From the Dean

This week was notable for three events at the School and UND. The first was Primary Care Week, wherein a variety of related events were featured through the coordination of our Center for Rural Health. I had a chance to sit in on several of the presentations, including a really interesting one highlighting the power of telemedicine to dramatically improve care in rural communities. Dr. Brian Skow, a UND SMHS alum who is now serving as the chief medical officer and medical director of Avera eCARE Emergency, gave his presentation virtually as he was in his office in South Dakota. Appropriately, he talked to us via video link. One of the more interesting parts of his presentation was when he presented actual case histories of people who are alive today thanks to the pairing of local rural providers with highly experienced emergency physicians and providers through telemedicine. The most dramatic case was the last one he presented involving an 11-year old girl who suffered truly life-threatening injuries after an ATV accident. She is alive today thanks to the care that was provided in her hour of need through the use of telemedicine-guided care right there in her rural community hospital. Dr. Skow clearly had used this patient’s case in prior presentations, and yet he still teared up a bit when seeing the video of the girl four months after the accident, when she looked fine except for her neck collar due to healing fractures in her upper spine. And who wouldn’t become emotional when seeing that this energetic 11-year-old clearly would not be with us today were it not for the care she got via telemedicine? She now plans to go into medicine so she can give back. And guess what this amazing girl’s first words were once the breathing tube was removed from her throat? She wanted to know if anyone else was injured in the accident! She was more concerned about others than her own status. Truly inspirational!

The second event was an extended meeting involving the School’s Executive Committee (six associate deans) and others who gathered with Dr. Steve Tinguely, assistant dean for medical accreditation, to get an update of where we stand in our ongoing efforts to make sure we are optimally positioned, in terms of compliance with accreditation expectations, with the medical education program, especially in view of the ongoing curricular changes.

Finally, today UND is hosting North Dakota University System (NDUS) Chancellor Mark Hagerott and his colleagues for a half-day meeting to help shape the NDUS Strategic Plan for 2020–2025. UND is the first stop in this planning process, and Chancellor Hagerott and his team have subsequent meetings scheduled with the other 10 institutions that, along with UND, comprise our higher education system. We will be meeting all morning, and plan to discuss how our One UND Strategic Plan interfaces with the current NDUS Strategic Plan. I expect it to be a quite productive meeting, which will help ensure that our plans going forward support, complement and strengthen the NDUS plan. And as dean, I’m pleased with the way we have used the One UND plan to form the foundation for the School’s strategic planning process. More to come soon, but I’m also quite confident that our plans (at the SMHS as well as UND) and the System’s plans going forward are very well aligned.

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