For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Learn, Serve, Lead

I’m looking forward to attending the upcoming annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in two weeks, along with about a dozen of my colleagues from the UND SMHS. Known as “Learn, Serve, Lead,” this event will be the first AAMC annual meeting I’ve attended since 2019 due to the pandemic. The AAMC, by the way, is a national organization that provides outstanding support to U.S. medical schools and beyond. The annual meeting is an opportunity for the medical school community across the country – administration, faculty, staff, and students – to come together to share insights on best practices in education, research, and scholarship, coordination with healthcare delivery organizations, and service to the community. The meeting consists of talks, focus group meetings, and informal hallway encounters that often are the most valuable part of the meeting. In addition, we’ll host a reception in conjunction with the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine where we also will welcome any alumni who live in the area (although we aren’t expecting many alumni as the meeting is in Seattle).

A wide variety of topics are discussed at the meeting, but there are a few that are especially interesting and relevant to our school. Here are some of the areas where I’ll be devoting my time and focus during the meeting:

  • The use of artificial intelligence/machine learning, both in education and in healthcare delivery. As you are well aware, there has been a flood of news coverage recently about AI that has emphasized both the potential as well as the concerns about this rapidly expanding enterprise. I fear that too many think of AI as an issue for the future. From my standpoint, that future is here!
  • The use of simulation in the education of medical students, residents, staff, and other practitioners. We have a very active and robust Simulation Center here at the School, and its director, Dr. Jon Allen, also a professor for the School, is on tap to lead one of the presentations on simulation. That’s an indication of how highly our simulation effort is viewed nationally.
  • Approaches to enhancing the student experience, especially for making students more comfortable in treating patients who come from different backgrounds. This issue is an especially important one for our students at the SMHS, in view of the relatively homogenous patient population in the state (from a demographic standpoint), but what is notable is that this concern is common elsewhere, even at medical schools located in regions with very diverse patient populations.
  • Efforts to limit student debt, an issue that we’ve taken on directly as we believe that reducing debt increases the likelihood that graduates will remain in-state for practice – and we have data to support this premise. We hope to learn about approaches that other schools are using.
  • What other schools are doing to enhance pathway programs intended to increase the flow of students to the health professions, especially students who otherwise might not consider such a career choice (in our case, rural and/or Indigenous students). We already have a number of these programs – from our Scrubs Academy to regularly hosting area high schoolers for events and tours – but I hope to learn if there are any other options we should consider.

This is a small sample of the interesting and exciting topics that will be discussed at the AAMC meeting. To maximize the opportunity for the team members from the SMHS to share and compare notes and impressions from the meeting, we will hold a debriefing following the meeting (as we have in the past) where all attendees share what they’ve learned at the AAMC meeting. Following that debrief, I’ll provide an update in a future For Your Health column, probably around the middle of November. More to come!

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