For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: The power of community

I attended three notable events worth reporting on this past week. The first took place a week ago Saturday when UND hosted the annual Feast of Nations event at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Susan and I really enjoy this event, although this was the first time we were able to attend since the pandemic started three years ago. Our enthusiasm for the event was shared by folks from UND and the community, as the place was packed! There was entertainment and food representing a variety of countries, and the event offered a terrific opportunity to chat with and learn from students, faculty, staff and others who hail from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. The SMHS sponsored two tables, and the seats we offered to the SMHS family were snapped up very quickly. I think we’ll need to get a table or two more next year, as the desire to attend was great. I hope that you plan on attending next year too if you have not yet had the opportunity to do so.

The second event was on Tuesday, when I testified about our budget in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee Education and Environmental Division. The SMHS was given the floor just after President Armacost’s presentation on behalf of UND. The President was joined by Vice President Stewart, and we had Namil Choi and Terry Nelson available as well online. The presentation seemed to go well; one senator on the committee offered some spontaneous but very complementary comments regarding the school’s efforts to retain graduates for practice within the state. One of the newer aspects of the budget process that I needed to address was a concurrent resolution related to the mill levy on property taxes that currently generates almost $11 million for the SMHS this biennium. The intent of the resolution is to eliminate levies such as ours, but I emphasized to the committee that if this were done, we would need alternate state funding to keep the school’s finances whole. There was no indication that the issue behind this resolution was any concern regarding the level of funding for the school; rather, it was about the method of funding, not the amount. Even if the resolution is approved, it still would be subject to popular vote, and even if approved, would not become effective until 2025. So, we have time to work on the issue – if it remains an issue.

In any event, you can view my slide deck presentation here. As I’ve indicated previously, we won’t know the final outcome of the legislative process until late April, but so far so good.

The last event took place late Wednesday afternoon at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks and was titled “The Power of Our Community: How UND responded to and was affected by the pandemic.” There was a nice crowd on hand to listen as Grand Forks Herald columnist Chuck Haga presented a video montage of the highlights from 50 interviews he did with various members of the UND and Grand Forks communities (including me!) who were involved in responding to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The other component of the event was a display of photographs taken during the pandemic that were organized into an exhibit by Sarah Heitkamp, curator of UND Art Collections, and Zeineb Yousif, digital initiatives librarian at the Chester Fritz Library. They helped Chuck document and archive UND’s response to the pandemic.

The main take-away message that I got from the event was that we made it through the stresses of the most dire aspects of the pandemic by coming together, joining hands (literally when needed as well as figuratively), and communicating with each other in as transparent and honest manner as possible, even when those of us who were looked upon as “experts” didn’t have certain answers to many of the very legitimate questions we were being asked at the time.

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