From the Dean

Here we go again! One of the recurring events in higher education is the need to engage in reaccreditation of each of our health care academic programs. Our medical student curriculum is no exception, and our next accreditation visit from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) likely will be in March 2022, eight years after the last visit in 2014. That means that we are “only” about 2 ½ years prior to the visit, and a little over two years from the time when we need to submit the voluminous material that is required by the LCME prior to the visit. Fortunately, we’ve been engaged in a continuous process of preparation for the next visit since our last visit, an effort that has been headed up by Dr. Steve Tinguely, our chief medical accreditation officer. The School has developed and implemented a process of continuous quality improvement related to all 93 of the accreditation elements that together make up the 12 LCME standards. We are ahead of many other medical schools in having already implemented an ongoing method of assessing and improving our compliance status, but all schools will need to implement such an approach because it is now an LCME requirement.

Still, we now need to move into “high gear” to make sure that the accreditation visit goes smoothly. And we’ve set our sights high for the visit—it is our goal to have not a single citation from the survey visit team. Thus, we hope to have not a single “unsatisfactory” rating for any of the 93 elements (requirements) of the LCME standards. That’s a lofty goal that we may or may not realize—but we’re sure going to try. Few medical schools achieve it. But why is it important and a worthy goal? Because we want to provide the very best educational product for our medical (and other) students, and achieving that level of compliance is one measure of excellence.

One of the things the faculty has been engaged in of late is a fairly substantial revision of the medical student curriculum. This is a really good thing as we update and improve our educational offerings. We had considerable debate as to whether instituting the curricular changes now might jeopardize the LCME visit outcome, since the LCME always wants to see the impact of curricular changes over time. But the LCME has come to realize that the accreditation process itself should not be a barrier to curricular improvement efforts; quite the contrary, accreditation should require curricular review and improvement—and it does. The very first of the 93 LCME accreditation elements (Element 1.1) requires that a medical school engage “in ongoing strategic planning and continuous quality improvement processes.” We’ve been engaged in continuous quality improvement of the medical curriculum for some time now, so we should be in good shape going forward.

Finally, here is some additional affirmation of the high quality of health care in North Dakota, for which the SMHS and its associated residency programs should receive a good degree of credit. In the latest edition of e-Physician, the newsletter from the North Dakota Medical Association, the results of a recent survey were published that ranks all the states in the country based on a composite score from over a dozen data sources. Based on an assessment of relative cost, patient access and patient outcomes, North Dakota ranked ninth overall. So, congratulations to all the practitioners and institutions out there who have helped achieve this outcome; and also, congratulations and thanks to all of the faculty—full-time and voluntary—who have contributed to the education of students and residents who, as practitioners, help deliver great care at a relatively low cost to our fellow citizens. Many thanks indeed!

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