From the Dean: Dr. Warne goes to Washington

This past Tuesday, Dr. Don Warne, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, director of our Indians into Medicine (INMED) and public health programs, and chair of our newly established Department of Indigenous Health, testified in Washington, D.C., before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry of the United States Senate. Dr. Warne got a very warm introduction from our own senior senator, Sen. John Hoeven. The topic for the committee discussion was “The State of Nutrition in America 2021” and Don spoke knowingly about some of the food challenges for people who live on reservations. You can hear and see a recording of the entire committee session here. Two things impressed me as I listened live – how thoughtful and prepared all of the speakers were (obviously including Don!) but also how respectful and courteous the interchanges were between the members, even though they were from different parties and different ideological points of view. Democracy in action, to be sure. And well done, Dr. Warne!

Another important development this week was that I interviewed all three finalists for the associate dean for administration and finance position. We are doing a two-stage interview process with members of the Executive Committee interviewing all of the qualified applicants and then narrowing down the list to the three finalists. Karla Mongeon-Stuart, associate vice president for finance, and I jointly interviewed the finalists. I’ll also get feedback from the staff in the office, and then make an offer to the chosen candidate. But it is a fantastic slate of candidates and I’m excited about the future of the unit.

Finally, we have been quite busy recently trying to deal with the federal vaccine mandate and its implications for the SMHS and UND as a whole. President Armacost released a statement this week that outlines what our approach will be going forward. We will be working hard with our central campus colleagues in developing an approach that balances all of the competing forces involved here. It is important to emphasize what is not covered by the federal mandate – namely, grants from agencies like the National Institutes of Health, and students (unless they also are employed part-time). This is a complex issue and I think the approach outlined by Andy is the right way to go, all things considered. More specifics will be forthcoming soon.

But mandate aside, please continue to be careful regarding the pandemic and its threat to health. October 2021 was noteworthy for North Dakota in so far as it was our fourth highest monthly death toll due to SARS-CoV-2 since the pandemic started. So mandate or not, please get vaccinated if you have no contraindication, be careful, stay safe, and stay strong! We are in a marathon, and we certainly are not at the finish line yet. Hang in there!

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