For Your Health
For Your Health

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

From the Dean: Bittersweet gatherings

This week we had two poignant but bittersweet gatherings that I forementioned in prior columns. The first one (on Tuesday) was a celebration of the life of Judy DeMers, our former associate dean of the Office of Student Affairs and Admissions, who passed away in March at the age of 79. The turnout for the event was impressive, with family, friends, and colleagues showing up, many with their own stories of remembrance to share. Her treasured grandson Tyler was there, a recent law school graduate, and Tyler had prepared a wonderful collection of pictures of Judy over the years that was projected on the widescreen on the second floor of our Grand Forks building. Although there was sadness that Judy no longer is with us, there was great joy in remembering her many contributions and friendships over the years. The saying about “a life well-lived” certainly applies!

The second gathering was the following day and was a farewell celebration honoring the forthcoming retirement of Dr. Jon Allen, professor of medicine and director of our incredible Simulation Center and SIM-ND program, the mobile simulation service that we provide to communities all across North Dakota. It too was a memorable event as we honored Jon’s passion for education and healthcare, especially in the simulation field. Jon and his team really have put the UND SMHS on the map as a nationwide leader in the use of patient simulation to teach students, trainees, and healthcare providers. Although I know how much Jon enjoys his job, as he put it, “every month working now is one less month of retirement.” We wish Jon all good things in the future, as soon he will be able to spend more time with his family and friends, and probably even more time peddling on his bicycle, all of which brings him so much joy and fulfillment. Many thanks for all that you have done, Jon, and all the best in the future!

Looking forward, the next month and a half should be relatively quiet for the medical program (I hope I’m not tempting fate!) until the medical students in the incoming Class of 2028 arrive in early July. That said, our health sciences programs provide courses throughout the summer session with the new health sciences and other students starting in August. We also are looking forward to various contingents of other summer students, including those in our Indians Into Medicine Summer Institute, the Research Experience for Medical Students (REMS) cohort, and other research programs for undergraduates. So, there still will be plenty going on during the summer semester.

We are continuing our budget preparations for the upcoming second year of the biennium (July 2024 – June 2025), as well as preparing for the start of the 69th North Dakota Legislative Assembly in January (where the appropriated funding for July 2025 through June 2027 will be decided). We should be finalizing the salary merit increases that have been recommended for eligible faculty and staff members in the near future and hope to share final determinations soon. As you may recall, we are working with a pool of merit dollars that consists of four percent of eligible salaries. Supervisors/department chairs have the flexibility to recommend a salary merit increase between two and six percent, as long as the average increase for their unit is four percent. Any recommendation for a given employee outside of that range requires the approval of the appropriate vice president, which in the case of the UND SMHS is me. But there is a tradeoff – a larger merit increase for one individual may require a smaller one for another so that the increases when added together add up to no more than four percent overall. It is a balancing act to be sure!

Finally, as we catch our collective breaths a little after the recent commencement activities, I’d like to thank our incredible family of faculty and staff for their fantastic efforts on behalf of our students, in support of innovative research, and for service to the citizens of North Dakota and the region. Special thanks in particular go to our volunteer (clinical) faculty who are scattered throughout North Dakota and the region for your dedicated support of our educational mission. I can’t say it too often – thank you; we couldn’t do it without you!

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