From the Dean

The presentation by Julie A. Blehm, MD, FACP, associate professor of Internal Medicine (retired) and Robert Olson, MD, clinical professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Dean’s Hour last week was indeed the special event that we anticipated. Drs. Blehm and Olson interacted with a standing-room-only audience and addressed the issue of provider depression and suicide. Dr. Blehm lost her husband David, a pediatrician, to suicide a number of years ago, and to relive that tragic event with her was quite moving—and instructive. If you didn’t see the presentation, you may view it here.

The School was happy to host a reception for occupational therapy alumni and friends who attended the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans last week. Approximately 60 faculty, students, alumni, and colleagues attended. And they seemed to really appreciate the opportunity to network and visit! So we plan to host a similar reception at the 2020 AOTA meeting in Boston. Many faculty and students also presented research findings at the conference.

The 66th session of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly is winding down. By law, the session will end no later than two weeks from today, so we are in the final stages of lawmaking. As I’ve been indicating in prior columns, things continue to look positive for the status of funding from the Legislature for the UND SMHS in the upcoming biennium. I should be able to share the details of our funding sometime in May, once the funding bill is finalized by the Legislature, signed by Gov. Burgum, and approved by the State Board of Higher Education and UND.

Finally, the announcement that President Kennedy is the sole finalist for the University of Colorado presidency position came as a surprise to many, including me. I didn’t have advance knowledge of his plans, but I do wish Mark and Debbie all the best in the future. To his credit, I am convinced that many of Mark’s initiatives will continue long after he has left, including the OneUND Strategic Plan, the focus on expanding UND’s research enterprise, the 10 percentage point improvement in UND’s undergraduate graduation rate, the redesign of the campus, the focus on addressing the University’s infrastructure, and the push for several new buildings (including the Memorial Union and a new home for the College of Business and Public Administration). Importantly, I think that the trajectory of the UND SMHS is solid and clear, irrespective of changes in the President’s Office. Our mission of educating the next generation of health care providers, discovering new knowledge that is important to North Dakotans, and serving the people of the state (especially through health care workforce development) remains just as clear and unambiguous as it was before President Kennedy’s announcement. And with all indications suggesting that we will continue to receive the necessary financial and programmatic support and endorsement from the Legislature and the citizens of the state, I think that the School and its faculty, staff, and students will begin the new academic year on July 1, 2019, full of enthusiasm, energy, and optimism. I certainly share that sense of excitement and optimism as we—together—address a number of topics of particular interest, including:

  • Redesign of the medical school curriculum with a goal providing more and earlier clinical experiences, helping students prepare better for the national licensure exams that they all take midway through medical school, and more effectively reintroducing basic science concepts during students’ clinical experiences
  • Expanding and enriching the School’s clinical and translational research activities, with the ultimate goal of speeding the application of discoveries in research laboratories to clinical patient issues
  • Expansion of the School’s virtual health care delivery activities, where through the use of technology we can effectively bring the clinic to the patient, rather than the other way around

So the School’s direction and agenda for the upcoming biennium is unambiguous, clear—and exciting! I can hardly wait!

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