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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Frontier And Rural Medicine SitesOur 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.
Our students created the Coyote Clinic in downtown Sioux Falls. The clinic provides health care for uninsured and low income residents.
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.
STORIES THAT INSPIRE
The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine is incorporating “kindness” into its programs, culture and strategy, identifying and elevating kindness as a fundamental component of healing and happiness. This is unprecedented. No other medical school in the country is undertaking such an approach to medical education.
The influence and successes of the medical school’s FARM (Frontier And Rural Medicine) program is revealed by the career choices of our graduates.
The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine’s admissions committee chose well when they admitted a member of rival South Dakota State University’s football roster who had terrorized USD on the gridiron.
The Andrew E. Lee Memorial Medicine and Science Building is so prominent and distinct in its neighborhood on the southwest edge of the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion that it seems a singular, stand-alone aspect of the campus.