From the Dean: Record-setting research quarter

The theme of this week’s column is “resilience and excellence under pressure.” First, consider the just-released report summarizing the School’s research funding for the first quarter (July through September) of our fiscal year. Keep in mind that our researchers finished the last academic year with the largest amount of funded research in the history of the School at almost $31 million. Well, they’ve now done even better! First-quarter funding and funding proposals have set new records and exceed anything we’ve seen in the past five years. In fact, first-quarter funding has almost tripled what it was in fiscal year 2017! All of this in the face of the worst pandemic we’ve encountered in a century! My hat goes off to all of the faculty in particular, but also the students and staff who have made this possible. And don’t misunderstand – I use research funding as a surrogate to measure our research impact. What matters of course is how our research advances knowledge and reduces disease. But since the vast majority of our funding is peer-reviewed (meaning that independent researchers have cast their vote as to the potential impact of the proposal) and the greatest fraction comes from the National Institutes of Health, I am confident that the research being done at the school is highly regarded, impactful and important.

Second, I want to give a shout-out to Ryan Norris, a third-year medical student who, in his “spare” time, is coordinating the student component of our preparation for our medical program accreditation visit in 2022 by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Mr. Norris, in coordination with all four medical student class presidents and their colleagues, has created a questionnaire called the Independent Student Analysis (ISA) as required by the LCME. The ISA has been distributed to all four medical student classes, and due to the hard work of Ryan and his colleagues, almost 90 percent of the students have submitted their responses to the ISA. And for the first-, second- and third-year classes, the response rate already is over 90 percent! The ISA team is hard at work prompting their classmates who have not yet completed the survey to finish entering their comments into the ISA, and we’re are aiming for 100% completion. Again, thanks to their efforts and those of their fellow students. All during a pandemic! Talk about resilience and excellence under pressure!

Finally, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I know that you will join me in giving thanks to all of the health care providers – including our medical and health sciences students – who have worked tirelessly and heroically caring for our fellow citizens who have been stricken with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). They are doing so under extremely difficult and trying circumstances, and at some real measure of personal risk. Yet they do their jobs day in and day out. Talk about professionalism, dedication and sacrifice! On behalf of all of us, thanks to all of you! You truly are demonstrating grace under pressure. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Because of the pandemic, Susan and I won’t be gathering with our extended family to celebrate for the first time since we were married. But we have decided that it is the right thing to do for the safety of all. Whatever you may decide to do for the holiday, Susan joins me in wishing all of you in the UND SMHS family a peaceful, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving. Remember to stay connected, even if it can’t be physically!

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