For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Reimagining higher education

In my column from a few weeks ago, I mentioned that the North Dakota University System (NDUS), in conjunction with the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE), is planning to update its current strategic visioning document (called Envision 2030) to run through 2035. Envision 2035, as it is called, will be the blueprint for how the 11 institutions that comprise the NDUS will address the educational needs and priorities involved in educating our students over the next dozen or more years.

As I mentioned previously, I have been asked to work with Dr. Pamela Jo Johnson of NDSU and Dr. Casey Ryan of the SBHE to organize a working group of experts to envision what healthcare education should look like as we move forward. We are making good progress on assembling both the working group as well as contacting other experts and thought leaders whom we plan to interview. Thus, I’m pleased with our progress over the past few weeks.

But just as I was starting to feel comfortable with our pace, two developments shook me up somewhat. Both relate to the burgeoning issue of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. First, just two days ago UND sent an email to the UND community briefing all of us on some of the complex issues – both wonderful and worrisome – related to generative AI, the ability of the computer to compose and formulate “intelligent” text.

Second, a perspective was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “AI and Medical Education – a 21st Century Pandora’s Box” (DOI 10.1056/NEJMp2304993). The paper highlighted both the opportunities and threats of AI in medical education (hence, the paradox) but made the strident point that the impact of AI in medical education isn’t something to be addressed solely in a strategic planning exercise that extends through 2035. Rather, the paper argues that a “Pandora’s box has already opened” and we need to better address the AI issue in education (and elsewhere) in an expedited manner.

Now that the UND campus is coming back to full occupancy with the start of the fall semester next week, I think we need to heed these signals and amplify our attention to this rapidly evolving field while sustaining our commitment to humanism in the delivery of healthcare. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please send them along. More to come – soon – on this topic.

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