From the Dean: Remembering Roger Melvold

I have some sad news to share for those of you who have been associated with the SMHS for some time. Earlier this week an esteemed former faculty member, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Dr. Roger Melvold, passed away at age 76. Roger served as professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at the SMHS from 1997 until his retirement in 2008. Originally from Minnesota, Dr. Melvold spent time at Harvard and Northeastern Universities studying mouse genetics and immunology before relocating closer to home. He was a productive scientist with many publications, but he had interests beyond medicine including history and the arts. I had the pleasure to work with him in my earlier years at UND, and we overlapped at the School for four years. I remember him as an exceptionally kind, decent, thoughtful, and caring person. He will be missed.

On a happier note, tomorrow marks commencement for our graduating health sciences and graduate students who are recognized during UND General Commencement exercises. As I indicated last week, graduate commencement is tomorrow morning and undergraduate commencement is in the afternoon, although several of our programs have special recognition events taking place this week prior to commencement. As with medical student commencement last week, this is a very exciting time for our graduates-to-be and their families and friends. Best wishes to all of you!

With the completion of commencement activities this weekend, there will be a significant reduction of activity on the UND campus until the start of the fall semester in late August. Although the University conducts a summer semester, many faculty members on the main campus are on nine- or ten-month contracts, and thus do not have standard faculty responsibilities for the summer months. This is not the case for most SMHS faculty, who typically are on 12-month contracts and work throughout the year. Clinical rotations for medical and health sciences students, for example, are scheduled throughout the year, most health sciences programs include a summer session, and the new cohort of first-year or phase one medical students will arrive on campus to start their studies in early July. That reminds me – I need to get working on updating my slides and lecture materials on evaluating and treating various cardiovascular diseases for my teaching/learning sessions with the medical students that will take place in mid-August.

Parenthetically, it is amazing how much has changed in the management of heart disease in the past year or so, largely based on new data that have become available as a result of various clinical trials. An example is the treatment of heart failure that now typically includes four different classes of medications, one of which (sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor) is a medicine initially used to treat diabetes until studies over the past five or so years showed its benefit as well for heart disease.

Thus, I will be busy, as will our faculty, staff, and students as we start the new academic year on July 1. At this point we plan to leave the SMHS’s pandemic mitigation policy as it is (that is, no requirement for indoor masking but an encouragement to do so; additionally, I encourage all to get vaccinated/boosted as appropriate). Obviously, we may need to modify and update the policy, depending on what develops in the community. Fortunately, despite the uptick in cases (in some places, a substantial uptick), outcomes thus far have been more positive, with significantly fewer hospitalizations and deaths. Let’s hope the outcome trends continue!

I should also note that UND held its annual Staff Recognition Luncheon this week, and, as always, the SMHS claimed many years-of-service honorees, 35 to be exact. Also at this event, our own Terry Nelson, SMHS associate director of budget and facility management, was given a UND Meritorious Service Award (after receiving seven nominations)! As the UND website notes, “The Meritorious Service Awards are given in recognition of individuals who best reflect honor upon the University and community through a combination of job performance, relationships with associates, and the ability to relate their work to the missions and values of the University.”

I think you’ll agree that such a description fits Terry rather well. Congratulations!

Finally, congratulations also to Dr. Chris Nelson for being named dean of the UND School of Graduate Studies. Chris has been functioning as the associate dean of the School since the previous dean’s retirement in 2019 and was the sole finalist for the permanent dean position. We’ve worked productively with Dean Nelson over the years and look forward to the same in the future. Congratulations, Chris!

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