For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: The latest from Bismarck

Today is the 56th day that the North Dakota legislature has been in session. The biennial session ordinarily is limited to 80 days, so the last day that the legislature can meet this year is Thursday, May 4. The members usually like to hold a few days in reserve, so I’d guess that they will try to wrap things up by Friday, April 28. That means a lot of work for the senators and representatives (and staff) over the next four weeks!

We had what likely will be our final appearance before this year’s Legislative Assembly yesterday. President Armacost (on behalf of UND) and I (on behalf of the SMHS) testified again in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Education and Environmental Division and answered any remaining questions from the members. Things seemed to go well, and the budget status of the SMHS appears to be stable and solid. One development of note is that the Senate Concurrent Resolution 4019 that would have eliminated the mill levy on property taxes that generates almost $11 million for the School was reviewed again by the House and was voted down (after the House initially passed the measure). Unless something changes, the defeat of the resolution means that this important source of funding for the School will remain intact and without the need for us to seek alternate state funding sources as would be necessary if it had been approved and adopted through an eventual affirmative vote by the citizens of the state.

It turns out that dealing with financing woes of one sort or another was one of the top agenda items discussed at the annual meeting of the Council of Deans (COD) that I attended at the end of last week. The COD is one of a variety of organizations organized by and coordinated through the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). I was expecting that any number of other issues – like diversity initiatives, student well-being issues, leadership training programs, the challenges of team science, and accreditation – would have taken center stage. While these and many other issues were discussed quite a bit, financial issues seemed to be a recurring theme.

Fortunately for North Dakota, the financial underpinnings of the UND SMHS are quite different from those at most other U.S. medical schools, especially regarding the amount of state support and the proportion of our overall revenue that we derive from patient care activities. For most medical schools, the amount of financial support coming from the state or a parent organization (such as the university) is relatively small, and the amount of revenue coming from patient care activities is quite large – often 40% or more of total revenues. We are just the opposite – we derive over a third of our total revenue from the state (32% from state appropriations and 5% from the mill levy) and less than 10% from clinical patient-care revenue. Accordingly, we are able to be effective in our educational programs only because of the generosity and sacrifice of many clinical faculty members across the state who are often employed by one of our affiliated healthcare systems. They volunteer to teach and mentor our students even though UND does not directly employ them – as is the case at many other medical and health sciences schools with large associated clinical operations. So, thanks again to all of the clinical faculty out there who practice what you preach by fulfilling the Hippocratic Oath  “…to teach what I have learned.” And happy National Doctors’ Day (celebrated yesterday) to all the physicians across North Dakota and elsewhere who help individuals with their health and thus support their communities.

We truly couldn’t do it without you – thank you!

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