From the Dean: Mentors make the difference

Not long ago I discussed the importance of mentoring for medical and health sciences students. We know from many surveys that mentors play a major role in helping students decide on career choices, like in what area of medicine to specialize. The importance of mentors was reinforced this past Monday when our Senior Associate Dean for Medicine and Research Dr. Marc Basson hosted a virtual meeting for first-year medical students with our chairs of clinical departments (like medicine, surgery, pediatrics and so on). From looking at the participant list, it was clear that virtually every first-year student was in attendance – and then some! Although I wasn’t able to stay online for the entire session, it was obvious that students are anxious to learn more about career options and greatly appreciate advice and answers to questions from providers and other people who have “been there and done that.” I would again solicit your help if you’d like to serve as a mentor for medical or health sciences students. Please click this link and we – and our students! – will be ever so grateful for your insights.

On that note, don’t forget that despite the pandemic UND and the School are still hosting a handful of virtual events for UND Homecoming 2020, including our annual Continuing Education Symposium, with CME/CE credits available for providers, and a Milestone Program on Oct. 9. For more information on Homecoming 2020, visit UNDalumni.org/homecoming.

I’d also encourage you to “attend” the Wake Up to UND event on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 8 a.m. You can stream the event, featuring UND President Andy Armacost and other community leaders, live here.

Finally, the School and UND continue to function despite COVID-19, although with major modifications in how we do things. UND experienced a worrisome spike in positive cases at the end of August that followed the return to campus of many students earlier in the month. But through aggressive contact tracing and widely available testing, the curve is headed in the right direction with a significant reduction in new (and active) cases. Nevertheless, the experience should be a cautionary tale illustrating how quickly things can change. It continues to be vitally important that students, faculty and staff continue to wear masks when appropriate, physically distance and be aggressive about personal hygiene with frequent hand-washing. I’m concerned about what the fall may bring, especially as we spend more time indoors as the weather changes. I certainly am tired of the adaptations required by the pandemic, and I suspect that such COVID fatigue is ubiquitous. For what it’s worth, I think that the most reasonable prediction as to when we may start to get on the other side of this pandemic experience is about a year from now, meaning that we’re about one-third of the way through it. Time will tell, but let’s try to keep our guard (and spirits) up, and to remember – we’re in this together!

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