From the Dean

As we welcome 2020 and look forward to the new year, we should pause for a moment to send our best wishes to Hunter Pinke, a UND student athlete on the football team who suffered a severe spinal injury while skiing in Colorado, and to remember two members of the extended UND family whom we lost recently. This past Sunday, former UND student athlete and long-time UND friend and supporter Lowell Schweigert passed away suddenly while shoveling snow. Older brother of UND head football coach Bubba Schweigert, Lowell continued to be active in the UND and local community long after he graduated. We also lost long-time Grand Forks City Council member and state legislator Eliot Glassheim. Author of several books and many poems, Eliot was known for his gentle and inclusive style, and had friends on both sides of the aisle. I know that you join me in keeping Hunter, Lowell, and Eliot in our thoughts.

And while we need to remember and honor the past, we also need to look forward. So what are the major issues, challenges, and areas of opportunity for the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences in 2020? I would posit that there are at least five vitally important issues that we need to address this year:

  • As I’ve discussed several times recently, we have moved into high gear in our preparations for the periodic review of the accreditation status of the School’s medical student curriculum that will be conducted by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). This review means an LCME survey team will visit the SMHS in April 2022. And while we have been engaged in a continuous process of both monitoring our compliance status with all of the 93 accreditation elements that comprise the 12 LCME standards, and making any needed adjustments and improvements since our last survey team visit in 2014, we are now engaged in a focused and robust effort designed to optimize our likelihood for a successful LCME visit that will occur just over two years from now.
  • Also on the subject of the medical student curriculum, 2020 will be an important year as more pieces of our revised medical curriculum are introduced into the actual experience of our medical students.
  • We are almost exactly one year away from the state’s next Legislative Assembly (the 67th) that will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Critically important for this session will be the School’s budget request for the 2021-23 biennium. We prepare the School’s budget based on advice, feedback, and approval from the SMHS Advisory Council, UND central administration, and the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. An additional and related budget issue that will be especially important to the School’s research agenda will be the anticipated resubmission of a budget request for substantial additional state funding intended to greatly expand the research enterprise in the state with new funding directed at UND and NDSU.
  • We will continue our philanthropic efforts with the primary focus being on mitigating student debt. Over the past decade, we made enormous progress in this critical area, and our medical students in particular have experienced a reduction in their cumulative educational debt at a time when most other medical schools have experienced an increase in their students’ average debt. We have set an additional goal of increasing the number of endowed professorships and chairs as an important component of our efforts to recruit and retain the very best faculty talent we can. As I’ve mentioned before, recruiting to North Dakota—especially for recruits not from here originally—can be a challenge. But being able to offer an endowed faculty position gives UND a real advantage in the competition for talent. We’ve set an ambitious goal of adding one such endowed position each academic year; since we’re now halfway through the 2020 academic year and have not yet secured such a position so far, it is clear that we have work to do!
  • Finally, Dr. Andrew Armacost, the incoming UND president as of June 1, 2020, and I are hard at work to ensure a smooth, seamless, and coordinated transition from my interim presidency to his. I really have enjoyed working with Andy, and I think you’ll see that the transition plan that we have devised will be effective and efficient.

So we have an exciting 2020 ahead! My wife Susan joins me in thanking all of you again for your support of UND and the UND SMHS, and wishing you and yours all the best in the new year.

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