This has been a fun week. I was in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Tuesday and Wednesday as one of eleven invited members of Sanford’s Lorraine Cross Scientific Panel. The Sanford Foundation plans to award a $1 million prize to the scientist who has made the most impactful, innovative, and important recent scientific discovery that positively affects human health and well-being. Under the oversight of Sanford Health’s Executive Vice President of Innovation and Research, David Pearce, PhD, we were able to narrow down the candidate areas of innovation to five over the course of a day and a half. The final selection will follow, with an announcement of the winner in December 2018.
On my return to North Dakota late on Wednesday afternoon, Susan and I were delighted to be able to attend the Internal Medicine and Transitional Year Residency Awards and Recognition Banquet that was held in Fargo. Jointly sponsored by the UND SMHS, Sanford Health, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the event recognized the graduating residents and honored several, along with some faculty, for their teaching and research contributions. The highlight of the evening, however, was a special tribute to William P. Newman, MD, the recently retired former chair of the SMHS Department of Internal Medicine. Bill’s tenure as a faculty member at UND spanned some 37 years from 1981 until this year, and he has taught thousands of medical students and hundreds of residents. Dr. Julie Blehm, the former Associate Dean for the Southeast (Fargo) Campus, gave a very nice tribute to Bill, and then David Newman, MD, Bill and Ginny’s son, gave an even more touching tribute to his dad. David used a slide show to highlight his dad’s career, set to the music that his father loves. I’m not sure everyone in the audience identified with the Beach Boys and Peter, Paul and Mary—but Susan and I certainly did! A really nice final touch was the announcement of the establishment of the William P. Newman Award for Excellence in Research in honor of Bill’s career-long dedication to clinical research. The inaugural recipient of the award was Dr. Laura Wessman. So, congratulations to Laura, and thanks and best wishes to Bill.
Then, yesterday UND was proud to welcome again Dr. Larry Tabak, DDS, PhD, to campus for a return visit. Dr. Tabak is a senior Investigator and Principal Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As you probably know, the NIH is the major source of research funding for our Department of Biomedical Sciences and thus one of the more important sources of funding for all of UND. It was a pleasure to welcome Larry back and get his perspective on research funding and NIH priorities looking forward.
Yesterday also was the day we officially welcomed Dr. Don Warne to UND. We held a reception to welcome Don as our new Director of the Indians into Medicine (INMED) program and the School’s inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. On hand for the event was Dr. Dave Gipp, who attended on behalf of the INMED Tribal Advisory Board. I was pleased to listen to Dr. Warne's comments about his vision for the future of INMED—a future where the UND SMHS does an even better job of helping address the health disparities in this state that especially affect American Indians. Did you know, for example, that the average life expectancy for a male living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota—Dr. Warne's old stomping grounds—is only 48 years? Those are the type of statistics that need to change, and that our School is in a unique position to address. I hope that you were able to attend the event, but if not, try to say hello at some point to the newest member of the School’s senior leadership team. Welcome aboard, Dr. Warne!
Finally, many of us are participating today in the School’s annual Curriculum Retreat, where we will examine in detail the medical student curriculum in its entirety. Both Dr. Ken Ruit and I participate in accreditation activities of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), and at the retreat we plan to share the LCME’s perspective and priorities related to curricular design, execution, and management. I’m very pleased that the educational leaders in the SMHS devote their time and effort to looking critically at how we teach our students. I’ll be sure to update you with the takeaway messages and plans that emerge from today’s meeting.
Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
UND Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences