From the Dean

As I mentioned last week, the SMHS will testify before the House Appropriations Committee—Education and Environment Division at the state capitol on Tuesday afternoon. Recently retired Altru CEO Dave Molmen will join me in testifying on behalf of the UND SMHS Advisory Council that he chairs. Dave has graciously agreed to continue in this role for the remainder of time that the North Dakota Legislature is in session (through April 2019). This current legislative session is likely to be pretty intense.Earlier this week, the legislators issued their prediction of state revenues for the upcoming biennium and arrived at a figure below the estimate used by Gov. Burgum for his executive budget, and below the estimate provided by IHS Markit, a firm lawmakers hired to provide a second opinion on state revenues. It assumes a price of $42.50 per barrel of North Dakota oil for the 2019-2021 biennium. Another prediction on state income for the biennium will be available in March, so we will just have to wait and see what the revenue picture looks like then.

As you know, the financial and budget uncertainty is on the minds of faculty and staff members. On one hand, we obviously cannot spend more than we have in revenue. (In all of my years as a clinician/educator/administrator, I’ve never had a budget shortfall—and I don’t intend to start now.) On the other hand, the UND SMHS already runs quite efficiently, especially given the fact that we need to operate three regional campus operations (in Fargo, Bismarck, and Minot, along with rural programs like ROME [Rural Opportunities in Medical Education]). In fact, when I looked at the data regarding our operations a while ago, we were in the top three medical schools nationally as to the ratio of students (78 students in each of the four-year curricula) to campus locations (four). But we need to operate all four clinical/educational programs as well as our rural clinical experiences to accommodate the requisite educational experiences in-state for our third- and fourth-year medical students, and to give communities around the state the chance to attract students who might want to return to practice there.

During my testimony, I’m going to outline some of the School’s significant educational accomplishments over the past decade wherein the Healthcare Workforce Initiative was rolled out (you’ll be able to see my slides after I post them next week following our testimony). Here is a preview of some of the highlights of the presentation:

  • A decade ago, two of three (67%) of the North Dakotans going to medical school that year went to UND; one in three went out of state. We’re now up to five out of six (83%) of all students who are legal residents of our state and go to medical school do so at the UND SMHS.
  • A decade ago, medical student debt at graduation was at about the 75th percentile nationally, meaning that our medical students had more debt on average than students at most other medical schools in the U.S. Now, their average debt is down to about the 33rd percentile, meaning significantly less debt than that of most medical students in the U.S.
  • A decade ago, we were well below the national average (about the 25th percentile) as to the retention of our medical school graduates who ended up practicing in-state. Now we are well above the national average (around the 67th percentile).
  • Looking at the medical and other health science program completion rates (the percent of entering students who end up graduating), we find that the vast majority of entering students graduate. Specifically, we can boast a 94 percent success rate. In fact, for the last three years, our medical students have a completion rate of 95 percent.

So while the legislative session promises to be a nail-biter because of the revenue/budget uncertainty, I think that the School’s accomplishments will stand us in good stead, thanks to the fantastic efforts of our faculty, staff, and especially students. I’ll have more to share with you as the legislative session progresses.

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