From the Dean: Remembering Dr. David Gipp

This past Monday, the UND SMHS Advisory Council reported back to the Interim Higher Education Committee of the North Dakota Legislature, as is customary prior to each legislative assembly session and as required by law. As you might already know, the next session begins Jan. 5, 2021. I testified (virtually), along with Dave Molmen, the interim CEO of Altru Health System and the long-serving chair of the Advisory Council. We reported on the activities and accomplishments of the School and its faculty, staff and students. You can review a copy of our slide presentation here. The presentation seemed to go well and, as usual, the members asked thoughtful questions that we answered to the best of our abilities.

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts of the School’s research team investigating the interaction of the human body with microbial agents are especially important. Those investigators hosted a symposium this past Tuesday looking at those interactions between host and pathogen. This Host-Pathogen CoBRE Symposium brought together experts investigating both microbial infectious agents and host responses to those infectious agents, including COVID-19. Many of our investigators’ efforts are supported by a large grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under its Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) program. The following day, I met with the three members of the External Advisory Board who advise us as to how we are doing in achieving the grant’s goals. This is especially critical as we approach the renewal date for this large and important grant. I was gratified and proud to hear the extremely complementary and supportive comments of the three scientists from other universities who visited virtually this year. They had a small number of suggestions for ways we might be able to strengthen the renewal application, and their most insightful comments will be helpful as we move forward. Congratulations to the principal investigators of this important grant (Drs. Jyotika Sharma, Colin Combs and David Bradley) and all of the faculty, staff and students who are involved. Well-done, and keep up the good work!

Finally, we lost a soft-spoken giant recently. You may have heard the sad news that Dr. Dave Gipp, the long-time president of United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) in Bismarck and advisor to our Indians Into Medicine (INMED) program, died this past week after a long illness. (You can read his obituary here.) I had known and worked with Dr. Gipp over my 16-year career at UND and mourn his passing. Dave embodied and cultivated a simple truth that also was sacrosanct in my family when I was growing up: that the path to the future for all of us is through education. And at UTTC, Dr. Gipp helped empower thousands of American Indians through their pursuit of knowledge. Dave also helped to cultivate, mature, and grow our INMED program, which has helped UND to show its commitment to expanding the American Indian health care workforce by enabling UND to become the top medical school in the country in terms of the fraction of its student body that is American Indian. Dave combined wonderful “people” skills with a resolute and unwavering commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. I’ll miss him, but his legacy clearly will live on. His was a life well-lived.

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