From the Dean: Growing our research enterprise

One of the important ways in which we monitor the health of our research enterprise is by measuring the growth of external funding – often from the federal government – that supports the efforts of the School’s many investigators and staff. To be sure, the amount of funding is what we call a surrogate endpoint; after all, the real gauge of research productivity is the value and impact of the discoveries themselves rather than just the dollars committed. But determining the impact of research and service programs often takes years to ascertain, so funding is a useful short-term measurement. Over the past several years, there has been a rather dramatic upturn in our external funding trajectory. We had been averaging around a 5% per year increase in funding up until the past two years, when funding increased even more. This past academic year (AY 2021) that ended on June 30, 2021, was our best ever, with a 25% increase over AY 2020 to a total of about $38.5 million!

This is a remarkable accomplishment and one that is due to the hard work and skill of our faculty and staff. Thanks to support from the North Dakota Legislature, our generous donors, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) seed grants, we have been able to invest heavily in our faculty, our core facilities, and our pilot funding programs, and these investments are bearing fruit.

The largest component of overall funding goes to support our research effort, and in that regard the NIH provides the most funding. In fact, the NIH provides fully one-half (about $19.2 million) of our total sponsored funding. Along with other federal agencies, federal resources provide over three-quarters of our external funding, with about 10% coming from the State of North Dakota and the remainder from foundations and private entities.

Most of this funding is used to support research, although various service programs also garner substantial support. In fact, the one unit that saw the single largest share of funding is the UND Center for Rural Health (CRH) with about $10.5 million (about 27% of the total). The CRH uses these funds in a variety of ways that benefit the people of North Dakota. In one way or another, the various CRH programs touch every one of the 53 counties in North Dakota.

I thought you might be interested in the people who are the brains behind these grants. Listed below are the principal investigators who have garnered the most support this past year; note that each one is responsible for total awards of more than $1 million!

Name  –  Amount ($)  –  Number of Awards

  • Donald Sens  –  $7,010,874  –  4
  • Donald Warne  –  $4,685,055  –  6
  • Marc Basson  –  $4,359,999  –  3
  • Kristine Sande  –  $3,460,221  –  2
  • Collette Adamsen  –  $2,873,481  –  9
  • Colin Combs  –  $2,759,803  –  4
  • Jody Ward  –  $1,527,838  –  2
  • Donald Jurivich  –  $1,150,000  –  3

Congratulations to these “Top 8” Leaders in Action along with the dozens of others at the School who have helped compile this amazing year of accomplishment and achievement. Well done!

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