From the Dean: Homecoming is coming!

Fall is in the air, of course, which means not only Fighting Hawks football but Homecoming at UND. If you’ve not already done so, remember to register for one of our Homecoming events, in particular our annual interdisciplinary continuing education symposium taking place at least virtually, if not in-person, on Friday, Oct. 22. The topic for this year’s symposium is “Disrupting Aging,” something that we all have a stake in because we’re all aging every day. Elders are our patients—or will be very soon—and putting more of a focus on geriatric medicine and what our Department of Geriatrics chair Dr. Don Jurivich calls “age-friendly communities” will become only more important as the Baby Boomers get older. The latest issue of our quarterly magazine North Dakota Medicine has a nice primer on the symposium.

In other news, Dr. Don Warne, director of our public health and Indians Into Medicine programs and the School’s associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, has been awarded the 2021 Helen Rodríguez-Trías Award for Social Justice from the American Public Health Association (APHA). This is an incredible, national accomplishment that speaks, again, to the caliber of work ongoing at UND in these arenas – public health, Indigenous health, and the production of Indigenous health providers.

As our School’s news release puts it, the Helen Rodríguez-Trías Social Justice Award is presented to an individual who has distinguished themselves professionally by working toward social justice for disadvantaged populations. It is named after the late Helen Rodríguez-Trías, past president of the American Public Health Association and a pediatrician who, according to the APHA, “strove to meet the needs of underserved and disadvantaged populations, especially women and children.”

In their very nice nomination letter, Grand Forks Public Health Director Debbie Swanson and SMHS public health program Assistant Director Melanie Nadeau wrote that Dr. Warne’s “welcoming spirit is present in every classroom, community event, public arena, and in his home. He demonstrates inclusion in all his interactions with students, colleagues, neighbors, and community residents. Dr. Warne is a public health colleague, extraordinary teacher, social justice advocate, and worthy of this award nomination.”

I couldn’t agree more. I congratulate Dr. Warne on yet another national recognition of his great work.

Also, I’m very excited about the new Preceptor Recognition Student Scholarship Program that the UND SMHS has developed with the UND Alumni Association & Foundation (AAF). The preceptor program is funded by an initial $100,000 endowment that will produce at least $3,750 annually for a medical student scholarship, although the AAF is working hard to increase this amount. What makes this scholarship special is that it allows fourth-year medical students to select their favorite “preceptor” (or clinic-based instructor) based on their third-year clinical rotations. Come graduation in May 2022, a scholarship will be given in the chosen preceptor’s name to a rising third-year student who earned the highest cumulative medical science and clinical science grade in Phase 1, which lasts approximately 20 months, of their four-year curriculum. Current third-year medical students will get an opportunity to select a different preceptor next year, and a student from the MD Class of 2025 will receive a scholarship in that new preceptor’s name in May 2023, and so on.

I’m pleased to announce that the inaugural clinical faculty selected by our medical students for this honor is Dr. Devendranath “Dev” Mannuru, internal medicine clerkship director and associate program director of the School’s Internal Medicine Residency. We appreciate the enthusiasm Dr. Mannuru brings to this new program. So, congratulations, Dr. Mannuru, and thanks for making your clinic a place where our students feel not only comfortable but that they learn a lot from a consistently effective clinical instructor. You can learn more about Dr. Mannuru and the scholarship and how you might contribute in honor of Dr. Mannuru, if you are so inclined, here.

Finally, I should note that with a positivity rate for COVID-19 testing hovering around 10% or more in many North Dakota counties, the pandemic is nowhere near behind us. And this bump in cases is putting a real strain on our hospitals, as Governor Burgum recently noted. This additional demand on the health system has led to increased delays in access to care, particularly in emergency rooms and inpatient settings. Some patients are again being referred outside of their regions, sometimes to facilities hundreds of miles away.

So, remember to be diligent about masking, handwashing, and vaccinations. And remember to get a flu shot too!

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