This will be an exciting and busy commencement weekend. The activities kicked off yesterday as our graduating medical school seniors returned to the Northeast (Grand Forks) campus for Senior Colloquium, an annual event during which we try to prepare our soon-to-be physicians with some final activities as they begin the transition to residency training. At the kickoff dinner last night, I discussed the topic of Physician Employment and Contract Negotiations. This topic is important because the majority of physicians in the U.S. now work for a hospital or hospital system, rather than being in independent practice.
Today I’m talking with the group about Health Care Systems and Financing, a topic that is of particular importance to all in the health care realm, especially in this era of uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act. And later today I will attend a variety of other activities at the school for our graduating seniors, including the physician assistant hooding ceremony and a similar event for physical therapy graduates. Hoods are garments that originally were used to keep scholars’ heads warm in medieval times, and now are used as a symbol of achievement for those receiving a graduate (rather than undergraduate) degree. In addition, I’ll be joining the occupational therapy students at their graduation reception, as well as one for our Master of Public Health (MPH) grads.
On Saturday, I’ll attend UND’s commencement activities, first for graduate students and then the larger afternoon event for undergraduates. I’ll also attend a graduation reception for our medical laboratory science students. And on Sunday, we’ll have medical school commencement, with remarks by recently retired clinical faculty member Ralph Levitt, MD. Medical school commencement is preceded by our Commencement Awards Brunch, where we recognize especially outstanding achievements by graduating medical students.
As I indicated last week in my E-News column, the educational cycle keeps turning following graduation. Our new incoming freshman are understandably excited about starting on the path that leads to a health career degree. I recently became aware of some interesting data regarding applications to our own medical school curriculum. This past year we had over 1,400 applicants for our 71 seats (along with seven seats for our Indians into Medicine [INMED] program). Of those 1,407 original applicants, 529 completed the entire application process. We then interviewed 229 applicants, with each candidate meeting with three members of the Admissions Committee. If you do the math, that’s 687 total interviews! Wow! What an effort by our volunteer members on the Admissions Committee! Thank you!
Finally, two comments about non-graduation events that were held this week. On Monday and Tuesday the SMHS sponsored the Fifth Annual University of North Dakota Epigenetics and Epigenomics Symposium. This symposium included presentations by guest speakers as well as local and regional investigators in the field of epigenetics, which involves studying how genes express themselves and cause changes in the body without a change in the genetic code itself. The three guest speakers this year hailed from Princeton University, Manitoba, and Indiana University. I was in and out of the presentations due to other scheduled activities, but I thought that the presentations were just terrific.
And as our graduating seniors are preparing for the next exciting phase in their careers and life, it was sobering to attend the annual Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) Rise and Shine for Peace breakfast yesterday. That there are so many traumatized children and adults in Grand Forks is heartbreaking. The stories of just a few of them were very moving. But even more important is that the Grand Forks community has helped CVIC help these children and adults deal with their physical, sexual, and emotional trauma. So I would urge you to join Susan and me (and many of your fellow North Dakotans) in supporting CVIC. You can get further information here. And for those of you who live outside of Grand Forks County, please consider donating to your local version of CVIC. The need is there—please try to help.
Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
UND Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences