For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Java with Josh follow-up

Earlier this week we again held a virtual get-together of the UND SMHS community in the latest iteration of our bi-monthly Java with Josh meetings. You can see a recording of the event here. In the past we held these conversations in-person in the Grand Forks building, but when the COVID pandemic hit almost three years ago, we switched to a virtual format. As I’ve indicated before, the change to a virtual approach has enabled many more folks to participate – this past Tuesday we had a peak of 97 people online, significantly more than we had with the traditional in-person approach. In discussions with Brian Schill, director of our Office of Alumni and Community Relations (the individual who organizes and oversees these events), we plan to continue a hybrid approach even when we resume the in-person format; that is, we plan to have a video link available in addition to the in-person meeting.

I discussed a variety of topics and addressed a number of questions and comments. I updated the group on our ongoing planning for the upcoming legislative session that starts in January. Actually, formal activity begins in early December when the legislature holds its so-called Pre-Session on Dec. 7 – 9, 2022. I plan to be in Bismarck to meet with the legislators before the actual session starts on Jan. 2, 2023, and hope to discuss with them our annual report Vital Signs, the 2022 version of which is almost ready to be printed and distributed across the state. Our budget submission is in good shape, and a recent meeting to go over it with the state Office of Management and Budget (OMB) went well. The School has endorsed the North Dakota University System’s request for a 5% annual merit budget pool for each year of the biennium, and its request that the portion of that merit budget pool that is derived from student tuition instead be defrayed by appropriated dollars. These two requests thus work to diminish the damaging impact of inflation on our faculty and staff, and simultaneously avoids transferring the burden to students who are struggling with the impact of inflation as well.

One of the questions that came up related to the hybrid work arrangements that some faculty and staff have. As you know, the pandemic changed the way we – and most of the business world – conduct our personal and professional activities. There have been any number of articles and studies in the corporate world about the impact – positive or negative – of hybrid and virtual work arrangements. It’s my take on reading many of those studies – as well as my own observations as to how we are doing things at the UND SMHS – that a properly structured hybrid workplace policy yields productivity gains for the organization. Especially for team members with children, the flexibility that working remotely affords actually results in better employee performance than insisting on an in-person presence all the time.

Accordingly, in an effort to ensure that we approach this issue in a fair, equitable, and consistent manner, the School plans to update its hybrid workplace policy after coordinating with Human Resources, UND leadership, and President Armacost. I hope that before the end of 2022 we’ll have an updated approach to this issue that simultaneously achieves two goals: first, that of consistency across the UND SMHS organization; and second, delegating the decision-making on this issue to the leadership of our constituent departments, units, and centers.

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