It has been a busy week since my last column! Homecoming 2018 was a resounding success, even if the football team unfortunately couldn’t finish the week off with a win. But the other events during Homecoming 2018 went very well. The Continuing Education Symposium on infectious diseases that the School hosted last Friday was well attended, and the feedback was quite positive. I attended part of a discussion put on by the UND Class of 1968 that was held at the School, and I was asked by Bill Harwood, the organizer of the event and the son of former UND SMHS Dean Ted Harwood, to recount my remembrances of that turbulent year. No one who was a student then could forget those times.
Friday evening, we were treated to comments at the School’s Homecoming Banquet by former Chair of what was once known as the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology Ed Carlson, Emeritus Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor, and current chair of the combined Department of Biomedical Sciences, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Colin Combs. In his comments, Ed emphasized the importance of maintaining and nurturing a strong bond between students and faculty. Following our banquet, Susan and I had time to stop by a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the Alerus Center. It was a wonderful and enjoyable way to finish Homecoming 2018!
This past Tuesday was a full day too. It started bright and early with Wake Up to UND, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce – Grand Forks/East Grand Forks. The Memorial Union Ballroom was full of many people from the UND and Grand Forks communities. During the breakfast, President Kennedy outlined his plans for UND and reviewed the status of UND’s strategic plan, OneUND. If you didn’t have a chance to attend, you can see his presentation online. Near the end of his presentation, President Kennedy called my tablemate Dave Molmen to the stage to award him a much-deserved Presidential Award for Dave’s fantastic contributions to UND during his long service on the UND SMHS Advisory Council. Dave is one of only about 30 people to have received such an award. As you undoubtedly know, Dave’s day job is CEO of Altru Health System. And while Dave plans to retire from that position in December, I’m delighted to indicate that he has agreed to continue as chair of our Advisory Council through the upcoming legislative session.
Following Wake Up to UND, I was able to give the opening remarks at the School’s 2018 Host-Pathogen Interactions Symposium, “Microbial Influences on Host Responses,” sponsored by our Infectious Disease CoBRE (Center for Biomedical Research Excellence). This UND CoBRE is supported by a multi-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. The plenary speaker was Dr. Laurel Lenz from the University of Colorado, and he gave a marvelous presentation about his research into the interaction between bacterial invaders and the body’s efforts to repel them.
On Wednesday, I was the inaugural speaker at this year’s UND Faculty Lecture Series. I spoke about my team’s research regarding the best way to treat heart valves damaged by rheumatic fever. Our studies helped form the scientific basis for the current recommendations regarding management of this condition. I discussed a variety of cultural and economic considerations that we encountered during our study, and also touched on some global socioeconomic realities that persist to this day. For example, I reviewed World Health Organization data that show that infectious diseases remain a major cause of death in low-income countries but have largely disappeared as a major cause of death in high-income countries like the United States. Sobering data to be sure. If you’d like to see a copy of my slide deck, it is available online.
And I’m delighted to announce that we have our next director of our Master of Public Health (MPH) Program! Dr. Don Warne has been functioning as the interim director, and I’m thrilled to indicate that he’s agreed to be the new permanent director as of Oct. 1. Dr. Warne is well-qualified to assume this additional responsibility, since he headed our sister program at North Dakota State University before we were able to recruit him here a number of months ago. Don will have a full plate of activities, as his other responsibilities include the directorship of our Indians Into Medicine Program (INMED) as well as being the School’s associate dean for diversity, inclusion and equity. But I know that he’s up to these tasks, and I’m really so pleased to have him on board!
Finally, a hats-off to Dr. James Brosseau, who ends a 40-year career as a healer today as he retires from Altru Health System and medical practice. Jim, a former UND faculty member who earned his BS Med degree here at UND, has been a shining example for our students of what it means to be a physician. He is adored by his patients and revered by his fellow physicians for his caring, compassion, and knowledge. On behalf of UND and the greater Grand Forks community, thank you Jim, and all best wishes in your well-deserved retirement!
Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
UND Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences