For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: The only constant is change

As announced officially by Johns Hopkins University this past Wednesday and previewed by us recently, Donald Warne, M.D., M.P.H., director of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) Indians Into Medicine (INMED) program, chair of the department of Indigenous Health, and the School’s associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), will be moving to the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Hopkins as of September 1, 2022. He will be a tenured full professor at Hopkins and will assume the title of Provost Fellow for Indigenous Policy and co-direct Hopkins’s Center for American Indian Health. Dr. Warne will be the first enrolled member of an American Indian tribe in history to serve as a full professor at Johns Hopkins University

This is a wonderful opportunity for Don and an additional recognition of his many accomplishments. We certainly wish him all the best. On the other hand, his move poses some challenges for us here at UND, as Don oversees four important roles: 1) associate dean for DEI at the SMHS; 2) chair of the department of Indigenous Health; 3) director of the INMED program; and 4) principal investigator of a large NIH (National Institutes of Health) CoBRE (Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence) grant looking at the impact and response to historical trauma. Fortunately, Don has kindly agreed to remain involved in these activities over the next year in a 20% consulting role with the SMHS. Additionally, we plan to split up these various roles so that we don’t have the nearly insurmountable task of trying to find one person to assume all of Don’s roles and duties. It still will be a challenge, but we’ve been working on approaches to filling all of the four major positions through various internal and external recruitment strategies.

The growth of our public and Indigenous health programming during Don’s four-year tenure with us has been phenomenal. For example, the number of students enrolled in these programs has grown some eight-fold over a five-year period. This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of welcoming and saying “hello” to 25 students in the Indigenous Health Ph.D. program; the students reflect a broad array of Indigenous peoples, with Alaska natives and folks from Hawai’i, New Mexico, North Carolina, and American Samoa among the class members.

This growth in student programming has been matched by dramatic growth in the School’s research funding. Although the figures are preliminary, it looks like our researchers and staff have secured over $52 million in external funding this past year. Accordingly, we have been working both internally and with Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development John Mihelich to address infrastructure needs at the SMHS to support our growing research portfolio. Due to this growth, along with some personnel shifts, the School needs to ramp up its administrative support of its researchers and research enterprise. We have had productive discussions with VP Mihelich and have a preliminary plan to move forward. I think that especially with the help and assistance of Associate Dean for Administration and Finance Namil Choi, we should be able to materially augment the support we give to our research effort. In this regard, Namil has extensive health program experience at two major academic institutions (Vanderbilt and the University of Chicago) and his insights and stewardship of this process will be invaluable.

The bottom line is that while change and growth may pose challenges, they also offer opportunities. We have fashioned approaches to deal with these important issues, and I am confident that we will see continued growth and maturation of the School’s programs going forward.

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