President's Page

SDSMA Keeps Passion For Medicine Alive


Denise Hanisch, MD
President, South Dakota State Medical Association

May 3, 2024

This May, I celebrate my 30-year anniversary of being a physician and my last month as president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. Both events have me reminiscing. My feelings about my chosen profession have fluctuated over the years and, I can only assume, that some of you have experienced similar emotions. My passion to attend medical school was fueled by my love for science and my brother, who passed away at the age of 12 from Ewing’s Sarcoma. I admit, over the past 30 years, the passion has not always been there. Some days, my career choice has felt more like a “job” and there have been many days, my emotions land somewhere else on the spectrum.

Medicine has always been part business. Hundreds of years ago, a physician would hang a sign on their office door and exchanged a service for reimbursement. But, the physician was the business. Today it seems that physicians have very little role in the business of medicine which, I think, is the contributing factor to the disenchanted sentiment I have when I ponder the course of medicine.

Being a member, board member, and president of the SDSMA has kept my passion for medicine alive. What I have experienced in the last year has proven to me that physicians still have a voice and can drive medicine to a future that is beneficial for the two most important elements, the patient and the physician. I have met courageous, hardworking, intelligent and passionate physicians in our state.

Sadly, we have lost two more physicians in the past year, who have been an inspiration to me throughout my career. They had passion, beyond measure, for improving healthcare in our state.

Matt Owens, MD, family physician from Redfield, passed away Nov. 29, 2023 and will always be remembered for his contributions to our rural EMS services. He formed a partnership with Agtegra and developed the Dakota Responder Training program, which provided education to hundreds of citizens in rural communities, in the use of AEDs and Narcan. Just before his death, he was awarded the 2023 COPIC Humanitarian Award for his contributions. He was always willing, at SDSMA events, to talk about the challenges and successes of rural medicine, especially as a constant supporter of rural EMS services.

Two months ago, Susan Anderson, MD, family physician and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Sanford USD School of Medicine, passed away. She was a true South Dakota physician who loved and lived in her hometown of Canistota. She helped develop and support the Frontier and Rural Medicine (FARM) Program along with being active in several organizations including the SDSMA and SDAFP. You may not have known her but she supported the physicians in South Dakota with unwavering passion and dedication.

Physicians in our state saw some struggles, successes and compromises during this year’s legislative session. Scope of practice expansion continues to be a difficult fight. Optometrists were successful in adding certain surgical procedures to their practices even though the SDSMA and ophthalmologists strongly opposed and provided testimony to our legislature. Pharmacists had proposed providing all vaccinations to patients from infancy to adults. The SDSMA met with the South Dakota Pharmacists Association and they did not pursue the issue further at that time. The physician assistants group did not propose legislation this year but it should be expected that they, and the pharmacists, will continue to push the boundary.  We will need to stay focused and reach out to legislators throughout the coming year. I encourage you to know who your local representatives are and discuss issues with them at any time. The South Dakota

Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners was expanded and the structure was changed, but the final outcome was a compromise that made the change more acceptable to physicians.

I cannot end my year as president without thanking the staff of the SDSMA. They have provided guidance, opportunities and support throughout the year. They are always willing to listen to new ideas and answer questions and help lead our organization. I encourage everyone to consider attending the Annual Leadership Conference which will be held in Rapid City on May 31. The focus this year will be Native American healthcare and access, and it is a great way to learn more about our organization and what you can do to be a part of the future of medicine in our state.

No matter where my feelings are on a daily basis, I am happy I have chosen this career in medicine. I will continue to advocate for my patients and am privileged to work alongside many amazing, passionate and dedicated physicians.

South Dakota State Medical Association
2600 W 49th St Ste 100
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
Phone: 605.336.1965 | Fax: 605.274.3274

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