From the Dean: Student and faculty awards season begins

This past Monday we held our annual Sophomore Awards celebration for medical students. This year’s event was virtual due to the pandemic, but the ceremony also was special because, as I mentioned to the Year 2 students in my opening comments, all of the students deserve awards for their perseverance and tenacity in the face of the many challenges related to the pandemic. In addition to lauding all the students, a few stood out for special recognition this week. Those recognized during the Sophomore Awards program were as follows:

North Dakota Medical Association Awards

  • Anja Selland (pictured), Rugby, N.D. – Group Leadership and Professionalism
  • Nadia Toumeh, Fargo, N.D. – Peer Teaching
  • Peter Bueide, Fargo, N.D. – Integration of Basic Science and Clinical Application

SMHS Academic Awards

  • Keaton Rummel, Bismarck, N.D. – The DeBoer Memorial Award
  • Kirsten Bokinskie, Fargo, N.D. – Philip H. Woutat Memorial Scholarship Award
  • Sarah Wherley, Velva, N.D. – William Eugene Cornatzer Award
  • Mikeala Herberg, Mandan, N.D. – James Kelleher Award

SMHS Service Award

  • Anja Selland, Rugby, N.D. – Kevin Monk Award

In addition to awards to the students, there also were three awards from the students to faculty members who have taught and mentored them. Three awards were given by the first and second-year students to two faculty members:

Portrait Award – Rhome Hughes, M.D., M.S.

Golden Apple Awards

  • Nominated by second-year students: Rhome Hughes, M.D., M.S.
  • Nominated by first-year students: Patrick Carr, Ph.D.

What a wonderful event! And congratulations again to all of our students, the award-winners, and the faculty members. Well-done indeed!

On the pandemic front, there is good news and troubling news. The good news is the rapidity and availability of vaccinations for eligible adults in the state. North Dakota is one of the national leaders in both regards, so that’s wonderful news. What is troubling is the spike in cases along the Red River, and especially in Cass County. Not surprisingly, UND and especially NDSU recently have been leading the university system in new and active cases. While there will be a dramatic reduction in the number of on-campus students at both research-intensive institutions in a little over a month with the end of the spring semester, the current spike in cases is worrisome. Undoubtedly related to community spread, the spike is another reminder for the rest of us to stay vigilant and not relax those public health measures that we know work. So, stay masked, watch your distance and the size of groups you join, and wash your hands! We are so close to getting back to a more normal on-campus lifestyle, yet I worry about what may happen if we let our guard down too early. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry!

Finally, I hope that you’ve penciled in Thursday, April 22, 2021, on your calendar for our annual Frank Low Research Day. The event will once again be virtual (hopefully for the last time!), but it promises to be a fun and educational day nonetheless. The guest speaker for Frank Low Research Day will be Eliezer Masliah, M.D., who is the director of the Division of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Before joining NIA, he held joint appointments in the departments of pathology and neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). As head of UCSD’s Experimental Neuropathology Laboratory, he investigated synaptic damage in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, multiple system atrophy, and AIDS-related dementia. His laboratory developed novel models of neurodegeneration as well as new gene therapies, small molecules and experimental immunotherapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Given how frequently and devastatingly these conditions can affect us (including such famous people as Robin Williams, Johnny Cash, Ted Turner, and Tom Seaver), Dr. Masliah’s talk promises to be quite insightful and informative. I hope that you’ll able to join us at Frank Low Research Day just under two weeks from now. Please contact Heather Jensen at heather.jensen@UND.edu or 701.777.2516 with any questions regarding attending the symposium.

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