From the Dean

You may have heard the news that I’ve been selected as interim president of UND following Mark Kennedy, who is leaving for the presidency of the University of Colorado System, effective June 15, 2019. I wasn’t seeking this position and agreed to accept the nomination only after fielding dozens of encouraging and supportive calls from and conversations with people both from UND and across North Dakota. Susan and I had any number of discussions as we weighed the pluses and minuses of accepting. In the end, we felt that the pluses significantly exceeded the minuses, so we are enthusiastic about moving forward.

The biggest plus was to continue (and even accelerate) the positive momentum within the University that exists now, thanks in no small measure to the contributions of Mark Kennedy and his senior leadership team, the UND faculty and staff, the community, the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, the North Dakota Legislature, and others. The OneUND Strategic Plan has broad support and is moving forward. The undergraduate retention rate is improving, as is our graduation rate, which is up by 10 percentage points. The campus is becoming even more beautiful. We finally are addressing a huge backlog of deferred maintenance issues, and there are exciting initiatives in research campus-wide through the Grand Challenges (such as the Big Data project).

Two potential concerns I had with this move are that I don’t want to jeopardize the fantastic trajectory that the UND SMHS is on, and I didn’t know how I’d find the time to do the presidency job. So I decided that my one non-negotiable item in my discussions with Chancellor Mark Hagerott in the North Dakota University System was that I retain the positions of vice president for Health Affairs and dean of the UND SMHS going forward. It is my intention to return to those positions full-time after the interim presidency tenure has ended. That way, I can help ensure that the many good things happening at the School continue.

And as far as finding time for the major responsibilities of the president, I’m very comfortable with the two senior management teams I’m honored to work with, one at the School and the other at the University. I’m going to ask the members of both teams to step up even further, because they, after all, really run the School and UND. Finally, I plan to reduce some of my clinical practice time, which now amounts to about 25 percent of my time. Additionally, my wife Susan, also a practicing cardiologist, will spend more time seeing patients in the Grand Forks area rather than Fargo, reducing the amount of commuting I’ve been doing between the two cities. With these adjustments, I think I can do both jobs temporarily, although I hope that all of you will forgive me if I’m unable to be at all of the events that I’d otherwise like to attend.

I’m excited to take on this new responsibility, and feel confident of the positive trajectory that I see for UND … and the SMHS. As I’ve mulled over the issues associated with accepting this additional role, a phrase occurred to me that summarizes how I feel about UND and what I expect during my tenure as interim president: “Moving forward … striving for excellence.”

Thank you to those who have extended congratulations and best wishes. And to all, it is pleasure and an honor to serve UND.

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