From the Dean

As part of my new duties as UND’s interim president, I had the pleasure and honor of hosting the annual UND Bus Tour of North Dakota earlier this week. Along with about 30 new faculty and administrators, we traveled across the northern portion of North Dakota. Each year since 1990, UND’s newcomers have boarded a UND bus on Monday to see the Peace Garden State firsthand. Stops on this year’s tour dotted U.S. Highway 2 westward to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We had stops in Grafton, Devils Lake, Minot, Velva, New Town, Watford City, Tioga, Rugby and Lakota before returning to Grand Forks on Wednesday evening. The tour is known for its diverse perspectives on North Dakota culture, from industry to nature. Walkthroughs of the Marvin Windows plant in Grafton and Leading Edge Equipment in Devils Lake started the trip on Monday, while Tuesday included a tour of the Three Affiliated Tribes Museum in New Town and a drive through the tips of the North Dakota Badlands.

Three of the highlights of the trip—among many—have special relevance to the School of Medicine & Health Sciences. The first was the tour and supper we had at Black Butte Acres, the Effertz Farm in Velva (population 1,204). The farm is a family business run by Jerry and Norma Effertz with assistance from their daughters Maria and Kayla. They were wonderful hosts, and all radiated their passion for the beauty and wonder of living in rural North Dakota. Especially for new faculty and staff who are not from North Dakota, the visit provided a unique and instructive perspective on rural life. Because rural health care delivery is such an important issue for the School, visiting with the extended Effertz family and seeing firsthand their passion for rural life was quite inspiring and illuminating.

The second highlight was the lunch at McKenzie County Healthcare Systems in Watford City, hosted by CEO Dan Kelly. Dan is one of the real leaders in rural health care delivery, and he educated our busload of new North Dakotans regarding the current status of health care in his region. As you undoubtedly know, Watford City has experienced as dramatic a transformation as perhaps any locale in North Dakota as a result of the oil boom. Its population has increased something like four-fold or more, and it sports a variety of new facilities to support the burgeoning community. And a trip to the nearby North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park provided everyone with an awareness and appreciation for the ruggedness, beauty, and solitude of part of North Dakota’s landscape.

The final highlight was a breakfast meeting the bus tour group had with incoming high-performing, recently graduated high school students and their parents from Minot who will start their UND college careers on Monday. I spoke with several pre-med and pre-health sciences students and their families, and was impressed with their eagerness to get started on their chosen career paths. Their passion for UND was quite evident. I also learned (shame on me for not knowing this before!) that UND has a student advisor (Tara Muhlhauser) who works in the Minot area and helps advise interested high school students in the area with information about their opportunities at UND. Tara made sure that I visited with each of the students interested in a health career.

It was a great three-day trip and served to highlight the vital role that the UND SMHS has across the state. It was time well-spent!

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