From the Dean: Budget season, remembering Dr. Mark Siegel

Earlier this week, UND President Armacost and I presented the School’s budget request to the State Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The presentation went smoothly and there were no questions. We are requesting a needs-based budget in alignment with UND’s request for a 3% merit increase for faculty and staff in each year of the upcoming biennium that runs from July 2021 through June 2013. Our budget request has been endorsed by the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences Advisory Council, UND, the North Dakota University System, and the State Board of Higher Education. The next steps in the budget process will be the announcement of the Governor’s proposed biennial budget later this year, and then the request will go off to the 67th Legislative Assembly starting on January 5, 2021. The legislature then has up to 80 days to get all of its work done, including determining the budget for the School. Then that budget bill goes to Gov. Burgum for approval. We would expect to know officially where we stand from a biennial budget standpoint sometime in May 2021.

Then on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I participated in the fall meeting of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the body that accredits medical schools in the U.S. and Canada. Because of delays in survey team visits to schools related to COVID-19, the agenda for this week was relatively light. But we already are planning to add an extra day to our February 2021 virtual meeting because there will be a large backlog of survey team visits to review and on which to make accreditation determinations. That promises to be a busy meeting! But as I’ve stressed before, it’s worth my time investment in the LCME process as I learn a lot from these LCME meetings that I can apply here at the UND SMHS as our reaccreditation looms in 2022. For example, one of the productive discussions we had this week involved efforts to further promote diversity, equity and inclusion at the student, faculty and senior administrative staff levels in U.S. medical schools. Those discussions are helpful locally as we work to make the School as reflective of the population of North Dakota as possible, with our continuing focus on recruiting rural and American Indian students.

I should also offer a quick note on three important articles that were published in two recent editions of The New England Journal of Medicine, two of which are encouraging and a third that is disappointing. The first paper is an encouraging status report on the safety and potential efficacy of two RNA-based candidate vaccines for COVID-19. The other encouraging report documents the beneficial effect of the drug remdesivir in shortening the time to recovery of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 with lung involvement. The disappointing report is that the drug hydroxychloroquine has no beneficial impact on mortality in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. This last article echoes the conclusion of a similar study of non-hospitalized patients authored by SMHS graduate Caleb Skipper, M.D. (Class of 2014), published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in July.

Finally, this past Saturday we lost a distinguished former faculty member at the School. Dr. Mark Siegel, retired professor and chair of our Department of Surgery, died of complications related to colon cancer. Mark was not only a professor of surgery at the SMHS, but had a long and illustrious career for 36 years at Altru Health System. Moreover, he was an outstanding educator and positive role-model in our Surgery Residency Program, where he helped train many surgeons during his long career. In a remarkable coincidence, as we were moving into our new home in Grand Forks when we first arrived in North Dakota in 2004, we discovered that Mark was our next-door neighbor! Rest in peace, neighbor, and thanks for all your contributions over many years.

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