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Physicians: Get Involved! Write a letter to the editor, talk with your colleagues about getting involved in advocacy, and if you're not already a member of SDSMA PAC, join today!

SDSMA PAC MEMBER HIGHLIGHT: Dr. Jerome Bentz, SDSMA PAC chair, who practices in Platte, wrote a letter to the editor in newspapers across District 21, encouraging voters in the district to support Erin Tobin for state senate. Her opponent, current Senate Majority Leader Lee Qualm, introduced a bill in the 2020 legislation session that would have eliminated South Dakota's childhood vaccination requirements for school entry. The SDSMA fought against this bad legislation in Pierre and thankfully, it was defeated. The following is Dr. Bentz's letter to the editor:

To the Editor:

Erin Tobin and Lee Qualm are running for the District 21 Senate seat. Erin, a west river rancher’s wife, and her husband have 2 children in elementary school and is a certified nurse practitioner. Lee, a farmer and rancher from west of Platte, has been in the SD House of Representatives for 8 years. He has term-limited out and is hoping that voters will send him across the hall to the Senate Chamber.

In his campaign announcement Lee touted his accomplishments, but failed to remind voters of the misguided medical bills he has sponsored. Most noteworthy was HB1235 which would have abolished mandatory childhood vaccination requirements. Proponents labeled this bill a “medical freedom act”. Had this bill passed less children would’ve received childhood vaccinations and eventually SD would have had an increase or outbreak of vaccine preventable infectious diseases like measles.

Lest you brush this off as alarmist, you should note the 2019 measles outbreak in Oregon which has a strong anti-vaccination lobby. Between September 2018 and July 2019 New York also experienced a measles outbreak brought on by vaccine hesitancy, exercise of parental freedom to refuse immunization, and non-medical vaccine opponents. 649 patients contracted measles (most were not vaccinated) and nearly 6% had complications. The cost of managing this epidemic totaled more than 8 million dollars.

To my knowledge HB1235 was brought forward without ever consulting any SD medical practitioners. The entire SD medical community including physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers, hospitals, and the SD Department of Health testified against it. Fortunately it was overwhelmingly killed in the Health and Human Services Committee by a resounding 10 to 2 vote. It’s baffling that a lifelong farmer/rancher with no medical background would sponsor such an ill-advised medical bill. But then again, maybe it’s not surprising since no SD medical professionals or organizations were consulted.

Erin is a solid conservative prolife candidate who understands and will promote South Dakota agriculture. She will use her medical experience and expertise and work alongside (rather than against) our medial community to promote the health and wellbeing of our children and adults. It’s time for a change—vote ERIN TOBIN.


Jerome W. Bentz, MD Family Physician in Platte