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USD Sanford School of Medicine Dean Announces Retirement

Dr. Mary Nettleman, headshot Dr. Mary Nettleman, dean of the USD Sanford School of Medicine and vice president for health affairs, will retire in July.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota announced Dr. Mary Nettleman, dean of the USD Sanford School of Medicine and vice president for health affairs, will retire in July after eight years of leading South Dakota’s nationally recognized medical school. USD will soon begin a national search for the next medical school dean.

Nettleman took the helm at the Sanford School of Medicine in 2012 after serving as chair of the department of medicine at Michigan State University. During her tenure, the Sanford School of Medicine accomplished a great deal, including expanding class size from 56 to 71 per class, establishing the Frontier and Rural Medicine Program to allow selected medical students to spend nine months in a rural area in South Dakota, and increasing the scholarship base to reduce the financial burden of medical school on students.

Recently, Nettleman was named the 2019-2020 recipient of the Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell Award for Outstanding Contributions to Advancing the Careers of Women in Medicine. This prestigious national award is presented by the American College of Physicians. She has also served on the Governor’s Taskforce for Primary Care since 2012 and on the nominating committee for the South Dakota State Medical Association since 2014.

The Sanford School of Medicine is nationally recognized for excellence in many areas, including ranking in the 98th percentile for the proportion of graduates practicing in rural areas and in the 98th percentile for the proportion of graduates who are Native American. Of the 500 internal medicine residency programs in the United States, residents at the Sanford School of Medicine earned the nation’s top performance scores. The medical school also ranks in the top 10 nationally in retaining students who undertake both medical school and residency in South Dakota.

In 2017, the Sanford School of Medicine won the AAMC Foreman Award, which is considered the top award a medical school can receive in the United States.

USD President Sheila K. Gestring said the Sanford School of Medicine’s achievements are a testament to Nettleman’s dedication and leadership.

“Dean Nettleman has tirelessly advocated for students pursuing their dreams of practicing medicine in South Dakota, and her dedication to upholding the highest of standards for the students and faculty has resulted in national recognition for South Dakota’s only medical school,” Gestring said. “We will miss Dean Nettleman and wish her the best as she and her husband enjoy retirement together.”

“It has been a true honor to serve as dean,” Nettleman said. “The USD Sanford School of Medicine has accomplished much during this time, thanks to the outstanding faculty, staff, administrators and students who are here. I am very grateful to the many people throughout the state and to our alumni for the unparalleled support I have received. In retirement, my husband and I will reside in South Dakota and continue to cherish the valued friendships that we have here.”

Download a high-resolution photo of Dr. Nettleman


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