From the Dean: Our national footprint

Two esteemed physicians associated with our renowned Indians into Medicine (INMED) program were recognized this week for their service to medicine and efforts to achieve greater social justice. Dr. Judith Kaur of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Florida, and one of the first matriculants in the INMED program, was honored by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) with the conferring of the Herbert W. Nickens Award “given to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to promoting justice in medical education and health care equity in the United States. Dr. Herbert W. Nickens was the founding vice president of the AAMC Division of Community and Minority Programs, now Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion.” Dr. Kaur completed her initial Bachelor of Science in Medicine degree at UND before transferring to the University of Colorado where she received her M.D. degree with honors and subsequently completed internal medicine and hematology/oncology residencies there as well (at the time, UND sponsored only the first two years of medical school; the subsequent two years needed to be completed elsewhere). As noted by the AAMC, “over the past 25 years, Dr. Kaur has mentored hundreds of minority medical students. The Hampton Scholars and Hampton Faculty Fellows programs she developed have mentored over 100 Indigenous students across the United States. As one of the only practicing Native American medical oncologists in the United States, Dr. Kaur leads a national conversation to recognize cancer as a major unaddressed health disparity in Indigenous communities in the United States and internationally.”

The other high honor went to our own Dr. Don Warne, director of the INMED program, who was selected as one of ten national leaders invited to join the 2021-2023 Health Equity Advisory Committee convened by the prestigious journal Health Affairs. The members of the committee have been asked by the leadership at Health Affairs to assist them in addressing equity issues in scholarly publishing. To give you some perspective on why this is such a noteworthy honor, you may be aware that Health Affairs is arguably the preeminent journal in the areas of health management and policy. And to give you some additional perspective on Don’s colleagues on the committee, they hail from leading institutions such as the University of California San Francisco, Harvard, Brandeis, and Johns Hopkins. Well done, Don!

Speaking of Dr. Warne, here is an update of another program overseen by him – the graduate public health program. Don just gave me a summary of current enrollment in the various public health programs offered through the UND SMHS. They include the traditional masters and Ph.D. degree programs, but also graduate certificate programs. New recent matriculants include 22 students in the Master of Public Health (MPH) and graduate certificate programs and 15 students in the Indigenous Health Ph.D. program. Total program size at present has grown to an incredible 116 students, with 82 MPH/certificate students and 34 Ph.D. students! Again, well done, Don (and colleagues)!

Finally, I hope you had a chance to listen to DeAnna Carlson-Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation (AA&F), during her annual State of the UND AA&F Address this past Tuesday. If you didn’t, the presentation is available here. The UND AA&F does a phenomenal job of supporting the activities of our students, faculty, and staff at the UND SMHS. Our development officer, Jeff Dodson, is highly engaged and actively connects with the entire School family. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, philanthropic support for the School has grown impressively over the past decade. For example, the number of gifts we received recently for our annual Adopt-A-Med-Student campaign, wherein donors “sponsor” one of our first-year medical students with a gift stethoscope, easily surpassed the number of students in our incoming medical student Class of 2025. That’s simply amazing. Stethoscopes aside, our top two priorities remain the same – mitigating student debt and developing endowed chair positions so that we can attract and retain the very best faculty anywhere. Outstanding faculty produce outstanding programs that in turn provide outstanding educational opportunities for our students and outstanding accomplishments in the research enterprise. So thanks to you, DeAnna, Jeff, and all your colleagues. Most of all, thank you donors – your caring and generosity are much appreciated. You make a world of difference!

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