From the Dean

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This past Tuesday, a delegation from the UND SMHS traveled to Bismarck for a scheduled meeting of the SMHS Advisory Council. As I’ve discussed before, the Council is a legislatively mandated group that advises the School, UND, the member organizations that have representatives on the Council, and especially the Legislature regarding the strategic plan, programs, and facilities of the School. It was a productive meeting, and one of the major discussion topics was the School’s biennial budget that will be considered during the upcoming legislative session. Jed Shivers, UND’s vice president for Finance and Operations and chief operating officer (COO) gave an excellent presentation of the budget situation from the vantage point of UND, and clearly was quite supportive of the activities and strategic direction of the SMHS. He and the members of the Advisory Council all agreed that it is essential for the Legislature to endorse the “needs-based” budget proposed by the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE). For the School, the two essential components of such a budget are to maintain the same overall funding for the upcoming biennium (FY20/21) as the current biennium (FY18/19), and shifting some of the funding for the Healthcare Workforce Initiative from what the Legislature calls “one-time” funding to base funding. Since those funds are used to support programs for students and residents (doctors in training) who will be with us from three to five years or more, those programs cannot function properly with funding that may appear to be optional (since it has been designated as “one time”); thus, the change to base funding is important. We are grateful to Laura Block, our associate dean for Administration and Finance and COO; VP Shivers; and Tammy Dolan, vice chancellor for administrative affairs and chief financial officer at the SBHE, for bringing this proposal forward to the Legislature.

When considering the proposed budget, it is important to emphasize that UND and the SMHS have already accommodated a major reduction in state funding for the current budget. Jed presented preliminary (unaudited) data showing that UND as a whole weathered a more than $10 million reduction in state funding, constituting almost a 10 percent cut in such funding from FY17 to FY18. In fact, our number of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) is down 6 percent in FY18, relative to 2017. Since more than two-thirds of our overall expenditures (about 70 percent for the SMHS) are for personnel costs, a reduction in workforce is one of the very few options we have for dealing with funding reductions. This, along with introducing additional efficiencies into the system, has allowed our institution to continue to carry out its various missions to this point. But further cuts likely will impact our faculty’s and staff’s ability to carry out the teaching, discovery, and service missions of the School.

So the bottom line is that we are looking forward to the upcoming legislative session during which we hope to secure sufficient state funding to allow us to continue our important healthcare-related programming while being sensitive to the extant economic situation in the state and the imperative not to spend more than we have available.

Later that same day, Dr. Ken Ruit, associate dean for Education and Faculty Affairs, and I represented the School when we attended a celebration hosted by President Kennedy for all newly promoted and tenured faculty at UND. Around two dozen faculty members were recognized for their academic achievements, including four from the UND SMHS. I’d like to acknowledge and congratulate the following faculty members, whom we are proud to have as colleagues at the School:

  • Corey Kroetsch – Promoted to assistant professor, Department of Surgery
  • Jay MacGregor – Promoted to assistant professor, Department of Surgery
  • Sergei Nechaev – Promoted to associate professor and awarded tenure, Department of Biomedical Sciences
  • Cindy Flom-Meland – Promoted to professor, Department of Physical Therapy

Please join me in extending a heartfelt “well done” to all four of our colleagues!

Finally, a reminder that next week is Homecoming 2018 at UND, and we have a variety of activities scheduled for Friday Sept. 21, 2018. Please join us for any or all, especially the Continuing Education Symposium on infectious disease on Friday morning. Please e-mail kristen.peterson@UND.edu or call 701.777.4305 if you plan to attend.

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