In 2020, COVID-19 showed how our world could change in a matter of days. Now—thanks to the bravery of South Dakota’s healthcare workers—we see how much the virus can change in a year. Vaccines are easing our state into a newer normal. And while South Dakota isn’t out of the woods, we should remember the heroes who got us this far.
Amber McMillin is one of those heroes. Last year, she ran the student health clinic for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. There, she implemented COVID-19 testing for thousands of college students. That’s no easy task. “I’m exhausted. My brain is a type of tired that I have never known.”
Lately, though, she’s been doing less testing and more vaccinating. Specifically, she’s been vaccinating at-risk populations and Rapid City’s frontline workers. It’s still tough, but as a SD native, Amber said she’s prepared. “I grew up on a farm and ranch, and I know the hard work that goes into making a South Dakotan. I am so proud to serve our community.”
Amber thinks it’s the South Dakota community that has led us through COVID. “In the beginning, we all agreed that no one fights alone and that we are all in this together. All of us that have come through this are the heroes, not just healthcare workers.”
She was certainly not fighting alone. Nurse practitioner Melissa Davis lives in Plankinton. Her rural clinic has always been busy—last year even more so. With the only quick testing abilities in a half-hour radius, Melisssa’s clinic saw a non-stop flow of people. “There were days we just made it work. I don’t want to tell people no—that could be me or my family.”
After the grind of the last year, Melissa says she and her colleagues are eager for more vaccinations. “I hope we return to as much of normal as possible. We’re still prepared to test and treat as needed, but we’re ready for what’s next.”
The efforts made by our state’s healthcare workers are having a huge impact. South Dakota is currently leading the nation in COVID-19 vaccinations. More than one in three residents have received at least one dose, and one in five are fully vaccinated.
We’re headed in the right direction, but what can we do as South Dakotans to help? On top of doing our part with necessary social distancing measures, we can find our vaccination times and be ready for our turn. The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we can give heroes, like Amber and Melissa, a well-deserved break.
In our effort to help, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations is committed to sharing stories like Amber’s and Melissa’s. Through these stories, we hope to shine a spotlight on the people who’ve gotten us through a year truly like no other.
Visit our page to hear more about South Dakota’s healthcare heroes.