For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Budget updates, a flurry of events, and remembering Garl Rieke

We’re still celebrating UND Homecoming 2022, which saw the recognition of 10 years of our School’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program. As I said to our alumni, students, faculty, and staff at the SMHS Homecoming banquet last Friday, our MPH program has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, and, in retrospect, couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m thinking of the pandemic that emerged in late 2019, of course, which still is far from “over.” We remain proud of our MPH program and all the great work our alumni, students, and staff continue to do in the service of public health in North Dakota and around the world.

It’s worth noting that since the MPH program’s former Director, Dr. Don Warne, also served as our School’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the MPH program in particular has been at the forefront in our School of putting into practice many DEI concepts at the curricular and professional level. This is why it was so wonderful to see the large attendance this week at UND’s first-ever DEI conference, The Future is Now: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education and Beyond. The event was incredible, and I know many of us at UND are already looking forward to next year’s event.

Speaking of events, our Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) for Host-Pathogen Interactions team at UND hosted, if you’ll pardon the pun, its seventh annual Host-Pathogen CoBRE Symposium this week. Both the poster session and public event at the Gorecki Alumni Center, featuring Dr. Catherine Brissette, associate professor in our Department of Biomedical Sciences, and Dr. Jeff Vaughan, professor in UND’s Department of Biology, went very well. Here, too, is an area that continues to swell in significance as events like a global pandemic, which turns us humans into the host in question, emerge.

In other news, next Monday, the North Dakota University System (NDUS) and its constituent institutions will discuss their budget submissions with the Executive Branch’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), headed by Joe Morrisette. The first presentation will be by the NDUS central office, followed by UND. The UND SMHS will be next. I plan to review the accomplishments of our faculty, staff, and students especially during the current biennium, and our plans for the future. I’ll discuss upcoming opportunities as well as challenges. We plan to post the presentation slides next week after the conclusion of the meeting. Based on past experience, these meetings are helpful to ensure that OMB and we are on the same page as far as our budget submission. Questions usually are “technical” and relate to accounting issues in most cases. The formal discussion of our budget occurs once the legislature reconvenes this coming January.

Although the outlook for the School certainly looks positive, there are a number of concerns that I’ll share with OMB and, subsequently, with the legislature. The first, as I’ve discussed before, is the adverse impact of inflation, especially on our employees (faculty and especially staff) at the lower end of the pay spectrum. NDUS has proposed a 5%-per year salary pool for the coming biennium, and, if approved, that should help to address the inflation issue. Another concern is the human capital supply chain issue that I’ve touched on before. The shortages of various items you see in your local store due to supply chain issues is mirrored in the search for people to fill positions. The School currently has about a half-dozen searches underway for new members of the senior leadership team, and the competition for candidates is intense. Needing more people because of the growth and maturation of various programs is a good thing without question, but the process has become especially challenging over the past few years.

As indicated, I’ll provide the complete slide deck that outlines my presentation and discussion of these issues next week. The run-up to the 68th Legislative Assembly starts with an organizational session Dec. 5 – 7, 2022. Then the session starts in earnest on Jan. 3, 2023, and runs no longer than 80 workdays, ending on Friday, April 30, 2023. Because of the unusually large number of new members in the legislature due to many retirements, it promises to be an especially interesting session.

Finally, a note of remembrance. Dr. Garl Rieke, a former UND SMHS faculty member in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology (now integrated into the Department of Biomedical Sciences), passed away at age 80 this past July. Dr. Rieke taught medical and other students at UND from 1991 until his retirement in 2008. You can read his obituary here. Coupled with prior faculty appointments at three other medical schools, Garl taught nearly 3,000 students in his teaching career. Amazingly, he accomplished this while managing a nearly life-long challenge of diabetes mellitus, which he developed when he was only three years-old. I should add that Garl’s wife Judy also was employed at the SMHS Harley E. French Library as assistant director and collection management librarian from 1992-2008. Our thoughts are with Judy and her family during this difficult time. A service in Garl’s memory will be held tomorrow, Oct. 8, at 1 p.m., in the Sanctuary at Unity Church in St. Paul, Minn., and via livestream.

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