For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Good things come in threes

I’d like to note three important events from this week. The first occurred last weekend, when the North Dakota Legislature adjourned until 2025. The second is ongoing from yesterday and is the spring meeting of the Board of Directors (of which I am one) of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation. The last big event is graduation for the medical student Class of 2023, which takes place tomorrow.

To begin with the legislature, some of the bills that were approved by North Dakota’s 68th Legislative Assembly are vitally important to the SMHS, especially House Bill 1003 that provides appropriated state funding for the School. I’m not going to address some of the more controversial bills that passed that really are not especially relevant to the medical program curriculum, but HB 1003 is essential to the operations of the SMHS, as it provides state appropriated funding for School operations that account for about one third of our overall revenue. We very much appreciate the thoughtfulness of the legislature, as it generously increased our funding by about 19%. An important driver for this increase was the significant inflation that our faculty and staff – and all of you! – have endured for some time. Funding was provided for a six-percent salary merit pool for the first year of the coming biennium and four-percent in the second that allows us to increase staff and faculty salaries substantially. Financial relief also was provided for students, as the portion of the salary merit increase that ordinarily would have been provided by a tuition increase also was provided by the legislature. So faculty, staff, and students all benefited from this funding determination.

The School also will receive almost $2 million in additional programmatic funding through the student credit hour formula that rewards institutions that increase their student credit hour production, as the SMHS did. By the way, as you may have read in the newspaper, both UND and NDSU actually had a decrease in student credit hour formula funding.

We are very grateful for the $12.7 million increase in funding from the state (assuming that Governor Burgum signs the bill and it becomes law, which is a reasonable assumption) that will bring our total appropriated funding to some $80.9 million for the upcoming biennium. It will help us not only maintain but expand the educational, research, and service efforts of the School, and allow us to better serve the people of this great state.

The second event also provides essential support for the School and relates to the fantastic efforts of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation. The board members – all of whom are volunteers – generously donate their time, and more, in demonstration of their passion for UND. Thanks to the efforts of the Foundation, its board members and staff, and our generous donors, we have been able to substantially mitigate student debt that in the past had been well above the national average for our medical students, for example. The Foundation does a phenomenal job of connecting with possible donors and assisting them as they consider gifts. Our Director of Development, Jeff Dodson, works effectively with me and the entire SMHS family to connect the School with our potential donors. The results of these efforts have been stellar!

Finally, tomorrow (and next week for graduating seniors from our other programs) we see the culmination of our educational efforts as the members of medical student Class of 2023 graduate and head into residency (post-MD degree training required to obtain licensure in any state). The 75 seniors who will graduate tomorrow have done a terrific job navigating the pandemic and adjusting to a major but needed revision to the medical program curriculum. In my address to them tomorrow, I’ll compliment them on not only persevering but excelling. The students joined hands with our faculty and staff to work together to address these challenges. Well done, class!

As this spring semester winds down, the activities of the School do not. We already are preparing for the crop of new students that will start arriving on campus as early as July 3, 2023, when the freshman members of the medical student Class of 2027 start classes. I and my colleagues can hardly wait!

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