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

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Northwood Deaconess Health Center physician Dr. Erika Stein named ‘preceptor of the year’ by third-year medical students

It was the last thing the Northwood, N.D., based physician expected.

Dr. Erika Stein, family physician at Northwood Deaconess Health Center, has been named the 2023 namesake preceptor for the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) Preceptor Recognition Student Scholarship Program.

“Thank you so much – the students did not have to do that,” said Stein upon being told over Zoom that she had been named the SMHS “Preceptor of the Year.” “They make it so easy [to precept]. It’s so amazing to have UND students. They just excel. They’re patient centered, and just top notch.”

Founded in 2021, the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences Preceptor Recognition Student Scholarship Program is funded by a $100,000 endowment at the UND Alumni Association & Foundation (AAF). The endowment produces approximately $3,750 annually for medical student scholarships.

Part of the endowment’s expectation is that it asks medical students to select, at the end of their third-year clerkships, their favorite preceptor (or clinical instructor) based on their clinical rotations. The following May, these now graduating medical students reunite with their chosen preceptor when a scholarship is given in the chosen preceptor’s name to the second-year UND medical student(s) who earned the highest scores in the first 20 months (Phase 1) of their class’s four-year curriculum.

Current third-year students then get an opportunity to select a different preceptor next year, and a student from the MD Class of 2027 will receive a scholarship in that new preceptor’s name in May 2025, and so on.

It’s easy to see why last year’s third-year students chose Stein.

A Langdon, N.D., native who completed her undergraduate training, medical education, and residency in Grand Forks, Stein said that she chose to practice in a rural community because she found, in residency, that she thrived best in a fast-paced, multiprofessional environment where everyone knows everyone else.

This is exactly what Northwood has in spades, she said.

“One of my friends, who is originally from here, said ‘Just feel out Northwood before you sign-on anywhere else. You’re going see a wide variety of cases and do everything and still get to visit with every specialist,’” Stein explained from her office in Northwood. “So I came out here and I liked everyone. I get the best of both worlds in Northwood because I’m still picking up the phone almost every day and working closely with Altru, working closely with Sanford Health, and it’s really fun. I get to learn every day.”

Part of that everyday learning includes teaching the next generation, said Stein, who has been intentional about taking on as many medical and other health professions students as possible.

“I try to have as many students as I can,” she continued. “I was a student too, and if I can provide any help, that’s what I’m here for. I like to show students Northwood because it’s a different pace here. We do clinic, we do hospital, nursing home, and ER. Being the only doctor here, I tend to be the sounding board for almost everything – patient cases run by me every hour. I just tell students when they come with me, ‘you’re going to see it all.’”

Congratulating Stein on the Zoom call was SMHS Director of Development, Jeff Dodson, who explained why the opportunity to recognize clinical faculty like Stein is so important to his mission at the AAF.

“When I talk with our donors who provide funding for these programs and people at UND, it’s always good for me to be able to give them real life examples of what their gift is doing,” Dodson said. “I worked with a donor in Minneapolis who created this scholarship because he wanted to do something to help honor UND students as well as the preceptors who work with our students. And I can already tell that Dr. Stein is going to be a very influential preceptor and mentor for a lot of our students.”

Waving away the praise, Stein thanked her former students, reiterating that the honor was “totally unexpected.”

“Students – thank you so much. I love having you all in clinic. It’s a real joy.”

by Brian James Schill