For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Reducing debt and increasing gifts

I had a most fulfilling experience recently as I read some of the thank you notes that students at the UND SMHS sent to donors who provided scholarship and other financial support to the students for their studies here. As you may know, the cost of higher education has skyrocketed in general and has placed an added burden on many students – and I’m not just talking about health sciences and medical students here at the SMHS.

We have worked hard to drive down the cost of student tuition and fees and make the financial burden as low as possible. Using the example of in-state medical students (those who hail from North Dakota), about 90% of medical students at all the other medical schools in the U.S. pay more in tuition costs than do those at the SMHS, as shown in the graph below using national data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Note that the data are presented on a percentile basis, where the cost to attend for our students is compared with that for students at all other U.S. medical schools:

But even as we try to keep the costs as low as possible, many students still struggle with their debt load. This is where philanthropy can play such a big role – by making scholarship support available to our students, we can reduce student debt (and the stress associated with it!).

The second graph below shows some of the impact donors have made on the cumulative debt load of, in this case, medical students. This graph, also based on AAMC data, shows the median debt of graduating medical students from 2010 until the present. As in the graph above, the data are presented on a percentile basis, where the debt of our students is compared with that of students at all other U.S. medical schools. Note that we were well above the national average a decade ago (at around the 75th percentile) and we currently are well below the national average (at around the 30th percentile):

By the way, an additional important mitigating factor has been the generosity of the North Dakota Legislature, which has provided funding for our RuralMed program where graduating medical students who stay in North Dakota to practice after finishing their residency training have their tuition expenses abrogated.

Thus, it is clear that we can make a difference. We (and our students!) are most grateful for the many generous donations that have been made to the UND Alumni Association and Foundation for the benefit of the students and programs at the School. If you would like to discuss a possible donation, feel free to contact Jeff Dodson, the Director of Development for the SMHS, through the UND Alumni Association & Foundation at 701.777.5512 or

Another option is to make a donation through the Giving Hearts Day program sponsored by Dakota Medical Foundation. This annual event is a 24-hour fundraiser held on the second Thursday of every February since 2008 in support of a wide variety of causes. But guess what? You no longer have to wait until Feb. 8 to make your donation; you can do it now!

If you’d like to do so, you can make an online donation to the UND SMHS through the Giving Hearts Day program by following these simple steps:

  • Click this link
  • Designate your donation for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences in the amount of your choice
  • Select “Add to Cart” and then “Checkout”
  • If you’d like to designate a specific program or department (such as “medical student scholarship fund” or “physician assistant program”), you can do so at the Checkout/Cart stage

Thank you for considering a donation, and special thanks to all of you who have already given, especially our long-time donors. We appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity!

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