From the Dean: Celebrating INMED and National Women Physicians Day

I ended my column last week with congratulations to Dr. Don Warne, associate dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Director of UND’s Indians into Medicine (INMED) and Public Health programs, for his selection as a member of the inaugural Explorers 50 class of the Explorers Club, an international multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of research and exploration. Now it is my pleasure to highlight an additional noteworthy event involving Dr. Warne and the INMED program – the publication of an article by Sarah Kwon in this month’s Health Affairs journal outlining the comprehensive approach we have here at the UND SMHS to “boost American Indian representation in medicine and public health.” The article outlines both the challenges that have been overcome as well as future goals that have been addressed by Dr. Warne and his team. In case you are not familiar with it, Health Affairs probably is the preeminent journal extant in the health management and policy arena. You can read the article here.

This week features two special days – Wednesday was National Women Physicians Day and today is National Wear Red Day. National Women Physicians Day is held annually on Feb. 3 and marks the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first women in this country to receive a medical degree in 1849. But even with that milestone, women have remained underrepresented in medicine – although progress is being made! We have a long way to go, though. I can still remember my first-year internal medicine residency group (we were called interns then for what today are known as post-graduate year I, or PGYI, residents) even though it was decades ago. There were 14 of us – 13 men and one woman! Now, medical school classes across the country – including yours – are evenly split. But that milestone was not reached until 2017! And it will take a while until the female medical students graduate, finish residency, and enter the physician workforce at the same rate as men. Because of this time lag, the physician workforce across the country is only a little more than one-third female.

Speaking of thirds, heart disease and stroke are the cause of death in about one out of three women – a higher percentage than deaths from breast and other cancers combined. This is why National Wear Red Day has been promoted by the American Heart Association as part of its Go Red for Women Day — to increase awareness regarding the importance of cardiovascular health for women. It turns out that cardiovascular disease and stroke are the leading causes of death of both men and women! Heart disease in women can present differently than in men, but its impact can be just as deadly. We hope that increased awareness leads to increased attention to treating risk factors for cardiovascular disease. As Benjamin Franklin once put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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