Haley Thorson has always been determined to make a positive difference in people’s lives. As a nurse with the Grand Forks Public Health Unit, she knew that one big way she could help people live healthier lives was through advocating for smoke-free laws. She took a leadership role in helping Grand Forks become North Dakota’s second tobacco-free city, and will be honored for her work in public health with the Sioux Award from the UND Alumni Association
 
“As a nurse in the hospital, you complete an intervention to achieve an outcome,” said Thorson of her time leading the smoke-free effort. “In that setting, the outcome is usually assessed in a short time frame. In public health you can work on an intervention for years before you see an outcome. The day the tobacco-free ordinance passed (in 2010), was like ‘Wow, I just impacted an intervention that will impact thousands of people and not just for right now, at this moment, but forever.’”
 
The passage of the tobacco-free ordinance didn’t end the work as Thorson has since studied assessments on air quality, the correlation between the tobacco-free ordinance and reduced heart attack admissions to the ER, and the economic impact on retailers. “Our slogan was ‘Good for business. Good for health.’ As a community member myself, I’m particularly proud that we lived up to both elements of that slogan. We found a way to make improvements to the physical health of our community members and the economic health of our community. That’s pretty cool,” said Thorson.
 
The Sioux Award is the highest honor given by the UND Alumni Association & Foundation for achievement, service, and loyalty. Since its inception in 1962, this distinguished award has been presented to leaders in government and business, high achievers in various professions, and alumni who have dedicated their lives to service for others. The Young Alumni Achievement Award was established in 2002 to recognize recent graduates of UND who have made a mark in the short time since they attended our University.
 
You can read more about Thorson’s work in public health and her tobacco-free advocacy at the UND Alumni website.