year enrollment grew to four first-year and seven second-year students.

Our first dean, Christian Peter Lommen, began a long tradition of dedicated, public-spirited medical school deans.

By 1925, the class size was stable at 20 students and the school was recognized as one of the finest two-year medical institutions in the nation. The school continued to grow and in 1955, class size increased to 40 students.

Program Expansion

By the late 1960s, South Dakotans began to deliberate the value of the two-year medical program. Medical school advocates proposed expanding the school to a four-year, degree-granting institution. A campaign to accomplish that was led by medical school dean Dr. Karl Wegner and state senator Harvey Wollman and in 1974, the state legislature and Governor Richard Kneip endorsed the four-year program.

The new four-year institution used a “school without walls” approach, an innovative concept that utilized existing hospitals and clinics as classrooms for third and fourth-year students. Practicing physicians complemented full-time, academic faculty. The school’s first four-year graduates - 39 in all - received their M.D. degrees in May 1977.

Research Emphasis

Research at the medical school assumed new importance in the 1990s and funded research grew from $5.3 million in 1996 to $16 million by 2019. We continue to drive our focus on research for faculty and students. In 2006, we launched an M.D./Ph.D. program to train future physician scientists.

Contemporary Medical Education

Today’s medical school - renamed in 2006 as the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine - occupies advanced facilities in Vermillion and Sioux Falls. Students also learn at partner hospitals in Rapid City, Yankton and Sioux Falls. Selected students voluntarily participate in the FARM program, in which they serve nine months in a rural South Dakota community. The school has been acknowledged as the nation’s top provider of rural physicians. A seven-year M.D./Ph.D. program, combining medical and research training, was initiated in 2006.

Throughout its history, the medical school has distinguished itself as a leader in medical education, rural medicine, research and innovation. This tradition of excellence continues, creating a vibrant, modern institution.

The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine is nationally known for excellence in medical education. With its award-winning curriculum, our school prepares medical students to practice in all fields of medicine and is particularly recognized for its reputation in family medicine and rural medicine. In addition to the M.D., we offer graduate degrees in basic biomedical science, sustain a vibrant and forward-looking research agenda, and are home to the interdisciplinary Center for Brain and Behavioral Research.

Vision Statement

The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine will be a leader in educating students who with knowledge, skill, and compassion dedicate their lives to the well-being of their patients, their community, and their profession.

Mission Statement

The Mission of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine is to provide the opportunity for South Dakota residents to receive a quality, broad-based medical education with an emphasis on family medicine. The curriculum is to be established to encourage graduates to serve people living in the medically underserved areas of South Dakota, and is to require excellence in the basic sciences and in all clinical disciplines. The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine is to provide to its students and to the people of South Dakota excellence in education, research and service. To these ends, the school is to provide educational pathways leading to both the Doctor of Medicine and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Quality health care for the people of South Dakota is addressed by undergraduate, graduate and continuing educational programs as well as by basic and applied medical research. The School of Medicine should serve as a technical resource in the development of health care policy in the state and provide extension and research initiatives to improve the health care of the citizens of the state.

Diversity Statement

The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine values diversity and its essential role in achieving the educational, scholarship,
and service missions of the school. Therefore, the medical school is committed to both recruitment and retention of students, residents,
faculty, and staff who through their diversity enrich the learning environment and promote inclusive excellence. We recognize diversity as
relating to sex, race, color, creed, rural background, socioeconomic status, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, gender, gender identification,
transgender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, genetic information and veteran status. In addition, we value persons with broad
life experiences, with records of service to disadvantaged populations, and with other attributes that may enhance the learning community.
The medical school has chosen three areas of emphasis on diversity to enrich the learning environment and promote inclusive excellence:
American Indians, rural, and gender.

Our leadership team provides guidance for more than 300 academic faculty and more than 1,000 clinical faculty across the state. Learn more about the Sanford School of Medicine leaders.

Campus Locations

Sioux Falls
Home to the Wegner Health Science Information Center, the state’s premier medical library, the Sioux Falls campus houses medical school administration and clinical departments.
Next to Yankton Medical Clinic and Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, the Yankton Campus is the birthplace of our innovative Yankton Ambulatory Program.
Nestled on the University of South Dakota campus, Vermillion is home to the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences and the location of our students for the first two years of medical school.
Rapid City
Located near the beautiful Black Hills, the Monument Health Rapid City campus has been providing training for third and fourth year medical students since 1948.

Frontier And Rural Medicine Sites

Our Frontier And Rural Medicine (FARM) Program allows students to experience rural medicine while living and learning in rural communities throughout South Dakota. The communities for the FARM program are long-term teaching sites which include Milbank, Mobridge, Parkston, Pierre, Spearfish, Vermillion and Winner.

Our students participate in service learning throughout their training.

Coyote Clinic

Our students created the Coyote Clinic in downtown Sioux Falls. The clinic provides health care for uninsured and low income residents.

Scholarship Pathways Program

A service track within the Scholarship Pathways Program enhances our medical student experience. Students grow their community service and leadership development.

Other Service Opportunities

We've also had students participate in:

  • International health care experiences around the globe.
  • Volunteering as part of the cultural immersion project at settings that include Indian reservations, Hutterite colonies and care facilities for the disabled,
  • deaf and blind.
  • Administering flu shots to elementary students as part of a statewide initiative.
  • Training to deploy in case of a health care emergency.
  • Organizing charity events to raise money for scholarships and domestic violence shelters.
Two med students helping a patient sitting and smiling on the office table.

Ethics & Humanities

The Sanford School of Medicine values teaching our future healthcare professionals ethical leadership and the enriching aspects of humanities education, fostering their well-rounded growth.

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