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UND medical school officials welcome similar facility proposed for University of Minnesota

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota's Joshua Wynne said he is flattered the University of Minnesota wants to build a medical school at its campus in Minneapolis.

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota's Joshua Wynne said he is flattered the University of Minnesota wants to build a medical school at its campus in Minneapolis.

"Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery," said Wynne, dean of UND's School of Medicine and Health Sciences. "We take this as a validation of how forward-thinking the University of North Dakota, with the support of Legislature and people of North Dakota, is in the design of this new building."
The U of M hopes to build a $100 million health sciences facility by putting $33 million into the project and is asking the Minnesota Legislature for $67 million.

Mark Rosenberg, vice dean for education at the U of M medical school, said the new facility would house several medical departments along with the medical school, and the goal is to provide more updated facilities, not increase enrollment.

"There's enough need," he said. "The better the facilities in both the states are, the better off we'll all be."

UND's medical school was founded in 1905 and the U of M's then College of Medicine and Surgery was founded in 1888, according to each university's website.

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In May 2013, the North Dakota Legislature allocated $124 million over two biennia for a UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences building, which is slated for completion this summer. Until now, classes have been held in a 66-year-old converted hospital.

Wynne said the four-story, 325,000-square-foot building was meant to allow for an average class-size increase of 25 percent to meet workforce demands in the state.

"We needed to add more physical space to accommodate more physical students," he said. "That was the major motivation."

Almost 80 percent of North Dakota legislators endorsed the 2013 higher education bill and medical school building funding provisions.

Rosenberg said the current facility -- part of an old hospital that doesn't technically have a front door -- limits teaching, which is moving toward more simulation labs and collaborative learning. If funded, the U of M building would provide that kind of space.

"It's part of trying to teach in a way that's more interprofessional, trying to teach in a way that takes advantage of modern educational techniques," Rosenberg said.

Wynne had similar sentiments about the UND complex, which will force collaboration through sharing spaces when appropriate and minimize "owned space," or areas that are entirely used by one department or class.

"In North Dakota, we don't like to brag, but we're glad (U of M) is joining and following our leadership," he said. "This is the trend of the future, except UND is doing it now."

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The UND building also is an answer to the Health Care Workforce Initiative, a four-pronged plan to keep more graduates, train more health care practitioners and improve health care delivery.

"For potential students when we send out information about the school, which we do in various means, we highlight the attractiveness of the new building," Wynne said. "It's in print, in verbal communication, and word of mouth is pretty important too between potential students."

The numbers

In the fall, 36 percent of the 1,112 students enrolled at the medical school were from Minnesota, and 49 percent were from North Dakota, according to the university's online dashboards.

But Wynne said the more important figure is how many UND medical graduates are staying in the state. He said those who complete in-state residencies are more likely to practice in North Dakota, and those who are originally from rural areas of the state are more likely to go back and practice there.

Of the 1,453 direct care physicians practicing in North Dakota, 22 percent graduated from in-state, and 40 percent completed their residencies there, according to data from the Center for Rural Health using 2013 data from the American Medical Association.

"If you look at all of the predictors, the single best predictor of who's going to practice in a rural area of North Dakota is when the student comes from a rural area of North Dakota," Wynne said. "It's the single best."

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The U of M medical school has trained 70 percent of Minnesota's physician workforce as students, residents or fellows, according to data provided by Rosenberg.

"We view a new building as a way to impact the health of Minnesotans," he said.

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