From The Dean

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This week, the UND SMHS welcomes the 39 men and 38 women of the incoming medical student class of 2022. When looking at all four medical student classes, we have an almost equal mix of men and women, reflecting the national average. Our students average 24 years of age, and more than half received their undergraduate degree from either UND (24), Concordia (10), or NDSU (11). Their first week is an introductory one before the real work starts Monday. I had the opportunity to meet and visit with them several times this week, and I am impressed by their enthusiasm, energy, and altruism.

This past Monday I welcomed the students to campus and—reflecting the School’s patient-centered approach—presented them with a difficult decision to make with a patient. The exercise was largely ethical, challenging them to consider what was the right thing to do in this particular situation. It involved whether to insert a special pacemaker-like device in the patient that many view as futile and inappropriate care. Just as we physicians struggle with these type of decisions in real life, the students also struggled to try to decide what was the right thing to do—in a case where there really is no clear right or wrong answer.

Then on Wednesday night, my wife, Dr. Susan Farkas, and I welcomed the students with a reception at the on-campus North Dakota Museum of Art. Many of the students wandered around the gallery and enjoyed the current art exhibit, and all engaged in conversation with each other and us. Susan and I split up for the evening so that each of us could visit with all of the students. It was a fun evening, and I don’t think that anyone left early. We had a special treat when U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp stopped by the reception for a few minutes. She visited with some of the students and then gave a few brief remarks. Her comments were personal, reflecting on some medical experiences that she and her family have had. Thank you again, Sen. Heitkamp!

The introductory week concludes today, and it’s a busy day for me. At 11 a.m. I am the discussant for the students’ first case “wrap-up,” where we discuss the patient scenario they have been analyzing this week in their patient-centered learning (PCL) groups. Then, at 1 p.m. the students, along with their families, will assemble in the Charles H. Fee, M.D., Auditorium where I and other speakers will give presentations. My talk will focus on the past, present, and future of the School. Finally, at 5 p.m. tonight we’ll hold our traditional White Coat Ceremony, when each student will receive their first white coat. The ceremony, sponsored in part by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, occurs at most medical schools across the country, and is designed to remind students of the sacred and very special relationship that society lets them have with their patients. We are delighted that the celebratory address will be given by our Northeast (Grand Forks) Campus Dean Dr. Susan Zelewski. Following the festivities, all will be invited to enjoy a supper. Many family members and friends of the students are expected to attend the event, and we are expecting a record number of attendees—over 500 at last count!

Finally, I’m very pleased and proud to note that Dr. Min Wu, professor of biomedical sciences, has received another R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health. The R01 grant is arguably the most prestigious grant one can receive, so congratulations to Professor Wu, who is studying ways to reduce inflammation during bacterial infection using novel molecules called long non-coding RNAs. And the receipt of this grant, along with the other current R01s at the School, marks the greatest number of active R01 grants in the history of the SMHS. So congratulations to all of the researchers at the School who are working hard to fulfil a portion of the purpose statement that was established by the North Dakota Legislature for the SMHS and is enshrined in our Century Code—“the discovery of knowledge that benefits the people of this state and enhances the quality of their lives” (NDCC Section 15-52-01).

Thus, through health care workforce development, research, and the myriad service functions of the UND SMHS, we—the faculty, staff, and students at the School—are working hard to serve the people of North Dakota. As a state-supported public school, we are focused on our mission to serve the public, and we are proud to be representatives of your UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences!

Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
UND Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences