From the Dean

Our Indians into Medicine (INMED) program is one to be proud of, but I am especially proud after the recent announcement that the program was one of four recipients of the 2019 Award for Excellence in Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Medical Education and Patient Care bestowed by the Alpha Omega Alpha (AΩA) Honor Medical Society. AΩA commended INMED because it “seeks out, nurtures, and supports American Indian and Alaskan Native students on their paths to becoming physicians.” Kudos to Dr. Cornelius “Mac” Dyke, associate dean of the School’s southeast campus in Fargo, N.D., who coordinated the AΩA application for UND.

Thanks to the INMED program and the School’s focus on increasing the cadre of indigenous people in the health professions (especially physicians), the SMHS ranks at the top of the national list compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in the fraction of its medical school class that identify as American Indian. And that same accolade extends to our faculty ranks, where one-third of the School’s senior leadership team is American Indian.

Speaking of the AAMC, I’m just back from the AAMC’s national meeting (as I mentioned last week). I’ll be updating you soon as to some “takeaways” from the meeting after all the attendees from UND debrief, but the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion were an important focus of the meeting. In fact, AAMC President and CEO Dr. David Skorton, who visited us this past August as our White Coat ceremony speaker, focused on the need for more diversity in the health education and care sector in his Plenary Address. Dr. Skorton also indicated that we as part of the health enterprise need to do better in dealing with substance use disorders and the high cost of health care in the U.S.

I’m proud that the UND SMHS is in fact trying to do even more on all three issues. The School has a well-developed policy and plan for increasing diversity in our student population with a focus on recruiting more American Indian students as indicated above, as well as more rural students.

As far as opioid and substance abuse disorders, we have multiple touchpoints in our medical student curriculum where the management and treatment of substance abuse issues is addressed.

We believe the School’s strong focus on the importance of multi-professional team approaches to health care will result in a meaningful slowing of the rate of growth of health care expenditures by reducing duplication of services and poorly coordinated care that wastes resources.

So I came back from the AAMC feeling pretty good about our efforts on all three fronts identified by Dr. Skorton. That’s not to say that there isn’t more to do—certainly there is. But I do think that we have a clear path forward so we can do our part in addressing the three identified priorities. Dr. Skorton asked us all to do better—and we intend to.

Finally, a few comments in my role as Interim President: First, Susan and I met this week with the first three candidates for the UND presidency who visited the campus this week, and we will meet with the last three next week. I hope that you have availed yourself of the opportunity to meet them as well in one of the various public meetings that have been or will be held. And tomorrow, I’m in for a special treat—I’ll be Honorary Captain of the UND football team and will be doing the coin toss before the game when the UND Fighting Hawks take on the Northern Colorado Bears. Go Hawks!

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