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UND cuts ribbon on new $124-million SMHS headquarters on campus

Joshua Wynne
UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences Dean Dr. Joshua Wynne says “were it not for the strong support of the Legislature” the new SMHS building on campus would not have been possible today. Wynne spoke at the recent ribbon-cutting for the new SMHS headquarters on Friday, Oct. 14.

“It’s a legacy that’s far more than a building. It’s a legacy of health for the people of North Dakota,” said Dave Molmen, CEO of Altru Health System about the new UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) building on campus.

“This is the best kind of legacy,” said Molmen, who also chairs the School’s Advisory Council. “This legacy was created for an aging rancher in rural Hettinger who will have a doctor in the community,” he said. “It’s a legacy that ensures future physicians can train in the state and practice in their home communities.”

The $124 million building was dedicated on Friday, Oct. 14, before an overflow crowd of more than 350, and is a testament to partnerships, a focus on the future and trailblazing. Fully funded by the State of North Dakota, the four-story, 325,000-square-foot building, features an open design, floating glass stairwells and abundant windows and light.

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us,” said Joshua Wynne, dean of the SMHS and vice president for Health Affairs at UND, quoting Winston Churchill. “This will increase the quality of life for all North Dakotans and shape the future of healthcare for decades to come.”

The building brings all eight SMHS degree programs – M.D., athletic training, medical laboratory science, occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, graduate studies (biomedical sciences and pathology), and public health – under one roof for the first time. That will enable students to learn in communities, and learn to work as part of a team, a valuable skill in today’s healthcare industry.

Graduating class sizes will increase an average of 25 percent, enabling the School to implement its Healthcare Workforce Initiative across North Dakota, addressing the state’s healthcare workforce needs. Goals are to reduce the burden of disease, retain more graduates in the state, train more practitioners and improve the efficiency of the state’s healthcare delivery system.

It was a wise decision to invest in this asset for North Dakota, said UND President Mark Kennedy. It’s designed to shape the way healthcare is delivered, and its concept of having healthcare teams work together is a great example of One UND, Kennedy added.

UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences building
People gather for a reception inside the new $124-million UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences building on campus following a ribbon cutting for the facility on Friday, Oct. 14.

“This will provide the workforce we need in a very rural state,” said North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who said it’s hard to get healthcare workers in rural areas. “This initiative will do that.”

The building is the result of a partnership with the North Dakota Governor’s Office, State Board of Higher Education, North Dakota University System, the State Legislature, the healthcare community and UND.

“UND is exactly the type of team player I’d hoped for,” said Mark Hagerott, chancellor of the University System. “It’s a servant leader who takes care of people.”

“Were it not for the strong support of the Legislature, the building would not be a reality and the Healthcare Workforce Initiative would not be changing the landscape of healthcare in North Dakota,” said Wynne. North Dakota has a coherent plan to address healthcare needs that wouldn’t happen without legislators who became knowledgeable and passionate about it, Wynne said.

“The Legislature listened to fresh ideas and made it a reality,” he said.

“I didn’t just wake up one morning on my ranch and decide I wanted to build a new medical school building,” said State Sen. Robert Erbele of Lehr, N.D., who carried the bill in the Legislature. Noting that the SMHS leads the nation in the percentage of students who practice family medicine and who practice in rural areas, he said he saw an opportunity to move healthcare forward in North Dakota.

“We’re daring to carve a new road,” said State Sen. Ray Holmberg of Grand Forks, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We’ve constructed a building for tomorrow.”

“There are shortages in all healthcare careers,” said State Sen. Judy Lee of Fargo, a medical technology alumna from UND. “A building like this helps recruit and retain students, faculty and staff,” she said, adding that this helps the state “grow their own” workforce in rural communities.

Like the pioneers, we will be judged by the wagon trails we leave behind, said Molmen, who thanked the Legislature and Governor’s Office for being bold and courageous, and for looking to the future. He also thanked the SBHE, NDUS and UND administrators for not being afraid to dream outside the box.

“Your state will be grateful to you forever,” Molmen said. “We are witnessing history and celebrating the dawn of a new era of healthcare for our state.”