For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: From one Commencement to the next

Last Saturday we welcomed 65 new physicians into the medical profession during the UND SMHS Medical Doctor Commencement ceremony, and tomorrow we will graduate more than 240 health sciences and graduate students during UND Spring Commencement. The guest speaker at last week’s event, selected by the graduating medical students as their commencement speaker, was Dr. Jon Allen, Professor of Medicine and Director of our Simulation Center. Looking back over his phenomenal career (as Jon will be retiring at the end of the current academic year this June), Dr. Allen gave a poignant, personal, and thoughtful assessment of what’s important and enduring as a health professional. He told two moving stories about patients he had cared for – in one case, Jon’s persistence in getting to the bottom of something he observed almost certainly saved the patient’s life, and in the other case, his sensitivity to the patient’s wishes allowed that patient to pass away at peace, with his family around him, and with his last wish fulfilled.

Tomorrow’s two commencement events will be similarly memorable, I’m sure. The commencement speaker will be North Dakota native Chuck Klosterman, a prominent journalist and author who graduated from UND in 1994. Honorary degrees also will be bestowed on four individuals, including Mr. Klosterman; Lynn Lucklow, ’71; Denise Flanagan, ’90; and Bob Mau. Both the graduate student commencement in the morning and undergraduate commencement in the afternoon promise to be rewarding events.

Between the two weekend events, this past Tuesday UND recognized many long-serving staff members during its Staff Recognition Ceremony. Staff from across campus were recognized for their multiple years of service (from five through forty-five years). Apparently next year UND will honor a fifty-year employee! This year, the SMHS had 14 five-year, nine 10-year, and five 15-year honorees – and one 20, one 25, two 30, and four 40-year honorees. Well done to all – and thank you! I should also note that Devon Olson, research and education librarian with SMHS Library Resources, took home a Staff Meritorious Service Award from UND. Amazing!

Things quiet down somewhat following the commencement celebrations tomorrow, but there are some exciting events upcoming. First up on Monday is the ninth annual UND Epigenetics Symposium to be held in the University of North Dakota Memorial Union. The symposium is sponsored by the Epigenomics Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) at the School. The CoBRE program was established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to promote collaboration among researchers and strengthen research infrastructure at biomedical research institutions such as ours. Epigenetics and epigenomics, by the way, deal with changes in how cellular genes express themselves, apart from changes in the genes themselves. Symposium participants are expected from around the Midwest who will share their research on epigenetic mechanisms in health and disease. Invited speakers include keynote speaker Dr. Lu Bai from Penn State University; Dr. Yekaterina Miroshnikova from the NIH, who is the UND Presidential Speaker; Dr. Evgeny Kvon from the University of California – Irvine; Dr. Aussie Suzuki from the University of Wisconsin; and Dr. Sarah Hainer of the University of Pittsburgh. It promises to be an exciting and instructive session.

Finally, a on very sad note, we note the passing a few days ago of Dr. Whitney Morgan Temple, a graduate of the School (M.D. 2020) and physician at the Altru Family Medicine Residency. Dr. Temple was only 33 years-old when she passed away. She will be missed.

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