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On May 31, 2007, James Abbott, then-president of the University of South Dakota, wrote a letter to the executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents, Dr. Robert T. Tad Perry, requesting that the Regents approve a name change for the University’s Division of Health Services to the School of Health Sciences. 

President Abbott explained that the Division of Health Services consisted of the following departments: Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies, Dental Hygiene, Medical Technology, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant Studies, Physical Therapy and Social Work.  This division, added Abbott, “…is already led by a dean, and in term of the number of departments and enrollment, it is second in size [at the university] only to the College of Arts and Sciences.”

The requested name change, Abbott pointed out, “will more appropriately reflect the division’s stature and will recognize the increasingly critical role the programs within the division play in meeting the healthcare needs of the state.”

At its June 28-29, 2007 meeting, the Board of Regents’ Committee on Academic and Student Affairs formally considered President Abbott’s request.  Following the recommendation of its executive director, the committee approved the name change, and the USD School of Health Sciences was born.

All the departments and programs placed in the School of Health Sciences in 2007 pre-dated that formal organizing determination.  Several (Dental Hygiene and Social Work, for example) had at one time been previously housed in the School of Arts and Sciences. The Physician Assistant Studies, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and the Medical Technology (now Medical Laboratory Science) programs had earlier been managed under the university’s school of medicine. Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies (now Addiction Counseling and Prevention) was part of the Department of Psychology at one point. Recent additions to the school include the Public Health and Health Science programs. 

The Board of Regents’ action in 2007 to consolidate health professions and studies under an over-arching single school to be called the School of Health Sciences continued a long evolution of health programs and departments at the university. It was a perceptive and productive decision that continues to benefit students and South Dakotans. The School of Health Sciences is now South Dakota’s most important and comprehensive educational institution preparing health care professionals.

School of Health Sciences Deans

 Frank O. Brady  1992 – 2000
 John L. Williams  2000 – 2007
 Brian Kaatz  2008 – 2011
 Barb Brockevelt (Interim Dean  2011
 Michael J. Lawler  2011 – 2018
 Lana Svien (Interim Dean)  2018 – 2019
 Haifa Samra  2019 – present