From the Dean: Announcing the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair of Translational Research

It may seem trite to say the obvious, but what makes institutions great is not simply wonderful facilities (such as the magnificent new School of Medicine and Health Sciences building in Grand Forks) so much as the people – faculty, staff, students, and friends and supporters – who occupy those facilities and support our operations. Indeed, it’s the people who are more important; as I like to say, it is not just the terrific building that makes the SMHS great but rather it’s what goes on inside the building and elsewhere throughout our system that really matters. The most recent example of the importance of people is the just-announced gift of Dr. Gopal Das, a retired UND SMHS faculty member, who, along with members of his family, established the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair of Translational Research. The establishment of this chair will enable the UND SMHS to recruit a nationally recognized leader interested in reducing the development time needed to make novel discoveries in the laboratory available for the clinical care of patients. Importantly, the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair will help prepare the next generation of health care providers from a variety of disciplines to deliver optimal clinical care to the people of North Dakota and the region by providing them with practical experience in the research approach and the scientific method of evaluating new discoveries. This Endowed Chair position will move the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences forward, build even more excitement around research, and provide permanent support for a leading physician-scientist working towards advancements in medicine.

Securing financial support for such endowed chairs is one of the two principal goals of the School’s philanthropic focus, the other being the mitigation of student debt. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the strong support we get from the North Dakota Legislature, we’ve been successful in reducing medical and other student debt. The Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair will be a powerful tool to aid us in recruiting (and retaining) the best and the brightest faculty to UND. Let’s face it – we compete nationally (and even internationally) for talented faculty members and UND often is at a disadvantage when we compete with schools on either coast. A chair like this gives us much more leverage as we compete with other institutions. And securing and retaining the best faculty translates into the best science and discovery, and the best teaching of our students. So, thank you so much Dr. Das and Wadhwani family – we are so appreciative of your generosity and caring!

Two UND alums and SMHS graduates who also have given back to UND and the community in innumerable ways were recognized last night by the UND Alumni Association & Foundation as Sioux Award winners. Dr. (and former Grand Forks Mayor) Mike Brown was recognized for all he has done for Grand Forks, UND, and medical education over the past three decades. Mike is a proud MD graduate of the UND SMHS. The other Sioux Award winner with School ties is Lisa Wheeler who earned her physical therapy degree at the School and was a member of the School’s fifth graduating PT class. She subsequently earned her JD degree, also at UND. Among many other civic activities, she lent her leadership experience to the UND Alumni Association & Foundation Board of Directors where she served three 3-year terms including one stint as chair of the Governance Committee.

Congratulations to both Mike and Lisa, and thanks for all that you have done!

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