From The Dean

  • Friday, January 26, 2018
  • From The Dean

I am very pleased to announce that Laura Block, the current chief financial officer (CFO) for the UND Alumni Association and Foundation (UNDAAF), has accepted our offer and will start as the next Associate Dean for Administration and Finance at the SMHS on February 8, 2018. We recently interviewed five candidates and invited two to campus for more extensive interviews and meetings. Laura emerged as the clear choice, and I was delighted when she accepted the School’s offer.

I’ve known Laura since my first days at UND, and have always respected her integrity, judgment, experience, maturity, and familiarity with UND. She is, after all, a UND alumna, and knows the institution well. For the past eleven years as CFO at the UNDAAF, she helped consummate the merger of the previously separate Alumni Association and UND Foundation, and greatly strengthened the relationship between the UNDAAF and the university. Before I made the offer to Laura, I received several unsolicited testimonials from people who worked with her at the Foundation, and they were extraordinarily supportive and laudatory.

So we are really excited to have Laura join our senior management team. As associate dean for administration and finance, she will function as the School’s CFO and chief operating officer (COO) for non-academic functions. The administration and finance operation at the SMHS had grown substantially over the recent past, especially with the implementation of the Healthcare Workforce Initiative. Along with the School’s ongoing growth in research funding (thanks to the efforts of our faculty members) and increases in other sources of revenue, the School’s biennial budget likely will approach a quarter of a billion dollars in the foreseeable future. That’s a big operation, and I feel quite relieved that we’ve been able to recruit Laura to oversee our finances and non-academic operations. One of Laura’s great strengths is that she is a team-oriented person who understands the vital importance of cultivating relationships. And one of our most critical relationships is with the central administration at UND. In fact, Laura will have a “dotted line” reporting relationship to UND’s Vice President for Finance and Operations. I know that she’ll do a great job at the School and for UND.

So what operations, you might ask, does the COO for non-academic functions oversee? The menu is extensive, and includes human relations operations (including payroll), finance, budget (including UND’s Model for Incentive-based Resource Allocation, or MIRA), strategic and financial planning, facilities management, clinic operations, residency program financing, and much more. Academic operations are overseen, by the way, by our two academic deans: Dr. Marc Basson, who as Senior Associate Dean for Medicine and Research is responsible for programs associated with medical students and physicians; and Dr. Tom Mohr, who as Associate Dean for Health Sciences is responsible for our non-medical curriculum and programs (occupational therapy, physical therapy, medical laboratory science, sports medicine/athletic training, population health, and physician assistant studies). Dr. Basson also oversees the School’s research enterprise along with the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

I think that we’ve finally been able to evolve an organizational structure that is optimal for the School, but it’s taken us a while to develop. When I took over as dean almost a decade ago, the organizational structure that I inherited had nearly three dozen direct reports to the dean. Three dozen! Talk about a structure that was all but guaranteed to be inefficient, clunky, and slow to adapt! It also ensured that the dean had to be involved in virtually all administrative decisions. I made the conscious decision to change this structure, with the goal of decentralizing decision-making and putting more control and oversight at the unit and departmental level. Since the time of my initial appointment, I have reduced the number of direct reports to seven (along with Jessica Sobolik, Director of Alumni and Community Relations, Dave Gregory, Director of Development, and Judy Solberg, Chief of Staff). Including these colleagues means I receive 10 reports—a big improvement from 34! But even 10 direct reports (a more than 70 percent reduction from what the School had previously) is considered to be a little high based on best practices around the country. For example, as reported by Gary L. Neilson and Julie Wulf in the April 2012 edition of the Harvard Business Review, UND graduate Greg Page, the recently retired chairman and CEO of Cargill, ran the $100-billion-plus company with just six people on his senior management team. So don’t be surprised if over the next few years there are additional efforts to decentralize and flatten our organizational structure. But I’m convinced that with the help of our faculty, staff, and students, working with the senior management team, the SMHS is well-positioned to realize its quest to be the best community-based public medical and health sciences school in the country.

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

Dean, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences