From the Dean: N.D. Legislature begins wrapping-up

Although the last official day of this year’s session of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly is fewer than two weeks away, it is likely that the session actually will end sometime next week in order to save some days for another subsequent meeting to address state-wide redistricting. As you may know, the biennial session of the Legislature ordinarily is limited to 80 days, and the eightieth day falls on May 5. The funding bill for the North Dakota University System (NDUS) is contained within SB2003 that now has been passed by both the House and Senate after emerging from the joint Conference Committee this past Tuesday. The bill awaits Governor Burgum’s signature, but assuming that there are no surprises, the budget provisions for the UND SMHS are pretty much in line with what we asked for and expected. As such, we are pleased with the proposed appropriated fund support for the School. It should allow us to continue the programs and plans we have for the future. One aspect that remains unclear, but is of particular interest to our employees (both faculty and staff), relates to the specifics of the merit pool available to augment the salaries of high-performing individuals. The broad terms of the salary merit plan include a 1.5% merit pool for the upcoming 2022 academic year from July 2021 through June 2022 and a 2% pool for the subsequent academic year. Further details will need to be worked out by both the NDUS and UND and likely will be disseminated next month.

Yesterday, the School held its annual Frank Low Research Day. Named in honor of the former UND SMHS anatomy professor who came here in the 1960s and pioneered a series of new techniques for the electron microscope, Frank Low Research Day is the culminating event of the academic year for many area researchers working in the biomedical and health sciences. Although this year’s session was virtual due to the pandemic, this annual event allows faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and students to give presentations on a wide range of basic biomedical, health sciences, translational, and clinical topics. This year’s virtual guest speaker was Dr. Eliezer Masliah, director of the Division of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging. His keynote lecture was titled “Recent progress advancing the national plan to address Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.” In case you missed it, you can view the lecture here.

Finally, the spring semester is winding down, and our seniors will be graduating over the next few weeks. UND holds separate commencement ceremonies for its graduating law and medical students; both will be on Saturday, May 8. The remainder of our health sciences and graduate students graduate during UND general Commencement on Saturday, May 15. To all of our soon-to-be graduates, best wishes for future success!

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