For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Rounding out the year

The winter academic semester at UND ends today. It has been a busy week! Winter Commencement for undergraduates takes place today, with two ceremonies – the first is at 1 p.m. and is for the following UND schools and colleges: Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Mines, Nursing and Professional Disciplines, and Medicine and Health Sciences. The second ceremony takes place at 4 p.m. and is for Aerospace Sciences, Business and Public Administration, and Education and Human Development. The commencement event for professional and graduate degrees took place yesterday.

That same evening, the SMHS held the last of its holiday parties that we’ve held at each of our four regional campuses (Grand Forks, Fargo, Bismarck, and Minot). Yesterday’s event was in Bismarck and followed the gathering in Minot on Tuesday night. As you may recall, we held similar gatherings last week in Grand Forks and Fargo, along with the holiday luncheon event we held on the UND campus that drew about 450 attendees!

The turnout at all of our events has been robust and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We’ve welcomed faculty, staff, students, legislators, and friends to each of these events. I was especially pleased to welcome and chat with many voluntary clinical faculty members who play such an important role in the education of our medical and health sciences students. Several representatives from various hospital systems showed up as well. These events are great opportunities to visit with people from various backgrounds and constituencies and share ideas. Thanks to all who joined us at these enjoyable gatherings!

The other big event this week was the last meeting for calendar year 2023 of the SMHS Advisory Council. As you may recall, the Advisory Council is a legislatively mandated group of 16 individuals interested in healthcare and the education of healthcare practitioners who come together at least twice a year to advise the SMHS, UND, the legislature, and the various organizations that have representation on the Advisory Council (like the North Dakota Medical and Hospital Associations, the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services, the State Board of Higher Education, and the North Dakota Center for Nursing) on matters related to the activities of the SMHS.

We discussed five agenda items. The first was to update the group regarding the timeline for the search for my successor as vice president for Health Affairs and dean of the SMHS. President Armacost has named UND Vice President for Student Affairs Art Malloy and UND College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines Dean Maridee Shogren as co-chairs of the search committee. The search process will begin in earnest after the holidays.

The second agenda item was an update that Namil Choi, associate dean for Administration and Finance and Chief Operating Officer, and I presented regarding the status of the educational, research, and service functions of the School. This discussion was followed by Brian Schill, director of the Office of Alumni and Community Relations, who summarized the findings in our recently released Vital Signs, the School’s Community Report for 2023. If you haven’t received or seen a copy of this summary of accomplishments (and challenges) of the SMHS, you can read a copy here.

The fourth discussion point related to future facility and organization planning for allied health-related educational efforts at UND. As you may know, one of the pedagogical themes we stress at the SMHS is interprofessional collaboration in both the educational and clinical practice realms of healthcare, so this was a welcome discussion.

The last item was an update on our planning for making hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) available in the state. As you may recall, the SMHS was given funds during the last legislative session to expand these services, along with implementing research protocols to evaluate the potential efficacy of HBOT in various conditions that currently are not approved for reimbursement by the payors due to this very lack of data.

The meeting overall was productive, with a good exchange of questions, answers, and much discussion.

With the end of the fall semester today and the upcoming holiday break in UND activities for the next few weeks, this will be my last column for 2023. The next one will appear on Jan. 5, 2024. Until then, Susan and I wish you a wonderful holiday season. Thank you for being part of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences extended family. All the best in the New Year!

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