As we start this new academic year without several long-time loyal and incredibly hardworking members of our leadership team due to retirement (including Randy Eken, Dr. Gwen W. Halaas, and Gene DeLorme), it is obvious just how challenging it will be to continue their good work in their absence. One positive benefit that can come out of this challenging situation, however, is the opportunity to reassess the organizational structure of the School and to consider more efficient and effective ways of doing things. After considering all of this for some months now and discussing some options with the School’s senior leadership team, I’m pleased to share some changes that we have instituted and will be effective immediately.
First of all, it is imperative that the SMHS has robust representation and coordination with the other UND deans, all of whom report to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Tom DiLorenzo. (As you may know, as dean I report to UND’s Vice President for Health Affairs, which happens to be me; as VP, I report directly to President Kennedy.) Dr. Halaas represented me and the School admirably over the past many years in formal and informal interactions with other UND deans, Provost DiLorenzo, and other offices and units throughout UND. To continue these positive and productive interactions, I’ve asked Associate Dean for Education and Faculty Affairs Dr. Ken Ruit to assume Dr. Halaas’s role as the School’s university representative. In this role, Dr. Ruit will represent me as well as the SMHS in discussions and interactions with other schools, colleges, programs, and units at UND. I will continue—as before—to coordinate with President Kennedy and the other UND Vice Presidents, as well as represent the SMHS with the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, the North Dakota University System, the North Dakota Legislature, the news media, and the general public.
So that explains the “external” representation and interactions of the School. What about internally? We have tweaked our current organizational chart in several modest but important ways that should bring enhanced clarity as to who does and is responsible for what at the School. The new structure highlights the important reality that we are a school of medicine and of health sciences. Accordingly, all educational activities related to the medical curriculum are now under the direction of Senior Associate Dean for Medicine and Research Dr. Marc Basson. This shift required a change in the reporting relationship of Dr. Pat Carr, whose new title of Assistant Dean for Medical Curriculum better reflects what he does so well, which is manage the curriculum on a day-to-day basis. Dr. Carr, who now reports to Dr. Basson, used to focus just on the first two years of the medical student curriculum; now he will coordinate all four years of students’ medical education. Dr. Basson will thus oversee the entire progression of a doctor’s maturation from medical student to practicing physician. That is, he now oversees all four years of the medical school curriculum, the School’s post-MD degree residency programs that last from one to five years, and the continuing medical education programs we offer to practicing physicians throughout the state. Additionally, the MD-PhD program, coordinated by Dr. John Watt, will now be under Dr. Basson’s direction.
Dr. Basson’s other hat (in addition to medical education) is as the senior administrator overseeing our research programs. Accordingly, Dr. Colin Combs, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, will now report directly to Dr. Basson, rather than to me as he did previously. For the first time, we’ll have one person who can help coordinate our basic and clinical research programs; in fact, this intersection between the bench and the bedside is an area where the School is uniquely positioned to rapidly expand our touch in the realm of clinical and translational research, which will be good news for the citizens of North Dakota who will profit from the more rapid application of things we’ve learned in the laboratory to treating their ailments and diseases.
Similarly, we’ve moved all of the health sciences departments and programs—all those that are not part of the medical curriculum or research—under Associate Dean for Health Sciences Dr. Tom Mohr. This meant moving the Department of Population Health and the associated Master of Public Health Program under the Health Sciences umbrella and Dean Mohr.
The SMHS’s Center for Rural Health and Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research will continue to report directly to me, at least for the present, since such a reporting relationship of center directors to school deans is pretty typical around the country.
The three other associate deans will now have clear enterprise-wide responsibilities that transcend either just the medical or the health sciences domains. Dr. Ruit will head the Education and Faculty Affairs operation, and all activities under his oversight relate to functions that are not discipline-specific—Faculty Affairs, Simulation Center, Information Resources (computer and information technology), Library Resources, Interprofessional Education, and Education Resources. Thus, Dr. Ruit will head a group that works to assist faculty and students throughout the School, regardless of discipline, location, or focus.
Dr. Joy Dorscher will continue to oversee Student Affairs and Admissions. While an important part of her operation is in fact discipline-specific (for medical students), many other functions apply to students throughout the School, including welcoming prospective students into the building and the health professions, and ensuring that student policies are uniform throughout the School, regardless of discipline. And since our esteemed Indians Into Medicine (INMED) program deals with students, it will now be under Student Affairs. This new reporting relationship is especially relevant now, since Dr. Dorscher has been kind enough to also function as the Interim Director of the INMED program since the retirement of Gene DeLorme.
Finally, the Office of Administration and Finance will continue its oversight of the School’s varied operations and finances. Obviously, this is an enterprise-wide responsibility. We are in the process of searching for a new leader for this vital unit, but until then, I’m delighted that my Chief of Staff Judy Solberg has agreed to provide oversight of this unit as Interim Director.
These updates and improvements in our organizational structure should improve our ability to deliver on our triple missions of education, discovery, and service. An ancillary benefit of the changes, while not the motivating stimulus, is that we are able to improve the School’s functionality while simultaneously reducing our expenditures. And that’s the defining aspect of what is known as a high-value proposition—higher quality at lower cost. We’re all excited about the changes. Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions for other improvements and enhancements we should consider.
Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
UND Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences