For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Humans and machines in medicine

Last week I attended the annual meeting of the Council of Deans, sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). More than two-thirds of all North American medical school deans attended the meeting, and there was a general consensus that it was a quite successful meeting. Enough time was allowed for us to network with each other as well as discuss items of importance with the AAMC staff. It was a busy time, with meetings from early morning until late afternoon. There were presentations by various speakers, but also small group sessions with a lot of back and forth between the presenters and the members of the audience.

Two themes were noteworthy, the first dealing with the scientific aspect of medicine and the second dealing with the humanistic component. On the scientific front, we spent a good deal of time on the current and future role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the healthcare enterprise, including its impact on teaching and learning, patient care, and research. I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Lloyd Minor, dean of Stanford Medical School, who is overseeing an aggressive and wide-ranging initiative on AI. He connected me with two of his colleagues who are involved in Stanford’s AI effort, and we held a video conference earlier this week. These colleagues mentioned a Stanford-sponsored conference on AI that is scheduled in May, and Dr. Minor extended a personal invitation to me to attend. I’m trying to adjust my calendar so that I can go out to Stanford and learn more. It is certain that AI is one of the major emerging issues in healthcare, so I’m excited that we are getting more involved at UND. We’ll get a big boost in our effort to expand our own AI activities if a major grant comes through that Junguk Hur, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, and his colleagues recently submitted to investigate further the role of AI in bioinformatics.

On the humanistic side, we heard a wonderful presentation by Dr. Stephen Trzeciak, professor, chair, and chief of medicine at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and Cooper University Health Care, who discussed the importance of compassion in the healthcare delivery space. One of the interesting aspects of Dr. Trzeciak’s professional journey is that he is a critical care specialist who in the past has studied how low blood oxygen levels damage the brain and other vital organs after cardiac arrest. But his entire focus has shifted more recently to studying how compassion and the delivery of compassionate care actually can improve patient outcomes in measurable ways, not to mention the important positive effects it has on patient satisfaction and even provider wellbeing. Given our concern with student and provider wellness and burnout, it seemed clear from the presentation that encouraging, facilitating, and demonstrating care and compassion to our patients has many real, demonstrable, and positive effects – on both patients and care providers. I am reminded of a quote I often cite at graduation ceremonies for our students that was expressed years ago by Boston physician Dr. Francis W. Peabody. Nearly a century ago, Dr. Peabody intoned that the “secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.” Those words still ring true today.

And speaking of patient care, congratulations to our soon-to-be physicians, the members of the medical student class of 2024, following the recent residency match announcement. As you undoubtedly know, graduating medical students need to complete a three to five (or more) year residency (or residencies) before they can practice a given specialty. They are “matched” with a resident slot principally through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) using a computer-based algorithm that matches students with their most desired residency program that has an available opening for them. Our students had a fantastic match, and they’ll be going to our own residencies in-state as well as wonderful programs elsewhere. Students who matched outside of North Dakota will be going to such esteemed programs as those at Stanford University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and Mayo Clinic. The two most popular specialties for our students were internal medicine (24% of the class) and family medicine (18%). Congratulations to all on a great match, and best wishes for the future!

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