From the Dean

A big “Thank You!” to all who participated in the first UND Gives philanthropic event this past Wednesday. UND Gives, to be repeated annually, is a 24-hour online fundraising challenge that aims to rally philanthropic support for UND initiatives. Thanks to the generosity of more than 600 of UND’s alumni, friends, and supporters, the UND Alumni Association & Foundation raised over $368,000 for UND, including $27,000 for the benefit of the UND SMHS. We focused our fundraising attention on our Indians into Medicine (INMED) Program, the federally funded program designed to assist American Indian students who aspire to be health professionals. Special thanks go to Greg Shega and Amy Weber, who helped secure $10,000 in matching funds for INMED. I’m delighted to report that donors utilized the entire $10,000 match!

I’m very pleased with the expansion of our philanthropic efforts over the last few years. Thanks in substantial part to the increasing generosity of our donors, we have been able reduce average student debt by a good margin. For example, the medical students in our Class of 2019, who will graduate this coming Mother’s Day, May 12, have less cumulative debt than medical students at most other public medical schools like ours. The School’s scholarship awards have increased by half since we started focusing on mitigating student debt a number of years ago, and for each recent year our students’ cumulative debt load has consistently decreased (while going up at most comparable medical schools). Again—thank you, donors and benefactors!

And speaking of School supporters, Susan and I really enjoyed meeting with alumni from several of our health programs during a gathering in Minneapolis last Thursday. On hand was Jeff Dodson, the School’s director of development. It sure looked like everyone had a good time catching up with other alumni; almost no one left until after the closing time for the event! One of our medical school graduates, a radiologist who practices in the Twin Cities, told me that of the 11 colleagues in his group, four of them are graduates of UND!

Many of us had a fun and instructive time yesterday at the 39th annual Frank Low Research Day held on the Northeast (Grand Forks) campus yesterday. Frank Low Research Day is the culminating event of the academic year for many area researchers working in the biomedical and health sciences. The day is named in honor of an esteemed former faculty member who joined UND in 1964 as the Hill Research Professor of Anatomy, a position he held until his retirement in 1981. Dr. Low became internationally known for electron microscopy and the superb quality of his micrographs. He developed a state-of-the-art electron microscopy lab at UND. During this time, he trained 23 Master and 19 Ph.D. students, many of whom have developed distinguished careers in teaching and research. At this year’s Frank Low Day event, over 200 faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, medical residents, and students listened to talks and viewed scientific posters reflecting some of the research work and discoveries by our faculty and students. Particularly intriguing to me was the plenary presentation by Tak W. Mak, PhD, director of the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University of Toronto. His talk—“Fire and Water are Good Servants but Bad Masters”—examined the role of physiological “balance” in the prevention and treatment of cancer, from the perspective of immunology. It was a very engaging talk and everyone in the audience came away with new insights into how we might move forward in our own work, whether as researchers or clinicians.

Finally, there are a number of upcoming events of interest. It appears that the North Dakota Legislature may finish up its work tomorrow, or early next week. Assuming that there are no new developments or changes in pending legislative bills, we are quite pleased with the status of things. The final word on our budget for the coming two years will be forthcoming next month.

Also this weekend will be the UND Champions Ball, a fundraiser and event that supports UND athletics and our athletes. Susan and I are looking forward to it, and hope to see you there. Go Hawks!

Then, next Tuesday, I’ll be traveling out to Williston for the North Dakota Medical Association’s district meeting hosted by the Kotana Medical Society. I try to periodically attend the various district medical society meetings throughout the state, although I haven’t been to Williston for a while. It will be fun to meet with the docs out there and to thank them again for their help educating our students and resident.

Last, but certainly not least, is the upcoming graduation weekend on May 11 and 12. General commencement—both undergraduate and graduate—will take place with two ceremonies on May 11, followed by medical school commencement for the Class of 2019 on Mother’s Day, May 12. It promises to be an exciting weekend, with great commencement speakers. Further details are available here. Susan and I hope to see you at one or more of the events. And best wishes to all the soon-to-be graduates—and their mothers and grandmothers!

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