From the Dean

The COVID-19 saga continues to play out in North Dakota and around the world. The good news is that the trend thus far in North Dakota has been better than in many other places, although we have had six deaths so far (as of the latest report yesterday from the North Dakota Department of Health). But projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington indicate that we will not experience peak demand on our health care facilities for another week and a half or so, with significant illnesses and hospitalizations predicted through early June. So now is not the time to let our guard down.

Of course, this time of year carries religious significance for many of us. Passover began on Wednesday and today is Good Friday with Easter occurring on Sunday—days when families traditionally come together. Unfortunately, now is not the time for physical connectivity—rather, it is a time for social, emotional, and spiritual connectivity. We need to join together, but only virtually please. Not only is your health at stake, but so is the health of your family members, neighbors, and friends. Remember Governor Burgum’s plea for us to combine North Dakota tough with North Dakota smart: Stay home, stay healthy, stay connected.

Speaking of the Governor, he announced a neat, free app for iPhone users earlier this week at one of his daily press conferences about the COVID-19 situation in North Dakota. Called Care 19, the app is designed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by retracing your steps if you were to test positive for the virus in order to find others who may have had contact with you. It is available in various app stores, and, as described there, “…uses state-of-the-art GPS location data to help trace the places you have visited…. You will not be asked to provide any personally identifiable information within the app. Location data will only be shared with the Department of Health if you consent upon testing positive for COVID-19.” It surely is an interesting and potentially very helpful app that you might want to consider.

And talk about coincidence (or maybe not!)—this week, in the midst of pandemic concerns, we celebrated both World Health Day on Tuesday and Public Health Week! The theme of this year’s World Health Day was to celebrate the contributions of nurses and midwives around the world. There certainly are few health care workers who are more on the frontline in the care of COVID-19 and other patients than nurses. So thank you nurses (especially those in training at the UND College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines) for all that you do; we at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences salute, honor and thank you!

Additionally, the importance of public health in our everyday lives could not be more apparent given our collective experience over the past month. So please join me in congratulating the very successful training programs in public health that have been implemented over the past decade here at UND as well as at NDSU. As you might have heard, our two schools’ public health students are already helping with the COVID-19 fight. We have a contract with the North Dakota Department of Health to provide training for our MPH students to track and document the spread of COVID-19 in North Dakota, and by all accounts the students are performing well. And at UND, not only do we have a master’s program in public health, but our just-announced, first-in-the-world doctorate (Ph.D.) program in Indigenous Health has attracted great interest and attention from potential students far and wide. Just another great example of the importance of the state’s two research institutions to North Dakota, the region, and beyond.

Susan joins me in extending best wishes to you and yours this special week and weekend.

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