From the Dean: Here comes the Class of 2024!

As I mentioned in this column last week, I “attended” the latest triannual meeting of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) for two days earlier this week. We reviewed almost three dozen accreditation surveys, status reports and change notifications (for example, regarding class size) from medical schools across the U.S. What was different, of course, was that the entire meeting was done virtually. And despite some of my qualms, I think the virtual format worked pretty well. We still had robust discussions and interactions, albeit somewhat limited given the virtual environment. The format the LCME used was a video link to share documents and an audio link by phone. That combination worked well, especially the excellent audio quality due to the use of ear buds and a cell phone. But the lack of live video of my fellow members was a shortcoming. Participants couldn’t read body language or facial expressions. On the other hand, I was able to get up and stretch much more than usual on a video conference call, and I wasn’t chained to my desk. So all in all, I think the meeting and the format was pretty successful. The LCME is going to conduct a survey of the roughly two dozen members who participated, and it’ll be interesting to see what the group consensus is about the format. I’ll let you know what the feedback is when I get it, likely in a few months.

Speaking of virtual, we’ll hold another virtual Java with Josh get-together next week (Thursday, June 25, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.). We’ve done this virtually once before, and it seemed to go well. Ordinarily this is an opportunity for the SMHS community to join me for coffee or tea and discussion about things related to UND and the School. I’ve enjoyed these events over the years, and the consistent turnout suggests that faculty and staff (and occasional students) find the meetings useful as well. Interestingly, the turnout for the most recent event (the first virtual one we’ve had) was even better than the prior in-person ones! So maybe there is something to be said for a virtual meeting format, despite its obvious drawbacks.

Last but not least, we’re only a little over two weeks away from the start of school for the medical student Class of 2024. These first-year medical students are starting their medical journey about a month earlier than is typical for us, occasioned by changes in the curriculum that will allow us to accelerate student entry into the clinical arena. These revisions start this coming academic year, which begins July 1, 2020. Also different will be the virtual format for at least the initial two months of the medical students’ experience here. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to visit with the incoming medical students virtually that first full week in July, and I’m looking forward to meeting our entering and returning health sciences students too in August. I will help welcome the freshman medical class first thing on Monday, July 6. My wife Dr. Susan Farkas and I will next greet and get to know the students with a virtual reception we will host Tuesday night. Then on Friday I help coordinate the case wrap-up that the students will have been working on all week. Finally, I’ll participate in a virtual Family Day presentation during which we tell students and their families all about the adventure that they are just beginning, and answer any questions.

One of the things I’m going to work on this year is to try to learn as many of the students’ names as possible. At his commencement address last month, our honored guest speaker Dr. Walter Kemp, associate professor of pathology here, stressed the importance of establishing a personal relationship with his students, and highlighted the importance of this simple act. I’m not always great with names, but I’m going to give it a try! By the way, Dr. Kemp has been the commencement speaker invited by the graduating senior medical students the past two years running. That’s quite an accolade in and of itself!

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