JOSHUA WYNNE AND DAVID MOLMEN: A bright future for health care in N.D.What an exciting era we are entering at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences!
By: Joshua Wynne and David Molmen, Grand Forks Herald
GRAND FORKS — What an exciting era we are entering at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences!
Thanks to the generous support of the North Dakota Legislature and strong leadership from Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, the school soon will be fully implementing the Health Care Workforce Initiative and building a new home.
The workforce initiative is a four-pronged plan to help address North Dakota’s health care workforce needs now and in the future by reducing disease burden, retaining more of our graduates for practice in North Dakota, training more practitioners and improving the efficiency of our health care delivery system.
The degree of financial support from the Legislature is unprecedented. The new facility received total funding of $122.45 million spread over two biennia (plus a reserve of $1.55 million held by the State Board of Higher Education).
Such impressive support would not have been possible without the efforts of many people, including North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, Board President Duaine Espegard and members of the State Board of Higher Education, UND President Robert Kelley, members of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences Advisory Council and a whole cadre of stakeholders from across the state.
But what is remarkable about the entire School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ facility project is the astounding degree of cooperation and nonpartisan support the project received.
Although the building will be built in Grand Forks, the benefits will be felt throughout the state — and North Dakota’s legislators realized that fact and acted in magnanimous good faith.
Overall, almost 80 percent of our state’s legislators endorsed the higher education bill and the provisions it contained for the school — about as decisive a degree of support as one ever sees.
Democrats and Republicans, senators and representatives, small town and big city, East and West — all came together to do the right thing for all of North Dakota.
Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga and chairman of the Education and Environment Division of the House Appropriations Committee, were able to find common ground for the benefit of all North Dakotans.
Skarphol deserves special praise for his efforts to find an acceptable funding mechanism for the new building. In the 2011 Legislature, he tried a novel approach to funding that ultimately wasn’t successful. But he persevered, and this session he and Holmberg came up with a compromise that the governor and Legislature endorsed — and guess what?
North Dakota is getting a new, state-of-the-art building to house the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
In addition to Holmberg and Skarphol, there were others from across the state who played critical roles. Sen. Bob Erbele, R-Lehr and a rancher from the western part of the state, played a major role in the 2011 Legislature to provide funding for the space study that helped establish the rationale for a new building.
And this year, he was the carrier of the bill in the Senate.
Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, made major contributions both through his membership on the school’s Advisory Council and in the Senate. And Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, chaired the Interim Health Services Committee that was the initial endorser of the workforce initiative and the new building — by a unanimous vote.
She spoke eloquently on the floor of the Senate in support of the plan and the building.
Rep. Bob Martinson, R-Bismarck, has been masterful in his knowledge of how to get things done in the Legislature, first being instrumental in the 2011 session in securing funding for the Center for Family Medicine building in Bismarck and this session for helping to build support and arrange funding for the new building.
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks, with his extensive experience in education and his calm demeanor, helped to inform and enlighten his colleagues, as did Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, and the rest of the Grand Forks delegation.
There were many others, too numerous to count. What matters is that they all pulled together and did what was right for the state and its residents.
We fully recognize the trust bestowed upon us by the Legislature, and we will work tirelessly to help address the health care delivery challenges facing our great state.
With this support, we are confident that we now have a clear path forward.
From Fargo and Grand Forks to Hettinger and Williston and points in between, the benefits of the Health Care Workforce Initiative and the training that will go on in the new building and in our communities will be felt for a long time.
The health care future of North Dakota has been changed forever, and the benefits will be reaped for decades to come.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to all who worked so hard to advance the health care workforce plan for North Dakota. We look forward to transforming these plans into reality, so that all North Dakotans can benefit from the high-quality affordable health care that they deserve, wherever they live in the state.
Dr. Wynne is UND’s vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Molmen is CEO of Altru Health System in Grand Forks and chairman of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences Advisory Council.