July 22, 2016

This coming Monday, July 25, we’ll host the first meeting of a non-UND group in the new building. We are honored to welcome the Altru Health System Board of Directors for their summer meeting. I’ve been invited by Dave Molmen, Altru’s CEO, to give an update to the board on the various activities of the School. One of the themes that I plan to emphasize is the important and productive collaborative relationship the School has with its community partners like Altru. After all, the medical and other staff members at Altru help to train our students on the Northeast (Grand Forks) campus, and we in turn help to provide the future healthcare workforce for Altru and the communities throughout North Dakota. It’s a win-win situation, and one that has benefited both organizations over the years.

Other upcoming meetings in the new building include the following:

  • North Dakota Legislature Interim Higher Education Committee meeting—August 18–19, 2016.
  • Chamber of Grand Forks–East Grand Forks Business After Hours—August 18, 2016.
  • Visit from representatives from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine (they are planning a new educational building)—August 22, 2016.
  • SMHS Advisory Council meeting—September 16, 2016.
  • State Board of Higher Education meeting—September 29, 2016.
  • Grand Opening Ceremony for new building—October 14, 2016.
  • North Dakota Chapter of the American College of Physicians Annual Meeting—October 20–21, 2016.
  • Simulation in Motion–North Dakota (SIM-ND) Conference—November 9–10, 2016.

One of challenges we’ll have is balancing the educational schedules and needs of our students with the desire to make the facilities of the building as available to the community as possible—after all, as I’ve mentioned previously, it’s the public’s building, and they should enjoy it too! While the educational mission obviously will be the priority, we will work hard to accommodate any and all community, legislative, and other groups that would like to use the magnificent facilities in the new digs. So please be in touch with Jessica Sobolik (701.777.6048) for further information on scheduling event space.

And speaking of new buildings, the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences’ Robin Hall will officially open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 26. The new building will help support the Odegard School’s efforts in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and research. I plan to be at the 10 a.m. ceremony, and I hope to pick up some tips to use during our own ribbon-cutting ceremony in October.

Finally, the countdown is on! We are one short week away from the arrival of the medical school Class of 2020 on August 1, to be followed by many of the health sciences, biomedical sciences, and undergraduate students we teach later in August. The building is just about ready for them, although there are plenty of last-minute finishing touches being applied. Some of the final details (such as room signage and all of the advanced digital technology) won’t be available on August 1, but will follow not long thereafter. But everything important should be in place to ensure a wonderful educational experience for the med students right from day one. My first day of medical school was decades ago, but I still remember the excitement of that first day with fond memories. And we fully anticipate that the incoming students will look back on August 1, 2016, with the same kind of nostalgia and fondness. The experience of the first day will be repeated as hundreds of health sciences, biomedical sciences, and undergraduates begin (or continue) their studies in the new building this fall semester. Welcome to all!

Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
UND Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences


Recent Educational Policies to Review

Cultural Diversity Tuition Waiver

View all of the School's Policies and Procedures.

[ Back To Top ]

Save the Date: White Coat Ceremony and Picnic

The White Coat Ceremony for the MD Class of 2020 will be held at 5 p.m. on August 5 in the Alerus Center Ballroom, 1200 S. 42nd St., in Grand Forks. An indoor picnic will take place immediately following the ceremony in the Ballroom.

William S. Mann, MD, will deliver the David and Lola Monson Lectureship for the ceremony: “50 Years and Counting: A Physician's Perspective.” Mann is a clinical associate professor of family and community medicine at the UND SMHS and serves as medical director for the Department of Sports Medicine. He is also an associate director of the Altru Family Medicine Residency Program. He was born and raised in Scotland and received his medical degree from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He served as chair of the UND SMHS Department of Family Medicine from 1996–2003 and returned to the residency program as a faculty member in March 2002. He has a special interest in sports medicine.

[ Back To Top ]

National Institutes of Health funds UND scientist’s Lyme disease research

Lyme disease, caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), is the cause of more than 90 percent of all arthropod-borne diseases affecting humans in the United States. Arthropods are a group of animals that includes lobsters, crabs, ticks, spiders, mites, insects, centipedes, and millipedes. Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that 300,000 people each year are affected by Lyme disease. Total direct medical costs of Lyme disease and post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) in the United States are estimated at $1.3 billion per year.

“Controlled trials of long-term antibiotic treatment for post-treatment Lyme disease symptoms have failed to show benefits,” said Catherine Brissette, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “If active infection is not responsible, what causes the persistent, lingering symptoms in patients treated with long-term antibiotics? Our data suggest Bb is a ‘hit and run’ pathogen, and the presence of live bacteria is not required to drive persistent inflammation.”

Inflammation is the human body’s immunological defense against invasion by foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. It is marked by redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function of a body part.

The National Institutes of Health has granted Brissette over $380,000 to pursue a unique approach to fend off the effects of Lyme disease. Her work will look at how exposure to Bb leads the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in cells to code for chronic inflammation, which is a hallmark of numerous neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases.

DNA contains the instructions used by cells to produce proteins, the building blocks of the human body that compose muscle, bone, skin, hair, and every other body part or tissue. The DNA code is communicated to the protein-building mechanisms in cells by RNA (ribonucleic acid).

Brissette and her research team will look at a special type of RNA called microRNA that, instead of communicating DNA code to build proteins, act to silence the process. Previous work by Brissette has shown that certain microRNA increase in cells after exposure to Bb.

“This will be the first study to compare global changes in the microRNA landscape following exposure to Bb,” Brissette said. “In addition to understanding how these microRNAs drive inflammation and disease, our study may uncover novel microRNA biomarkers. MicroRNAs induced in certain disease states can be detected in blood and can have diagnostic and prognostic utility.”

The NIH’s grant to Brissette came through the UND SMHS’s Epigenetics COBRE, (pronounced "KOH-bree"), an acronym for the NIH’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence program.

The study of how environmental factors—everything from blood glucose levels to stress—may affect DNA is known as epigenetics (a combination of the prefix epi, derived from Greek for “above,” and the word genetics). Scientists who study epigenetics look at how genes are expressed (how genes are turned on or off) without affecting the DNA sequence directly.

“I am grateful to the UND Epigenetics group, particularly my co-investigator Archana Dhasarathy, PhD, and the COBRE Principal Investigator Roxanne Vaughan, PhD,” said Brissette. “Through my interactions with this dynamic group, I was able to take my research in Lyme disease into a new and exciting area by blending neuroscience, infectious disease and epigenetics. Having strengths in all three of these research areas at UND really allows individual investigators to think outside the box and apply knowledge from other disciplines to their own.”

Other researchers working with Brissette in her study are Timothy Casselli, PhD, a UND postdoctoral researcher, and Derick Thompson, a UND graduate student.

“We hope these studies lead to a broader understanding of how patients remain symptomatic even after antibiotic treatment,” she said. “Once we understand the mechanisms, we can then develop strategies to treat patients suffering from long-term complications. Our studies should also uncover novel biomarkers that we can use to diagnose patients as well as predict disease course and severity. Having this information will allow for faster diagnosis and earlier intervention.”

"Dengue and Chikungunya in Our Backyard: Preventing Aedes Mosquito-Borne Diseases "—CDC Grand Rounds

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Public Health Grand Rounds is a monthly webcast created to foster discussion on major public health issues. Each session focuses on key challenges related to a specific health topic, and explores the latest scientific evidence and the potential effect of different interventions. The Grand Rounds sessions also highlight how the CDC and its partners are already addressing these challenges and discuss the recommendations for future research and practice. July's presentation is "Dengue and Chikungunya in Our Backyard: Preventing Aedes Mosquito-Borne Diseases (an Encore Presentation)." All of the webcasts are archived for later viewing.

Social Media—Health Matters

On our Facebook page, Dean Wynne answers questions about the side effects of opioid use and about gastroenteritis with diarrhea in his latest Health Matters column, which can be found in the Grand Forks Herald every other Monday. Please submit any general health-related questions to healthmatters@med.und.edu.

You can also get the latest SMHS news by following the School on Twitter

University Letter—UND offers K-12 teachers mental health training for youths

The 2015 North Dakota Legislative Assembly passed Senate Bill (SB) 2048, which mandates that state school districts provide at least eight hours of mental health training every two years to elementary, middle and high school teachers, as well as administrators.

Beginning this month, the University of North Dakota’s Professional Development for Educators program will offer a 15-hour, online youth mental health training course, available to all North Dakota educators, as well as educators across the United States. The course costs $199 and offers letter or satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) grading. Participants have up to four months to complete the training.

More information about this and other UND news can be found in the University Letter. Published on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it is distributed electronically to the University community and is always available online. For more information, contact editor Jan Orvik at (701) 777-3621.

[ Back To Top ]

Request for Applications for the Host-Pathogen Interaction Pilot Project Program

The Center for Host-Pathogen Interactions at UND supported by NIH COBRE grant P20GM113123 seeks applications for pilot research studies in the field of host-pathogen interactions. This request for applications is open to all tenured, tenure-track, research-track, and clinical-track faculty at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The goal of this Pilot Project Program is to promote new research in the field of host-pathogen interaction and extend the current research into novel directions with high potential for acquiring R01-level extramural funding support. It is expected that this program will attract investigators into the research area of infectious diseases, foster new collaborations among new and existing investigators, and promote the utilization of flow cytometry and histopathology core facilities supported by this host-pathogen interaction COBRE.

The Pilot Project Program will include two types of awards:

  1. Mentored Investigator award. The mentored Investigator award is intended for the expansion of the existing infectious disease group and is targeted toward junior investigators. The purpose of this award is to increase the competitiveness of new and early stage investigators conducting research that is directly related to the theme of the host-pathogen COBRE. The application should include a support letter from the proposed mentor agreeing to participate and support the applicant and project. The applicants of this award are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the mentoring program offered by this COBRE to identify a suitable mentor. We anticipate funding two proposals with a maximum budget of $25,000 for one year renewable for additional years depending on the progress of the project and the availability of funds.
  2. Discovery award. The discovery award is focused on providing strategic support to the projects that will not only expand the infectious disease group but will have a high likelihood of leading to an R01 or program project grants. This award is mainly targeted toward senior investigators, but junior investigators with demonstrated capability are also allowed to apply. We expect to fund three proposals for up to $30,000 for one year renewable for additional years depending on the progress of the project and the availability of funds.

Each proposal should include the following sections:

A. NIH face page.

B. NIH Page 2&3: Summary, Relevance, Project/Performance Sites, Senior/Key Personnel.

C. Budget using NIH forms.

D. Budget justification.

D. Biographical Sketch(es) of PI and Key Personnel.

E. Proposal (three-page limit including specific aims, significance, innovation and research strategy. Bibliography is not included in the three-page limit).

F. History or Success from Prior Awards (One page maximum outlining the progress on that prior work, including publications and extramural funding).

G. NIH Human subjects, if applicable.

H. Vertebrate animal’s justification and protection, if applicable.

I. Letters of support.


Investigators funded through this mechanism will be strongly encouraged to participate in mentoring program offered by this COBRE. The use of core facilities supported by the host-pathogen interaction COBRE is strongly encouraged for the proposed studies. The awardees will be required to submit a progress report including publications as well as proof of an R/P level (R01, or R21 or P01) grant for extramural support. Awardees are required to cite the COBRE grant (NIH P20GM113123) on all publications.


Proposals should be submitted by e-mail to Joyce Rice (joyce.rice@med.und.edu) by 5 p.m. August, 1, 2016. Awards are scheduled to begin September 1, 2016.


Allowable costs include salary support for graduate students or staff and supplies. Funds cannot be used for PI’s salary, travel, and equipment purchase greater than $5,000.


Each COBRE Pilot Project will be evaluated in two steps. In the first step, proposals will be evaluated based on scientific merit using the NIH scoring system. Proposals will be scored on a scale of 1 (best) through 9 (worst) based on significance, investigators, innovation, approach, environment (pertaining to research being proposed and the use of core labs) and an overall impact score (based on the high likelihood of success as a fully developed NIH proposal and the scope of work corresponding to the priorities of the COBRE program). In the second step, the COBRE Internal Advisory Committee will determine which grants to recommend for funding based on the priority scores and the COBRE mission. Final approval for funding will be made by the External Advisory Committee, with approval from the NIH.


For additional information, contact Dr. Brij B. Singh, COBRE PI at (701) 777-0834 or brij.singh@med.und.edu.

[ Back To Top ]