From the Dean: Med school matriculants from North Dakota enrolling at UND on the rise

This past Monday we had our first virtual Faculty Assembly during which I traditionally deliver the “State of the School” address, and Faculty Council Chair David Relling presents the various committee reports to the UND SMHS faculty and others in attendance. As it turns out, one of the benefits of the virtual environment forced upon us by the pandemic has been the greater availability of various meetings to the School community. Thus, we had around 125 participants in the virtual meeting that I’m pretty sure is a record turnout for this event. If you were not able to be there “live,” here are the slides from my presentation. And the video can be seen here.

One of the comparisons that has impressed me more and more as I’ve thought about it is between the cost to attend for medical students and the proportion of students from North Dakota who went to a U.S. medical school in a given year. When looking at each of these factors over time, we’ve seen two related trends: the first is that we’ve been able to drive down the cost to attend the SMHS over time, compared with the costs at other U.S. medical schools.

At the same time, the percentage of medical school matriculants from North Dakota coming to the UND SMHS has increased over the same time period. This may be a classic example of what economists call the price elasticity of demand; that is, how the amount of something (in this case, medical students from North Dakota coming to the UND SMHS) increases over time as the price decreases. Now I can’t prove that this is a cause and effect relationship, but it really buttresses our argument that keeping costs as low as feasible while keeping the quality of the educational product as high as possible helps keep students (and thus potential health care providers in the future) in the state of North Dakota. By the way, an additional factor that should augment the in-state retention for practice is our ongoing expansion of residency options, such as the new neurology residency and medical oncology fellowship (advanced residency).

I mentioned the importance of this association between medical school cost and student choice to the Senate Appropriations Committee when we presented our proposed budget last week and look forward to a similar discussion with the House Appropriations Committee in March. It is an important factor in our request for the needs-based budget that we submitted (and was endorsed by the UND SMHS Advisory Council, UND, the North Dakota University System, and the State Board of Higher Education). I have no further feedback to give you at this time, but discussions are ongoing by the Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees. More to come!

Finally, congratulations to Dr. Don Warne who was nominated by Governor Burgum and the First Lady and subsequently selected as a member of the inaugural Explorers 50 (EC50) class of the Explorers Club based in New York City. The EC50 logo calls this group Fifty People Changing the World that You Need Know About. The Explorers Club indicated that Dr. Warne was selected from over 400 applications from explorers worldwide. His fellow honorees “represent a diverse range of scientific work and backgrounds, with over 46 countries of work represented from 17 countries of residence. Every honoree is exploring, inspiring, and creating the future – the future of the planet, sustainability, of paleontology, of biology, what our communities should look like, and so much more. The EC50 was established to not only reflect the great diversity of exploration, but to give a voice to trailblazing explorers, scientists, and activists doing incredible work.” I know that you will join me in congratulating our own Dr. Warne for this prestigious honor and recognition!

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