Grand Forks nurse who led anti-smoking effort lauded


Brandi Jewett

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines


After spearheading the campaign for a total workplace smoking ban in Grand Forks, public health nurse Haley Thorson has been recognized for her efforts to create a healthier city.

She was named the North Dakota Public Health Worker of the Year at the Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health in June, becoming the fifth Grand Forks Public Health Department employee in six years to win the award.

"Haley has had a far-reaching impact on this community," Grand Forks Public Health Director Don Shields said. "We're lucky to have people like her."

"It's definitely an honor," Thorson said. "I just feel like there should be more people's names on that plaque with mine."

A registered nurse, she was nominated by her peers for her contributions to the health of the community. She has worked for Public Health since 2006 as its tobacco prevention coordinator.

Driving force

After witnessing the negative effects of prolonged tobacco use within her own family, she said, she let the experience guide the work she does for the department. "It was a subconscious passion at first."

The passion was fueled by the time Thorson spent working in Altru Hospital's oncology department prior to joining Public Health and led her to chair the Grand Forks Tobacco Free Coalition.

The coalition became the driving force behind a Grand Forks law that closed the loophole in an existing smoking ban, which allowed smoking in bars, casinos and truck stops. The ban was passed by the City Council in April 2010 and implemented the following August.

A year after the ban, the coalition celebrated with the release of a study that showed the amount of fine particles in the air in Grand Forks bars and truck stops had dropped 92 percent; inhaling fine particles can lead to heart and lung diseases.

"It feels like it takes forever to see an outcome," Thorson said. "But it's rewarding to have it protect everyone in the community."

According to Shields, Thorson's impact reaches more than just the bars, casinos and truck stops affected by the ban. She is also involved in creating tobacco policies and tobacco education programs for area schools.


Thorson attributes her success to her work environment and the people that inhabit it.

"We raise each other up," Thorson said. "It makes you feel really good to come to work."

She said she believes focus on teamwork and professionalism is the key to the department's success.

"It gives you a sense of ownership and commitment," she said.

Shields said there's something more that make his employees successful. "It's their willingness to work with the public and get things to happen."