From the Dean: Remembering Gary Hart

To begin, I have some sad news to report. L. Gary Hart, Ph.D., director of the UND Center for Rural Health (CRH) at the School and professor in the Department of Population Health, passed away on Monday, April 13, after a recent illness. He joined the CRH in 2010, coming to UND to serve as the Center’s director.

Gary was one of the preeminent rural primary care researchers in the country. Over the course of 40 years, he directed two Centers of Rural Health (Arizona and North Dakota) and two rural health research centers (Washington and North Dakota). He was a respected rural health expert and advocate. Gary was the recipient of 107 grants, published 160 peer-reviewed journal articles (including three in the prestigious journal Health Affairs and two in the New England Journal of Medicine), and delivered 149 invited national presentations at conferences and meetings. During his tenure at UND, the CRH grew in size, impact, and service to rural North Dakota; staffing grew by 30 percent and funding support (from grants, contracts, and the like) increased by 25 percent. I know that you will join me in extending condolences to Gary’s family, friends, and colleagues.

On a happier note, yesterday we had our first Java with Josh meeting that was done virtually. Over 100 faculty and staff members were on-line for the get-together! As you may recall, this event is one we sponsor periodically in Grand Forks, and occasionally at the other regional campuses in Fargo, Bismarck, and Minot. The purpose of Java with Josh is to provide a relaxed setting for faculty and staff (and occasionally students) to discuss areas of interest with me over a cup of coffee. While we usually provide the coffee, for yesterday’s meeting each of the many participants had to provide their own! The meeting seemed to go well, and we’ll continue to hold these events in the future, at the appropriate time. I look forward to holding them again in person.

The COVID-19 saga continues, of course, although North Dakota has been relatively fortunate so far thanks to the efforts of many people (especially those at the North Dakota Department of Health) and the leadership of Governor Doug Burgum. But perhaps the most important factor has been the demonstration of outstanding personal responsibility by most North Dakotans as they practice physical distancing and other common-sense public health measures like frequent handwashing. The impact of the pandemic is not only medical and social but also economic. Many businesses have been negatively impacted and many are out of work. UND is not immune to those same economic pressures, nor is the SMHS. For example, our family medicine and other clinical practices have noted a significant fall-off in clinic visits, as has virtually every other health care delivery unit in the United States. And since insurance reimbursement is tied directly to patient volume, we have noted a fall in revenue for our practice plan. Just like UND and other businesses, we will need to adjust appropriately to these financial realities. More on this soon.

Despite COVID-19 our regular SMHS work continues. For example, we received confirmation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) that our next survey team accreditation visit regarding the medical student education program will be from April 24-27, 2022. The survey team is scheduled to arrive on April 24 that year in time for an initial early evening conference with me, and the team is scheduled to depart by early afternoon on Wednesday. We will not know the names of the individuals who will constitute the survey team until December or so of 2021. The School’s survey package submission is due at the end of January 2022. Important components of the survey package that we will need to submit consist of a voluminous data collection instrument (DCI) document filled with our School’s data and answers to numerous standardized LCME questions; a self-study summary report where we look critically at our own educational program; and an independent student analysis (ISA) of the medical educational program that is performed by our medical students. Although we have been preparing for this visit since our last LCME visit in 2014, our preparatory efforts now are in high gear, led by our Chief Medical Accreditation Officer Dr. Steve Tinguely.

Stay safe out there.

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