From the Dean

This year we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Center for Rural Health (CRH) at the UND SMHS. Since its beginning in 1980 with one employee—Dr. Kevin Fickenscher, its founding director—the CRH has grown to become a major force for good in rural health care delivery in North Dakota in particular, as well as in rural communities throughout the country. It has grown over those four decades into a program with more than 60 employees, most of whom are supported by grants and contracts. The CRH has helped study and identify gaps in care in rural regions, work on policy solutions to those problems, and then implement positive change to improve the health care in those regions. The Center touches and plays a helpful role in every one of North Dakota’s 53 counties. One of the steadiest pair of leadership hands that has helped guide the CRH over the years belongs to Deputy Director, Brad Gibbens, who has been with the Center for more than 34 years. Because the current Director, Dr. Gary Hart, recently went on leave, I have appointed Brad as the Acting Director of the CRH as of February 20, 2020. Given Brad’s deep understanding and familiarity with the Center and its staff, I know that the CRH is in good hands and will continue to be a highly regarded component of UND and the SMHS in the future, just as it has been in the past.

And the results are in from Giving Hearts Day 2020! Thanks to several generous donors and the continued support of Dakota Medical Foundation (DMF), the UND Alumni Association & Foundation was able to award three $12,500 scholarships to SMHS students this year. The winners are:

  • Ashley Bartlett, second-year medical student
  • Jadyn Koppenhaver, junior Medical Laboratory Science student
  • Zach Podoll, second-year medical student

Congratulations to these students, and thanks again to Pat Traynor and his team at DMF for helping to lower the debt load for our students!

Finally, I’d like to highlight two noteworthy events from this week that are important not only from the vantage point of the School, but also from that of UND as a whole. The first occurred last night, and that was the UND Founders Day Banquet and celebration that honors the many loyal UND employees (retired and still active faculty and staff) for their many years of service to the University. This included David Rzucidlo in the Department of Occupational Therapy, who was given a Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) Award for Outstanding Professional Academic Advising. It obviously is a truism that UND is a wonderful place mainly because of the dedication, contributions, and efforts of its faculty, staff, and students, so recognizing these employees is most appropriate. I’m also delighted to mention that our School’s Departments of Pathology and Occupational Therapy were given awards for Departmental Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Service, respectively. Congratulations!

The other event is occurring today. Recently retired Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm will be officially recognized and awarded an honorary degree by UND. The investiture ceremony will take place in UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC). UND’s School of Geology and Geological Engineering was named after Hamm in 2012.

So please join me in extending congratulations to all of those honored during the Founders Day celebration, and to the soon-to-be Dr. Hamm!

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