Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Health, also served as the Governor’s Senior Advisor and a member of the Governor’s Executive Committee and Cabinet. The South Dakota Department of health has over 450 employees in 60 communities statewide. The Department oversees 13 state licensing boards. There are multiple divisions within the department that include: Child and Family Services; Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; Correctional Health; Health statistics; Disease Prevention Services; Health Facilities Licensure & Certification; Health Protection; Public Health laboratory; Public Health Preparedness & Response; Rural Health, and Vital Records. The SD Department of Health has become the go-to agency for all healthcare related needs for citizens and the healthcare community.
The South Dakota Department of Health became a regular fixture in the homes of South Dakotans during the pandemic. Secretary Malsam-Rysdon along with different department leaders were often seen on the local and even national news stations, heard on the radio or provided details for the newspapers to keep citizens and the healthcare community up to date on the pandemic. The entire Department of Health took a statewide leadership role during one of our countries most difficult healthcare emergencies, but it’s not the first time the department has faced challenges. The departments history began before statehood, and even back in the day – looking out for the wellbeing of South Dakotans was a top priority.
The first hospital pre-statehood was established in Lead in 1877. After statehood, in 1891, the South Dakota Board of Health was created by a legislative act under Governor Arthur C. Mellette. The board was headquartered in Waubay and was formed to screen medical practitioners and included 5 members on the board. By 1892, the most dangerous contagious diseases were diphtheria, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhoid, whooping cough and measles. Sixty-seven diphtheria deaths were reported and the importance of vaccinations against smallpox was recognized.
Congratulations to the South Dakota Department of Health for being the 2021 State Official Distinguished Service Award Recipient.