From the Dean: A rapidly evolving situation

The rapidly evolving pandemic situation has been a major focus of attention as we gear up for the return of the majority of students – especially undergraduates – to the UND campus in a little over a week (of course, some SMHS students already are on campus and have been for a while). The challenge has been to update the School’s current pandemic guidelines to keep pace with the changing environment. UND recently released statements indicating that it “strongly recommend(s) indoor masking in public settings – even for those who have been vaccinated.” It also has granted “faculty members the authority to require masks in their classrooms. Staff members and supervisors also have similar flexibility to ensure the safety of their workspaces.”

The SMHS has required indoor masking (except in specific circumstances like being alone in a private office) throughout the pandemic, and I don’t foresee any change in that policy any time soon. But there remain many nuances to our – and UND’s – policy that would benefit from some additional granularity. This would be helpful to the many faculty, staff, and students who are trying to do the right thing – they just want to know what it is! To that end, I encourage faculty and staff to attend the next Town Hall with President Armacost and administrators that will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 17. You can add this event to your calendar here.

We have been working on re-defining our pandemic protocol and have a meeting scheduled next week to try to finalize further guidance from the School. I get many requests for approval of various activities and I’d rather have a well-codified set of principles to guide these decisions than to simply rely on my intuition. Accordingly, I would welcome any input or thoughts you have about this whole matter and thank again those who have done so already. As I indicated last week, we all are fed up with the pandemic and wish we could get back to normal. But we can’t, at least for now. Like it or not (not!), we still have to deal with it. So, please work with our leadership team to help us develop policies that simultaneously protect our faculty, staff, students, and community while maximizing the completion of our triple mission of education, discovery, and service, and at the same time minimizing the burden and inconvenience we place on each of us. Not an easy task, to be sure! But we’ll end up with a better outcome with your input.

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