As the fall semester comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you—faculty, staff, students, colleagues, community members, and legislators—for your efforts and contributions during the first half of the 2017-'18 academic year. I’ve had a chance to visit and say “thank you and season’s greetings” to many of you at the four campus receptions that the School hosted over the past two weeks, and at our annual Holiday Luncheon held in the new building last week. It has been a most productive first six months of the school year and I’m looking forward to the next six, especially as we begin to prepare for the next legislative session that will start a mere one year from now. As you undoubtedly are aware, North Dakota is one of only four states that has a biennial legislature (the others being Montana, Nevada, and Texas).
As we look forward to the remainder of the academic year and the upcoming legislative session, it’s good to look back and gauge some of our accomplishments. Of the many activities and contributions of the School, perhaps none is more visible and important than our health care workforce efforts. So I was very pleased to hear recently about the success of one of the physician training programs that the School sponsors in conjunction with the North Dakota Legislature and our community partners. As part of our Healthcare Workforce Initiative, the School partners with local institutions to provide additional residency (post-MD degree training) slots. And since many physicians (especially in primary care) end up practicing in a location near where they did their residency, I was excited to learn that one of our partners—CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, N.D., under the direction of S. Shiraz Hyder, MD, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer—has sponsored a one-year training opportunity in hospitalist medicine (for physicians who practice only in hospitals and take care of in-patient admissions). Since the start of this program in 2012, 11 physicians have completed the program, and seven of them now practice in North Dakota. The fact that about two-thirds (64 percent) of this program’s graduates have remained in-state to practice clinical medicine is noteworthy since this figure is well above the national average of 45 percent.
Congratulations thus are in order to Dr. Hyder and St. A’s, not only for the success of the program, but also for analyzing their data and sharing their results so others might learn from their findings. Dr. Hyder and Mary Amundson, a former faculty member at the SMHS, recently published these results in an article titled “Hospital Medicine and Fellowship Program in Rural North Dakota” in the medical journal WMJ. I think the authors were spot-on in the subtitle they gave their article: “A Multifaceted Success Story.” By not only designing and managing a successful program that benefits the people of North Dakota, but also relying on data analytics to evaluate the program and sharing their findings with others by publishing a scholarly article, Dr. Hyder and Ms. Amundson are to be triply congratulated for this “multifaceted success story.”
Special thanks are in order to Ralph Levitt, MD, who is retiring at the end of this month after a decade of service here at the School. A hematologist/oncologist, Ralph has helped guide and shape the first two years of our medical curriculum. He has reviewed or re-written every one of the patient cases that the first- and second-year medical students study and learn from each week. All the best in the future, Ralph—and enjoy the grandkids!
Finally, here is a brief update on our search for the next assistant dean for administration and finance, the position previously so ably filled by Randy Eken. We’ve identified five semi-finalists and are in the process of interviewing them. I anticipate developing a list of about three final candidates who will visit the campus in early- to mid-January. I’ll make a decision soon thereafter, once I get feedback faculty and staff.
Susan and I wish you all season’s greetings, Merry Christmas, and best wishes in the new year. My column will resume on January 5, 2018. Talk with you then!
Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
UND Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences