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By the numbers

North Dakota native Laura Block named head financial officer at School of Medicine & Health Sciences

Laura Block has been named associate dean and chief operating officer for administration and finance at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences. Photo by Wanda Weber/UND SMHS.

Laura Block loves numbers. And challenges.

That’s why, when longtime finance director Randy Eken retired from the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Block applied for the position.

She previously served for 12 years as chief financial officer at the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

Block, the new associate dean and chief operating officer for administration and finance at the School, enjoyed her time at Alumni, but the opportunity to be a chief operating officer as well as a CFO was just too good to pass up.

“Positive things are happening at the School of Medicine & Health Sciences,” Block said. “I have served as a CFO before. This also has aspects of a chief operating officer, and I found the operational aspect very appealing.”

“I really enjoyed my time at the Foundation,” Block said. “But Randy [Eken] created a great team here and set a good base to build on.” She added that Eken built great processes and was instrumental in constructing the new School and accomplishing the move-in.

“This is a gorgeous building,” she said. “It’s great to be in a building with students. There’s a lot of activity and buzz that’s very appealing.”

North Dakota roots

Block, who grew up in Bowesmont, N.D., near Drayton, earned a bachelor’s degree in accountancy and an MBA from UND. She worked in banking, investments and accounting before joining the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

Active in the Greater Grand Forks community for years, Block has served on the advisory boards of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation, Empire Arts Center, Community Violence Intervention Center, and the Altru Health System Community Board, among others.

Block also serves as an adjunct lecturer for UND’s MBA program, teaching an evening course in financial reporting and decision making.

“I wanted to keep teaching, and brought it up during the interview,” Block said, adding that she wondered if that would be a problem. But it wasn’t. “Dr. Wynne is proud that everyone on the executive committee has teaching assignments. The whole executive team teaches and interacts with students.”

Solving health care challenges

Block is familiar with North Dakota and its health care challenges and demographics, and said that seeing how the School can help solve North Dakota issues is very invigorating.

“The School is well-positioned to solve the Grand Challenges and health care issues in rural North Dakota,” Block said. “We place physicians in rural areas. The Healthcare Workforce Initiative is very important work for us and North Dakota.”

She said she especially likes the UND Strategic Plan and its measurements of success.

“We’re getting more dashboards and benchmarks and setting goals,” Block said. “The School’s team is very focused and strategic in research decisions, and I want to help grow that. I want to use analysis to make positive changes and move forward, and I appreciate that our work will support UND.”

In addition to her work goals, Block said she hopes to work more with medical students, and would like to work with the Schools’ financial aid office to develop a financial skills course for students.

“I’m very appreciative of how welcoming everyone has been,” Block said. “My tenure has been blessed with role models and good campus partnerships. I hope to expand on this, to develop and mentor staff, and grow the financial function.”

Her overall goal, Block said, is to keep learning.

“I’m a lifelong learner, and love learning new things. I hope to make an impact and help make the world a better place. I’m wired that way, and it makes every day enjoyable.”