For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Our year of gratitude

As you may recall, the recently concluded academic year had been dubbed “The Year of Gratitude” by UND President Andy Armacost. We recently witnessed two amazing expressions of gratitude, the first by the Medical Student Class of 2026 and the second by the staff of the SMHS to recognize the thoughtfulness and caring of the students. The seminal event was a fantastic and somewhat spontaneous one that took place on our Northeast Campus recently. In celebration of World Facilities Management Day last week, the Medical Student Class of 2026, on its own accord and without any outside encouragement, presented “Thank you” cards and treats to 12 custodial staff and the facilities/maintenance crew at the SMHS building in Grand Forks.

Inspired by this act of kindness, the SMHS administration sponsored an impromptu end-of-academic-year pizza lunch for all SMHS students, staff, and faculty still on the UND campus this past Tuesday in recognition of the thoughtfulness of the medical student Class of 2026 and their expression of gratitude. Several boxes of all varieties of Deek’s pizza – from pepperoni and gluten free crust to dairy free and vegetarian pizza – were provided to faculty, staff, and students. It was a great way to close the academic year and produced a lot of smiles and notes of appreciation – and full stomachs! So thank you to our School’s Associate Dean for Administration & Finance, Namil Choi, for the idea, and to Student Affairs Officer Emily Evers, from our Office of Students Affairs & Admissions, for managing this great event.

Gratitude also is in order to the organizers and participants in the 8th Annual Epigenetics and Epigenomics Symposium that was held last week on May 18 and 19 in UND’s Memorial Union. Epigenetics, the study of how cell function may be altered and regulated without changes in the DNA code that provides the blueprint for genetic control of cells, is a burgeoning field with a lot of productive research findings already in the books and more studies in progress. The SMHS has a large Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) grant funded through the National Institutes of Health studying epigenetic mechanisms, and many of our investigators presented at the symposium. Highlights of the symposium were the presentations of visiting nationally (and internationally) recognized epigeneticists Pedro Rocha, Ph.D., from the National Institutes of Health (who was the University of North Dakota Presidential Sponsored Speaker), Danesh Moazed, Ph.D., of Harvard University (who gave the Keynote Address), and Sandipan Brahma, Ph.D., from the University of Nebraska. Due to a variety of conflicting commitments, I only was able to attend part of the symposium, but I was present for and really enjoyed the presentation by Dr. Rocha. By all accounts the symposium was a great success and enjoyed by the participants.

Thanks for a rousing end to the academic year. The proclaimed Year of Gratitude ended on a high note – and gratitude is extended to all!

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