For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Reporting back from ‘Learn Serve Lead’

We just held our debriefing session for those of us who attended the recent Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) annual meeting known as Learn Serve Lead. We joined over 4,500 colleagues from medical schools across the country to compare best practices and discuss common challenges. As promised in a prior column, what follows is a summary of some of the themes that emerged as we each shared notes on what each of us heard and discussed at the meeting. The summary below thus represents the combined experiences of about a dozen attendees. Also please note that the items reviewed below really are generic to health education and not specific to the medical doctor educational program.

  • The first session that I attended was a breakfast session for community-based medical schools like ours, and the topic was “What keeps you up at night?” Several of us felt that the greatest challenge was getting enough clinical placements for our students, while some of the other participants were more worried about finances (which, thanks to the phenomenal support we get in the form of appropriated funding from the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, is less of an issue for us). We explored options to try to ensure an adequate number of clinical slots and clinical preceptors for our students. One idea that I proposed was that we try to coordinate more formally with other programs looking for clinical slots (like nursing, pharmacy, and physician assistant studies) and try to take a more “team-based” approach to the learning model. This idea seemed to resonate with the group, and thus we plan to explore this approach with the other health education programs and our clinical affiliates in the state.
  • A related issue was the projected healthcare workforce shortages over the next decade or so; if anything, the shortages look worse than previously estimated. Interestingly, the modeling that has been done by the AAMC makes no adjustment whatsoever for the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI), wearable patient devices, or other new technology. I found this surprising, as I and others have suggested that there will be a major impact of these new and evolving technologies on healthcare delivery, the health of the population, and healthcare workforce needs. So, we will continue our vigorous efforts to expand the healthcare workforce, but we also hope to complement those efforts with exploring new technological advances that may well mitigate some of the projected people shortages.
  • Another issue that was discussed at some length was that of tenure. As you may be aware, there have been some issues related to tenure within the North Dakota University System, so the discussion was timely and relevant. Interestingly, national data (at least at medical schools) shows two key findings: first, we are like most other schools in that tenure (or a tenure-track slot) is much more common in basic science departments than in clinical ones; and second, the fraction of total positions covered by tenure across the country has shrunk over time, mainly due to the addition of new medical schools that have a much more limited tenure structure than more “traditional” schools. Regardless, I think the tenure model and process we follow at the School is important, necessary, and appropriate, especially as we compete with other schools for talent.
  • There was substantial discussion around the recent Supreme Court decision regarding “race conscious” admissions at the University of North Carolina and Harvard. Importantly, it was reconfirmed that our Indians Into Medicine (INMED) program and other programs related to Indigenous students are not impacted by this decision as the Indigenous criterion is considered a political and not a racial/ethnic designation.
  • An interesting development was noted in the assessment arena related to the evaluation both of learners and teachers/mentors/preceptors. These processes often focus on identifying deficiencies or areas for improvement. But the concept that was promulgated is to recognize and highlight superior – not just problematic – performance. Termed “above and beyond,” the idea is to highlight outstanding efforts, and not just focus on perceived shortcomings. This sounds good to me – I always prefer the carrot to the stick!
  • Finally, another important theme that we discussed related to the importance of adequate preparations for crises of various forms, both from a preparedness standpoint as well as a communication standpoint. I think that UND and the SMHS are reasonably positioned in both regards, but the discussion is prompting us to take an even harder look at how we might respond to a variety of potential crises, the most worrisome obviously being a threat to our students, faculty, and staff.

All in all, we all felt that the debrief meeting was a quite productive interaction and discussion, and reflected the excellence of the national AAMC meeting.

Finally, don’t forget about the School’s annual holiday luncheon, to be held starting at 11:30 a.m. on the first floor of the SMHS building in Grand Forks, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, and the annual holiday gatherings the School sponsors on each of our four campuses across the state. Consider this your personal invite!

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