From the Dean: Updates on mandates, retaining talent, and accreditation

One week out from our annual continuing education symposium and I’m still in awe of the talent we’ve amassed here in North Dakota. Presenters from six different disciplines (from both UND and NDSU) gave six exceptional talks last week for our “Disrupting Aging” symposium, which, in the end, saw more than 100 participants-providers from across the state, most of whom were online. That was a record turn-out for this event, and suggests that we need to think seriously about continuing the hybrid meeting model next year. In any case, thanks again to all the presenters and everyone who participated in the symposium and all of our Homecoming events. We’re already planning for next year’s Homecoming, which will celebrate 10 years of our growing Public Health program.

On both of those notes—amazing local talent and public health—the director of our public health and Indians Into Medicine programs, Dr. Don Warne, will be in Washington D.C. next week testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. The Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 2, at 9 a.m. (Central time) entitled “The State of Nutrition in America 2021,” and Dr. Warne will be speaking on healthy food access disparities on the northern plains, particularly among Indigenous populations. Although we’re hosting a Java with Josh at that time, I encourage you to tune in to this Senate committee meeting here as your schedule allows.

This is the kind of talent and programming that we’ve all worked hard to cultivate over the past decade. Of course, keeping such talent and expanding these programs, which impact health and healthcare around the nation and world, will require a positive review by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) in April 2022. As you might know, the LCME is the nationally recognized accrediting agency for medical education programs in the U.S. Given that ours is the only school of medicine in the state, you know how important LCME accreditation and continuous quality improvement is to all of us.

Although many faculty, staff, and students in our School have been preparing for this visit for many months now, we still need your help to guarantee this visit produces a favorable outcome for the SMHS. Because everyone has a role to play in this process, I encourage faculty and staff to be engaged and participate in quality improvement efforts, sit on committees, and review policies as appropriate between now and April. Likewise, students can complete the second Independent Student Analysis (ISA2), sit on committees, provide feedback, and make recommendations for improvement (our first ISA late last year saw a remarkable 100% response rate among medical students).

The process is ongoing, of course, but know that your efforts will not go unnoticed. Updates on the process, published reports, resources, and opportunities for participation will all be available on the Office of Medical Accreditation’s webpage.

I know many of you have been wondering about how the federal vaccine mandate for certain organizations would affect UND. The School likely will be impacted by two aspects of the Executive Order: first, because we have a variety of federal contracts, we will be subject to guidance issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force regarding employees of federal contractors like UND; and second, because we receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for patient care delivered by some of our faculty who are engaged in clinical practice on behalf of the School, we will be subject to any requirements established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). We now have some direction from the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) on how the entire North Dakota University System expects to respond. Following extensive discussion yesterday, the SBHE voted to adopt the following draft wording (pending final board approval) that allows UND to develop and promulgate vaccination expectations for our campus (NDUS refers to the North Dakota University System):

“(T)he SBHE fully supports the prerogative of the NDUS institutions to take all reasonable and appropriate steps to comply with federal rules and regulations related to COVID-19 in order to continue to mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure that NDUS institutions remain financially sound.”

I can assure you that UND is working assiduously to provide clarity regarding these developments, and you can expect to hear more very soon regarding who will be impacted, where any requirements might be imposed, and when. As I’ve said before, stay tuned!

Finally, best wishes to the Fighting Hawks tomorrow night in Nashville! There will be a large contingent of fans from UND and North Dakota attending the Hall of Fame game in Bridgestone Arena. We take on Penn State in what promises to be a great game. Go Hawks!

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