ALUM | Dylan Fills Pipe '08

Assistant Program Coordinator University of South Dakota - Native American Healthcare Scholars Program

After graduating from Red Cloud with a Gates Scholarship in hand, Dylan Fills Pipe ’08 began his studies at Creighton University and discovered a new passion for public health. Since graduation he has worked to improve health in tribal communities across South Dakota and today he is helping to mentor Native youth—including Red Cloud students—who are interested in pursuing their own careers in public health. We spoke to him about reconnecting with Red Cloud as a public health professional, the importance of serving community, and his future career plans.

Q&A with Dylan Fills Pipe '08

Dylan, it’s great to talk with you! Could you tell us a bit about your time at Creighton and how you found your way into the public health field?

When I arrived at Creighton it felt a lot like Red Cloud: a Catholic institution with relatively small classes. I think it’s one of the reasons I chose Creighton—because it made the transition to college a little easier. Like Red Cloud, I felt like I was part of a family.

I had planned to study either education or business, but another Red Cloud graduate studying at Creighton suggested I look into the health administration program. You could take classes in a range of subjects, from law and business to public health and patient safety. I took that first class and really liked it and so decided to focus my studies on public health.

Since graduating from Creighton, you’ve been involved in a number of public health grant programs—what has that been like?

Right now I’m helping to implement the Native American Healthcare Scholars Program which is all about getting kids interested in pursuing professions in the healthcare field. We partner with schools and identify Native students who are interested in health and want to go into the field, and then mentor and serve as a resource to them. The program is run through the University of South Dakota and we connect prospective students with mentors on the university’s campus to help them prepare for college. The program will actually support these students from the time they enroll until they graduate from college, to ensure they can achieve their goals.

Previously I worked with a research project through the Native American Research Centers for Health, focusing on educating students about safer attitudes and behaviors around sexual activity, drinking, and drug use on a reservation in South Dakota. For that project, we took a curriculum called Street Smart and rebranded it as Rez Smart. We worked all across the reservation to recruit kids to be a part of the program. The sessions were held on weekends, so we transported kids to a school or community college and then facilitated sessions with them to teach them safer behaviors and how to protect their health and wellbeing. It was really fun being a part of such an important research project and engaging with young people on such important issues.

And now you’re reconnecting with Red Cloud students through your professional career—what does that mean to you?

Yes, I’m actually working directly with Red Cloud through this new grant to recruit students into the Native American Healthcare Scholars Program. We were just on campus to meet with the school’s team and it was great to be back. I actually became interested in pursuing college because I participated in the Upward Bound program through the University of South Dakota while I was at Red Cloud—so it’s ironic how it all came full circle to be helping engage Red Cloud students and working with the University of South Dakota to help prepare the students for college.

I attended Red Cloud from 2004 to 2008 and I loved the experience. Our senior class was very close and I’m proud of my classmates because many of us have gone on to graduate [from college] and are doing really well. Red Cloud prepared us academically for the future. I know if I’d gone to another school I wouldn’t have succeeded like I have. And I actually earned the Gates Scholarship while at Red Cloud; I was very grateful for our teachers supporting us through the application. I also love that Red Cloud has started focusing more on supporting graduateswho are making the transition into college. 

What are your hopes for your future in public health; what’s coming up next? 

I’m happy to be focusing on this current project because it’s really like a research study. We’re tracking our outcomes—whether we helped prospective students go into the right field, whether we mentored them effectively—to understand how we’re making an impact.

Looking forward, in the next two years I plan to pursue my master’s degree in public health. I love the work I do. I love working in the community and having the opportunity to give back. I think I’ll continue to focus on grants that serve tribal communities in North and South Dakota and across the Great Plains. There are so many components to public health—I think I can work in a variety of ways to lend my expertise and help create positive change.


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Photo: © Red Cloud Indian School
last updated: May 17, 2016