For Your Health
For Your Health

News from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences

From the Dean: Reading ‘North Dakota Physician’

Earlier this week I received my copy of the summer edition of North Dakota Physician, the quarterly publication of the North Dakota Medical Association (NDMA) for its members. Because it contained several articles that may be of interest to the entire SMHS family, I thought I would summarize some of the pieces, especially for the non-physician and non-NDMA readership. With the permission of Courtney Koebele, executive director of the NDMA, what follows is a brief summary of some of the articles.

NDMA President Dr. Joshua Ranum (a graduate of the UND SMHS, as is his wife Dr. Carrie Ann Ranum), penned an article entitled “Building Resilience,” in which he lamented the impact of the pandemic—as well as the severe weather out in western North Dakota where Josh and Carrie Ann make their home. Given such challenges, Josh emphasized the importance of reconnecting with friends and colleagues as a way to build resilience in the face of adversity. One opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, he pointed out, will be at the upcoming annual meeting of the NDMA to be held on Oct. 6 and 7 in Fargo. Both Joshes (Ranum and Wynne) hope to see you there!

The next intriguing article highlighted our colleague Dr. Paul Carson, an infectious disease specialist and medical director of the NDSU Center for Immunization Research and Education. The article outlined some of the lessons learned during the pandemic, including the realization that the medical community should have been more open in acknowledging uncertainty regarding the course of the pandemic, rather than making confident predictions or assessments that turned out to be wrong. Additionally, Paul addressed the issue of the flood of misinformation that’s out there, and that we need to be both more empathetic with others who may see things differently as well as improve our own communication messaging. Most important of all, Dr. Carson admonished us to rely on the science and to communicate it effectively and accurately, particularly the notion that the evidence is clear that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are safe and effective.

Lastly, there were pieces from each member of our congressional delegation. The first was by Sen. Kevin Cramer, who discussed the issue of staffing shortages in the healthcare industry, especially for so-called travel nurses who move from position to position and often cost much more than the local workforce. He indicated that he will be introducing a bill to study the business and payment practices of the agencies that provide these traveling nurse services across the country.

The second article was from Rep. Kelly Armstrong, in which he thanked all of North Dakota’s healthcare professionals for their service to the people of North Dakota, especially during these years of the pandemic. One of the particular negative impacts of the pandemic that he addressed is the greater need for mental health and substance abuse services, and he discussed two bills that he is sponsoring to help address these pressing issues.

The last article was from Sen. John Hoeven, who also addressed the mental health challenge. Sen. Hoeven has been a strong supporter of improved and expanded mental and behavioral health services for North Dakotans. One way in which Sen. Hoeven has facilitated the delivery of these services is through his support of the Connect for Health Act, which is intended to extend and expand telehealth opportunities. This is especially important in rural areas of North Dakota, where there is a scarcity of mental and behavioral health providers.

Finally, I’m looking forward to welcoming the medical student Class of 2026 to UND and the School bright and early on Tuesday July 5 in our building on the Northeast (Grand Forks) campus. I still get a thrill every summer when I greet the incoming class and am reminded of my own first day of medical school. Although it was more than a few years ago (!), I remember it quite clearly and how excited and proud I was – along with a strong dose of fear and apprehension! I’ll be mindful of my own mixed emotions of long ago when I welcome the new class and help start them on their exciting and rewarding journey.

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