For Your Health
For Your Health

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

UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences recognizes more than 240 graduating health sciences students

In addition to the 65 new medical doctors graduating from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) this month, the School is recognizing more than 240 students from its health sciences programs who are graduating on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

One such student is soon-to-be doctor of physical therapy (DPT) Ashley Conneran, who is one of 40 new DPTs coming out of the SMHS this spring.

Fresh off a series of clinical placements in Bonita Springs, Fla., and Hillsboro and Grand Forks, N.D., Conneran is excited for this next phase in her life, where she’ll be practicing outpatient orthopedic therapy for Altru Health System in Grand Forks.

“Clinical training was just an excellent experience, because everything that you’ve learned these past years in school – you actually get to do. I felt like I’m very prepared,” said Conneran. “I feel like my program at UND did an excellent job preparing us for what would come in the future. I have nothing but positive things to say about UND PT.”

Having spent years as a high jumper for UND’s track & field team, Conneran brings a wealth of real-life experience of a different sort to what she hopes is, eventually, a career in sports medicine.

“As soon as I started my PT training – learning the biomechanics of every single body part and how it moves – I understood high jump better,” Conneran continued. “I was able to do things differently on the field. When I was learning about physical therapy and anatomy, the muscles and actions, I was able to translate that into high jump. And all the stretches and exercises we do on the field I was able to transfer back to my PT training.”

Physical therapy notwithstanding, health sciences departments represented at UND’s Spring Commencement include not only 11 master and doctoral graduates of the School’s program in clinical and translational science, but students from programs in medical laboratory science (90), physician assistant studies (32), public health (13), athletic training (3), and occupational therapy (57).

“I feel like UND prepared me in the best way possible,” added West Fargo, N.D., native Emmy Burtsfield, one of those new doctor of occupational therapy (OTD) grads who is fresh off a fieldwork placement in Fargo. “Trusting that foundational knowledge we received at UND really helped me translate theory into practice and really be prepared for any situation that’s thrown at me. Having a baseline of professionalism in all areas and knowing there’s room for growth has really benefited me throughout my time at UND and while on fieldwork.”

Having taken an undergraduate degree in rehabilitation and human services from UND before entering the SMHS to study occupational therapy, Burtsfield will soon start in an acute care OT position at her final fieldwork site: Sanford Health in Fargo.

“Honestly, I went into the program with an open mind. I really never had a specific idea in mind of where I wanted to practice at first. But I’m excited for what’s to come.”

Over the past 50-plus years, the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences has graduated nearly 10,000 professionals working in the health sciences in North Dakota and around the country. This year’s 32 grads from the Department of Physician Assistant Studies put the program at more than 2,000 total grads since the program was founded in 1970.

And the School’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program this year graduated its first dual-degree graduates: three MD/MPH grads and, in partnership with UND’s School of Law, one Juris Doctorate (JD)/MPH grad.

Many of these programs will graduate students this summer as well, including the Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Indigenous Health, which will produce at least 10 master and doctoral degree recipients between them by August 2024.

“We want to extend congratulations to all of the graduates of our many health sciences programs,” added David Relling, P.T., Ph.D., associate dean for health sciences at the School. “They have completed rigorous educational programs and are well prepared to provide high quality, collaborative care in today’s complex healthcare environments.  Most of all, we want to recognize the substantial positive impact that health sciences graduates will have on the thousands of patients they will work with throughout their careers.”