From the Dean

wynne-bannerWe had a nice turnout yesterday for Java with Josh on the Northeast (Grand Forks) campus. I updated the attendees on some of the recent developments at the School, many of which I’ve discussed in recent E-News columns. But more importantly, I was available to answer questions from faculty and staff. We hold these discussion groups periodically and have held them as well at the other regional campuses. And we are in the advanced planning stages of our “Quarter in Each Quarter” road trips, where a bunch of us will travel by van to visit one quarter of the state every quarter of the year. We plan to visit the anchor cities hosting our four campuses around the state (Grand Forks, Fargo, Bismarck, and Minot), but we’ll also be visiting smaller towns throughout each region of the state. Further details on our first trip are forthcoming in the next few weeks.

The other fun event yesterday was Joggin’ with Josh, a 5k/10k/one-mile run/jog/walk around the neighborhood for all UND faculty, staff, students, and the Grand Forks community. Because of a second herniated disc in my back, I took a rain-check on running or even walking the course. I traveled around the course in UND’s GEM car to encourage the participants, though. So for me it wasn’t Joggin’ with Josh or even Walking with Wynne—it was more like Driving with the Dean! But it looked like all enjoyed the exercise.

Next Tuesday is another important day for us as we reconvene the UND SMHS Advisory Council. The most important item on the agenda will be a review of our budget request for the upcoming legislative session that starts in January. As I reported here previously, I outlined our three priorities recently to the Interim Higher Education Committee of the North Dakota Legislature. They are: to maintain a sufficient level of state appropriations so we can continue our important work and ensure the continued success of the Healthcare Workforce Initiative; to provide merit increases to high-performing faculty and staff as well as to those at the lowest end of the salary scale (since those individuals are most vulnerable to even the current low level of inflation); and to support UND’s Grand Challenges in research, especially the School’s initiative in clinical and translational research.

The idea behind our proposed Grand Challenge in the health arena is to build on the foundation provided by the recently awarded Clinical and Translational Research (CTR) grant. This award to Dr. Marc Basson, senior associate dean for Medicine and Research at the SMHS, seeks to form a network that will connect researchers and care providers throughout North and South Dakota so that they can better study (and then treat) various cancers. One of the largest (if not the largest) biomedical research grants ever awarded to UND, the CTR award will lead to the formation of the Dakota Cancer Collaborative on Translational Activity (DaCCoTA) that will use clinical research methods to study the link between cancer and the environment and pave the way to develop unique ways to combat cancer in the Dakotas. You can see Dr. Basson discussing the grant, which was awarded by the National Institutes of Health, here.

We will build upon this success and the resources of the DaCCoTA network through the clinical and translational research Grand Challenge to study not only cancer but three other important health issues: opioid use disorder; virtual care delivery (including telemedicine), where clinical services are brought to the patient rather than requiring the patient to go to the clinic; and analysis (using machine language and artificial intelligence methods) of the large repository of health information that now is part of the electronic health record in an effort to learn more about predicting adverse health events in people before they occur so that we can intervene earlier.

Finally, we are looking forward to Homecoming 2018, which is just two weeks away. In addition to the events sponsored through UND, the SMHS will host several other activities. First up on Friday Sept. 21 will be a Continuing Education Symposium focusing on infectious disease. Then we will direct tours of the SMHS building from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. that same day. Building tours will coincide with tours of the SMHS Simulation Center as part of second annual National Healthcare Simulation Week. And we’ll close out the day’s festivities with a Homecoming Banquet that will recognize in particular all SMHS milestone and biomedical sciences alumni. The event starts at 5 p.m. If you haven’t yet signed up for any of these activities, please contact Kristen Peterson if interested at 701.777.4305, kristen.peterson@UND.edu, or via the RSVP form.

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