For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Work-life balance and the M.D. Class of 2027

Happy Bastille Day!

It’s been a whirlwind first week and a half for the first-year medical students in the Class of 2027. And we await with enthusiasm the arrival of new students in our other health sciences programs later this summer, who join the new Doctor of Physical Therapy students already on campus! Two days ago (Wednesday), my wife Dr. Susan Farkas and I held our traditional welcome reception for first-year medical students in the Gorecki Center on the UND Grand Forks campus. It was a wonderful event, with many questions and lots of good discussions. Susan and I split up for the event and wander around the room so that one of us meets and greets essentially every new student. One of the common questions we both heard was about how one balances work and personal life, and we each tried to answer as best we could. I must confess though that in our own personal life we don’t always get the balance right and when we don’t, it invariably tilts toward work!

Two especially exciting events are on tap today for the new students. This morning they will meet Ben, the patient whose case they have been studying this past week. As part of our Patient Centered Learning (PCL) experience, the students are presented the facts of a real case and they then engage in a learning experience regarding both the medical and experiential aspects of the patient experience. I serve as the faculty facilitator for the Wrap-Up session today when the students will meet Ben and have a chance to interact directly with him. Ben is the actual patient in the case history, and his medical problem occurred when he was nine years old. He and his parents have been kind enough to do this PCL exercise with us the past 15 or so medical student classes! It’s yet another wonderful example of how generous people are with their time as they help educate the next generation of health care providers. By the way, similar gratitude is extended to the many clinical faculty around the state and the region who help educate our students as they go out on their clinical and fieldwork rotations.

Following PCL Wrap-Up, we will spend the afternoon today with the families and friends of the new students during our Family Day event. The goal of the various presentations is to introduce the students and their families to what’s ahead of them, and to provide some pointers from current students as to recommended “dos and don’ts.” I will kick off the event with an overview of the SMHS, reviewing the School’s maturation over the years, where we are now, and where we hope to go in the future. Because student debt is such a concern to most students, I’ll spend some time outlining the progress we’ve made over the years in reducing the level of educational debt of our students compared with other medical students in the U.S. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been successful in driving down the median debt of our students from well above the national average to well below. (For the last full academic year (2023), we were at the 29th percentile, meaning that the debt of our medical students is lower than that of almost three-quarters of the med students at other schools).

The final event this week is the White Coat Ceremony that will be held tonight. The White Coat Ceremony was initiated on August 20, 1993, at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. Since then, it has become a tradition at almost all medical schools in the United States. The White Coat Ceremony has been promoted and supported by the late Dr. Arnold Gold, a former pediatric neurologist, who serves as the namesake for the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. The Arnold P. Gold Foundation promotes humanism in medicine and has supported White Coat ceremonies across the nation to remind medical students of the unique and special responsibilities of physicians to their patients and to society as symbolized by the white coat. It promises to be a wonderful event, and we top off this busy week with a supper for the students and their families.

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