Influential Wess. Springs doctor, 92, diesWESSINGTON SPRINGS — One of the state’s visionary doctors of the 20th century died Tuesday in Wessington Springs at age 92. Dr. Roscoe Dean Jr. helped start Jerauld County Hospital in Wessington Springs in 1947, converting the old McConnell House boys’ dormitory into the town’s health-care facility.
By: Melanie Brandert, The Daily Republic
WESSINGTON SPRINGS — One of the state’s visionary doctors of the 20th century died Tuesday in Wessington Springs at age 92.
Dr. Roscoe Dean Jr. helped start Jerauld County Hospital in Wessington Springs in 1947, converting the old McConnell House boys’ dormitory into the town’s health-care facility.
Decades later, the man who served three generations of patients also was instrumental in helping secure a $1.5 million grant for a new hospital building that enabled hospital officials to have no debt upon completion — a feat unheard of now. The hospital is now known as Avera Weskota Memorial Medical Center.
Dean’s nephew, Dr. Tom Dean, said his uncle believed that health facilities should be in one place and work together. At that time, it was a radical idea, since most hospitals and clinics then were separate.
“He had a real vision about how medical care and health services should be organized in small communities,” Tom Dean said. “His model was identified by a number of people that it makes sense.”
Roscoe Dean returned to his hometown in Jerauld County after completing medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia and his internship and residency in surgery and pathology in St. Paul, Minn., according to the Central College Bulletin.
He also served on the surgical staff of William Beaumont Army General Hospital in El Paso, Texas, during the Korean Conflict.
Roscoe Dean, who was known for making house calls, was inducted into South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1993 for his accomplishments in rural health care. He was an amateur historian and often led tours and camping trips — usually involving Boy Scouts and 4-H students — into the Wessington Hills behind Wessington Springs.
Wessington Springs Mayor Jim Burg said the elder Dean worked with for- mer Gov. Richard Kneip to improve rural medicine in small towns. Tom Dean said his uncle was proud of having developed a radio system to connect hospitals and ambulance crews for better communication.
“In his day, that didn’t really exist,” Tom Dean said.
When Burg was 3 years old, he had eczema and was fortunate to have the elder doctor research treatment for that skin condition because his daughter also had it.
“He had salves and treatments that gave me relief,” Burg said.
Burg recalled that the elder Dr. Dean was a rancher, raising cattle and horses.
“He would come in from the ranch after delivering a calf, come into the hospital to deliver a baby and still have cowboy boots on,” Burg said.
He recalled that Roscoe Dean displayed many gifts from American Indian patients from the Crow Creek Reservation.
“All the contributions to the community and memories is what we will miss most — the feeling of having lost a real stalwart in the community,” Burg said of Dean.
Tom Dean said his pioneering uncle served as a mentor. When Roscoe Dean learned his nephew had an interest in medicine, he invited him to view the facility, talked about medicine with him and gave his perspective on the profession, Tom Dean said.
“He was a positive role model,” the younger Dean said. “He was encouraging and certainly helpful.”
Tom Dean and his wife moved back to his hometown when the new hospital was being built in 1978. He thinks his uncle will be remembered as someone who had an interest in people and those who lived in the community.
“I think he’ll always be remembered as someone … who had an ability to cheer people up, that people were taken care of,” Tom Dean said. “(He gave) the sense they were really important.”