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USD Medical Student Avery Olson Honored for Public Service

Avery Olson, Sanford School of Medicine Pillar 3 student Avery Olson, a Pillar 3 student at the USD Sanford School of Medicine, was recognized with the 2020 Excellence in Public Health award by the USPHS.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The United States Public Health Service (USPHS) has recognized University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine student Avery Olson as a winner of the 2020 Excellence in Public Health Award.

Olson, a Rapid City native and a graduate of Colorado State University, was recognized for her extensive work in a community research program called “Walking Forward,” a program that educates rural and local health care providers about the causes of cancer and related health issues among American Indian populations.

Olson is a Pillar 3 student in her third year at the USD Sanford School of Medicine and is based on the medical school’s Rapid City campus. Dr. Daniel Petereit, a radiation oncologist in Rapid City and a clinical professor in the medical school’s internal medicine department, served as Olson’s advisor during the project.

Olson’s work in the Walking Forward program has focused on increasing awareness by local health care providers regarding lung cancer screening guidelines, the availability of low dose computerized tomography and billing procedures that encourage low dose tomography referrals. The project included education of 135 local health care providers in 30 clinics using online resources.

The awards program recognizes medical students in institutions across the United States who advance public health and exemplify the USPHS mission to protect, promote and advance the health and safety of the people of the United States. 


USD's Sanford School of Medicine is nationally known for excellence. With its award-winning curriculum, the school prepares medical students to practice in all fields of medicine and is particularly recognized and ranked for its reputation in family medicine and rural medicine. In addition to the M.D., it offers graduate degrees in basic biomedical science, sustains a vibrant and forward-looking research agenda, and is home to the interdisciplinary Center for Brain and Behavioral Research.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News