Friday, November 17, 2017

From The Dean

Friday, November 17, 2017

When Susan and I left UND’s Burtness Theatre a week ago today, she remarked that everyone in the audience walking out with us had smiles on their faces. We all had enjoyed the wonderful production of The Wizard of Oz produced by Theatre Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences. If you didn’t see the play yet, you have two more chances—the last two performances are tonight and tomorrow night. And if you have kids at home, be sure to bring them along—you won’t be sorry! This production is another example of the phenomenal talent, energy, and polish of the students who attend UND.

And speaking of students (not to mention faculty and staff), you are in for another treat in two weeks. Please mark your calendar for the next Dean’s Hour presentation at the UND SMHS from noon until 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. The School will host a day-long meeting of the Interim Health Care Reform Review Committee of the North Dakota Legislature. The Dean’s Hour event, A Visit With the Legislative Health Care Reform Review Committee, will allow members of the audience (you!) to pose questions to members of the committee regarding current or proposed legislation related to health care in North Dakota. The committee is comprised of both senators and representatives from across the state. The agenda is available here. As the agenda suggests, the morning session will cover the Public Employees Retirement System (NDPERS) arrangement, and the afternoon will be devoted to a discussion of issues related to the Affordable Care Act. You are welcome to stay for some or all of the day’s session (which will be held in the Charles H. Fee, MD, Auditorium [Room E101] on the first floor of the new building in Grand Forks), but above all please try to attend the Dean’s Hour at noon. Lunch will be provided, and the discussion should be interesting and informative. From many prior discussions with Chairman George Keiser and other members of the committee, I can assure you that the members are quite knowledgeable about the issues, open to discussing the pluses and minuses of different options, and dedicated to optimizing health care delivery in North Dakota. It promises to be a terrific event, and I hope that you’ll be there to share the experience.

While you have your calendar out, you might flip to the following week when the Dean’s Hour time slot on Thursday, Dec. 7 will be devoted to our Annual Holiday Luncheon. Last year, more than 725 of you showed up to join in the reverie, and we anticipate at least as many attendees this year. The School is also sponsoring a Holiday Party on the Northeast (Grand Forks) campus on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, at the Gorecki Alumni Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

And for those of you on our regional campuses, the School will host holiday parties the week of Dec. 4 as follows:

  • Northwest (Minot) campus – Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017; Holiday Inn Riverside, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Southwest (Bismarck) campus – Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017; Radisson Hotel, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Southeast (Fargo) campus – Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017; Avalon West, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

We look forward to seeing you at one (or more) of these events! You can RSVP here.

Finally, since many of us will be off next Friday and my column will not be appearing, I’d like to take this opportunity, on behalf of Susan and me, to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. We will be sharing the holiday with our kids and grandkids, and hope that you can share it with your loved ones as well.

Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
UND Vice President for Health Affairs

Dean, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences

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Welcome: Kathryn “Kat” Camburn

Kathryn “Kat” Camburn began employment with UND as an administrative assistant for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science on the SMHS southeast campus in Fargo on November 6. Kat comes to us from Grand Forks, N.D., where she worked as an office manager for a dental office for four years. She graduated from Northland Community and Technical College with a Sales, Management, and Marketing AAS degree, as well as a Medical Administrative Assistant AAS. Her supervisor is Debra Walker. When not working, Kat likes to relax by spending time with her Siberian husky, Sargent. She also enjoys reading fantasy novels, playing video games, and watching television and film.

Welcome: Karen Vanderzanden

Karen Vanderzanden is a new research specialist at the Center for Rural Health (CRH) at the University of North Dakota SMHS in Grand Forks. In this role, Karen coordinates and facilitates data collection and data analysis, prepares written reports of data findings, collaborates with statewide partners, and disseminates information to rural health stakeholders. Projects she is working on include Behavioral Health Workforce Development and Evaluation of the North Dakota State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis. Her supervisor is Mandi Peterson. Originally from Maplewood, Minn., Karen earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Creighton University and Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Experimental Psychology from UND. Prior to her current position, Karen was a graduate research assistant at the CRH and a graduate teaching assistant for the Psychology Department at UND. She also is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

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Hongbo R. Luo, PhD, to present at SMHS Seminar Series on Nov. 29

Hongbo R. Luo, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine at Harvard Medical School and researcher with Boston Children’s Hospital, will speak at the SMHS Seminar Series on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017.

Luo will give a presentation titled “Reactive oxygen species (ROS) in innate immunity.”

The presentation, which runs from noon to 1 p.m., will be held in the Charles H. Fee, MD, Auditorium (Room E101) of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, 1301 North Columbia Road in Grand Forks, N.D. The event is free and open to everyone.

Zen in 10 returns

Zen in 10 focuses on stretching, breathing, and having fun with coworkers. Go back to work with less stress, more energy, and better body functioning.

Sessions are from 10:40 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Oct. 24 to Dec. 21 in the Charles H. Fee, MD, Auditorium at the SMHS in Grand Forks. On Dec. 5, 7, 19, and 21, Zen in 10 will be held in Classroom W201. Sessions will not be held on Nov. 14, 16, and 23.

Services provided by Kay Williams, Certified Yoga and Relax and Renew Instructor®.

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SMHS 2017 annual report "Vital Signs" now available

The 2017 edition of Vital Signs, the annual report produced by the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, is now available. The document can be accessed in both physical form or electronically. For those of you who would like a paper copy, but have not received one in your mailbox, feel free to request one or more copies from Kristen Peterson in the SMHS Office of Alumni and Community Relations via email or phone (701-777-4305).

For those looking for an electronic version of the document, you can read it online either at the SMHS website or via the SMHS Issuu account.

Nechaev receives first installment of multiyear grant from NIH and DHHS

Sergei Nechaev, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at UND’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), has received the first installment on a three-year award worth $521,000 for a project titled “Transcriptome Profiling of Highly Degraded Specimens through Global analysis of Short RNA Fragments.” The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.

According to Nechaev (right), the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that is produced by the DNA in human cells plays a role in determining if and when a cell might become tumorigenic, or cancerous. And finding out what RNA is present in a given tumor can tell researchers what genes were active in making the cell cancerous—and indicate the best possible treatment.

“The problem we face in studying cell RNA is that fresh biopsy samples collected from patients are not always available for research,” explained Nechaev. “And archived samples that were obtained in the past may no longer have good quality RNA. So this grant supports the development of a technology that will seek to overcome this problem by developing a way to detect RNA even in poor-quality samples.”

Should such new technology be developed, says Nechaev, it would enable researchers to use genetic samples collected from patients many years ago in cancer research today: “The use of this technology would not be limited to cancer samples. I have already received a request to analyze RNA from animal specimens that have been stored in museums for many years.”

Nechaev conducts research in a field known as epigenetics. Researchers studying epigenetics explore the mechanisms that regulate gene expression and the activation and deactivation of specific genes. Understanding better how the human body can turn genes on and off during growth and aging and in response to its environment has important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and diabetes.

This epigenetics project is one of many projects ongoing at the UND SMHS that fall under the category of clinical and translational research: research that “translates” discoveries made at the laboratory bench for clinical implementation to directly benefit patients. The SMHS has made clinical and translational research a priority in recent years, a fact that bodes well for the citizens of North Dakota who will benefit from the increasingly rapid application of discoveries made in the laboratory to the treatment of their ailments.

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