From the Dean

Graduation weekend is here! Over the next two days, we will graduate over 300 medical and health sciences students who are destined for additional training, clinical practice, or other health-related employment. We are proud of them! They are going forward with wonderful opportunities, thanks to the education and training they received here at UND and in our clinical partners’ clinics and hospitals across the state. More and more of our graduates are staying in (or returning to) North Dakota after graduation. For medical students, for example, over the past decade or so, we’ve gone from well below the national average of retention of graduates for in-state practice to well above it. Part of the reason for this is that more and more college students from North Dakota are selecting the UND SMHS for their graduate/professional studies. The School used to attract about two out of three of the undergraduates who got into medical school somewhere in the U.S. Now that proportion is up to about five out of six.

In addition to the hooding and graduation ceremonies, I especially enjoy the senior medical student Commencement Awards Brunch held just prior to the actual graduation ceremony. It is great fun to see the story behind the story—getting to meet the families of our soon-to-be graduates. Our medical school graduation ceremony on Sunday afternoon likely will be outgoing President Mark Kennedy’s last official act as UND President. The entire weekend should be a fun occasion. And for all the mothers who will be in attendance on Sunday, thank you for sharing your Mother’s Day with us!

Just as our graduates soon will be moving to other venues, one of our own is moving on as well. Jean Altepeter, associate director of Human Resources at the School, is retiring at the end of June after nearly 37 years of dedicated and superb service to UND and the SMHS. Just this past Monday she was one of 10 UND staff members to receive a Meritorious Service Award at the annual Staff Recognition Ceremony that was held on May 6. Jean is richly deserving of this award and has served the School and UND in exemplary fashion over the years. I’m sorry to see her leave the School, but knowing Jean, her pending retirement will be anything but boring. I’m sure that you’ll join me in wishing her all the best as she enters the next phase of her life.

Also at the Staff Recognition Ceremony, Denelle Kees, manager of our School’s Deeded Body Program, received a Meritorious Service Award. As you can imagine, what Denelle does at the School daily would be extremely difficult for most people, but our medical and health sciences professionals participate in an important learning experience in the anatomy lab. Denelle works well with donors who choose to give their bodies to science, and their families, as well as our students. She also hosts a very dignified Interment Ceremony for families of donors every three years in the cemetery across the street from the School.

Congratulations as well to all of the other staff members who were recognized at the Staff Recognition Ceremony for their years of service to UND. Staff are recognized for 5, 10, 15, 20 … and in the case of a Chester Fritz librarian even 50 years of service!

While we will be saying “goodbye” to Jean (at least in her administrative role), we say “hello” to our newest department chair Dr. Jon Solberg, the inaugural chair of our brand-new Department of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Marc Basson, senior associate dean of Medicine and Research, made the decision to create this additional clinical department for the medical student curriculum largely because of the burgeoning interest of our medical students in the field of emergency medicine. When I was a medical student and resident in internal medicine, there were few physicians who were devoted to the emergency department. My, how times have changed! Now our students will have the expertise of Dr. Solberg to help guide them in their education and to provide mentoring and advice about career options in emergency medicine. Welcome aboard!

And we just learned the names of the Outstanding Rural and Public Health Award recipients for 2019. Congratulations all the winners—who will be recognized at the Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health’s annual banquet on Wednesday, June 12 in Minot—especially State Senator Joan Heckaman, who is from New Rockford, and Dr. Duane Glasner, a BS Med graduate from our Class of 1959. Your work is very much appreciated.

Finally, congratulations to Jay Metzger, MPAS, PA-C, assistant professor in our Department of Physician Assistant Studies, who was given the Physician Assistant of the Year Award by the North Dakota Academy of Physician Assistants (NDAPA) at the Primary Care Seminar in Fargo last week. Jay currently serves as president of the NDAPA and is co-chair of its legislative committee. Following the seminar, UND and the NDAPA jointly hosted a celebratory reception attended by about 65 health professionals and UND PA students. Quite a week for that program and our School!

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