Dr Mark “Dr B” Butterbrodt


Memorial services for 74-year old Dr Mark “Dr B” Butterbrodt will be held at a later date

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Dr Mark Pearson Butterbrodt, MD, FAAP was born August 1, 1949, in Webster, SD, to Dallas and Margaret Pearson Butterbrodt. He died Dec 5, 2023, in Rapid City, SD. 

Doctor B grew up in Watertown, SD, and graduated from Watertown High School. He went on to earn an AB in English at Harvard, then studied medicine at the Universities of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa under a federal aid program that committed him post-graduation to the Indian Health Service.

Doctor B specialized in pediatrics and was board-certified in neonatology. After serving six years for the IHS in South Dakota, he practiced for several years in Minneapolis – first at Children’s Hospital, then with the academic physicians group staffing Hennepin County Medical Center, a teaching hospital. 

In 1992, he won a Bush Foundation fellowship which he used in part to earn a master’s degree in epidemiology.  He used the remainder of the fellowship to return to South Dakota as lead physician on a 2-year project on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Dr B’s project screened over 5,000 school-age children for markers predictive of early onset Type 2 Diabetes, a disease epidemic among Native Americans. In that work among those people, Mark found his true calling. 

He chose not to return to the secure practice he had left in the Twin Cities, but elected to stay in Pine Ridge to fight diabetes and other chronic diseases. He had qualms about the institutional mediocrity of the IHS, but re-entering the commissioned corps was the only option at the time that provided a clinical base in that area for doing the work he wanted to do.

Dr B preached that diabetes was not a certain killer, but could be prevented with lifestyle changes. He embraced the Oglala Lakota people — their culture and spirit. He understood it was a privilege to be invited to attend ceremonies, and he did so humbly with an open heart as he embedded himself in the community.

He made the effort to learn the Lakota language and speak it with his patients, built a fitness center, planted gardens and fruit trees, played the organ in church, coached and chauffeured basketball teams, gathered stones for the sweat lodges, promoted reading and literacy, mentored and trained community health workers, told jokes over the air on tribal radio, spent generously on gifts for children—the list goes on and on. 

Mark made hundreds of friends. His exceptionalism stands out because he was more than a fine doctor; he was a warrior working day-to-day and side-by-side with the people he served for things that affirmed their worth and raised their hopes. He left the IHS after 20 years of service, but continued to work in other clinics and hospitals – serving the Native population almost until his death.

The American Academy of Pediatrics presented Mark with the Native American Child Health Advocacy Award in 2012. That award captures the essence of Mark’s heroism because all he really cared about were the people he served. Children were by far his favorite patients. 

Mark said the highest compliment he ever received was from the respected elder and medicine man Rick Two Dogs, who credited him for being the agent who changed the attitude of the Oglala Lakota people about their most dreaded scourge – diabetes. Twi Dogs said Doc B helped them understand it as a preventable disease instead of an inevitable killer.

Mark lived simply. His lifelong generosity held the first lien on all he ever earned or owned. Upon news of his death, the incredible affection, esteem, and admiration that poured forth from the many whose paths he crossed testify to his uncountable good deeds, his unflagging allegiance to his oath as a doctor, and the galactic void he leaves behind.

Mark happily chose a hard road upon which to exercise his gifts. His life journey on that road was an incomparable example of dedication, integrity, generosity, and purpose.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his son, Walter Dan Hardy III.

Surviving relatives include his sister Mary Ann Jackson; brothers Robert (Margaret Marrinan) and John (Julie) Butterbrodt; sister Lynn (Al) Hublou; nephews Robert A (Angelique), and Andrew (Alison Drummond) Butterbrodt; nieces Laura Butterbrodt, Jennie (Justin) Mayer, Ellen (Jared) Feiner, and Mollie (Taylor) Wait; five grandnieces; and aunt Joan Pearson Kelly.

His many surviving kinship relatives include Johnson and Cecil Bear Robe; JR Noisy Hawk; Rae Ann, Evelyn, and Irmina Red Owl; Keisha, Emily, Jordan, and Tyson Good Weasel; Mary Tobacco; Elaine Yellow Horse; Faith Spotted Eagle; Richard Iron Cloud; Rick Two Dogs; Rosalie Little Thunder; and Peter Janis. 

Many counted him a relative, and any omission here is not meant as a slight or diminution of the relationships he formed.

His Lakota relatives and friends would use these words when speaking of him: Wakanyeja iwicayuskin (he enjoyed children), Igluonihan (respectful), Wowokiye (helpful), Wacanteognake (compassionate), and Wowahwale (kind).

Mark was a very honorable man.