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Coffee talk

UND President Robert Kelley and wife, Marcia, host gathering in Rugby

November 20, 2009
Matt Mullally

University of North Dakota President Dr. Robert Kelley was asked to give advice to an incoming freshman to the university.

Kelley's response: "Get involved, get to know people on campus and engage the university."

Kelley and UND First Lady, Marcia, were engaging the community of Rugby last week, meeting with residents on Nov. 18 as part of a "Coffee with the Kelley's" program.

This was his second time in Rugby. In April, Kelley along with several UND staff and students took part in a two-day forum as part of the university's Center for Community Engagement program.

"I received a tour of the community and was quite impressed,' he said. "I wanted a chance to come back and bring Marcia."

Kelley, who has been president since July of 2008, gave a report on the state of the university. UND's overall budget is about $400 million and 22 percent of it is funded by the state. Another 22 percent comes from tuition and the remainder is from donations, grants and other revenue sources. He also answered questions at the informal gathering of about 15 people held at the Coffee Cottage..

Educating doctors

Among the discussion was the large role the university plays in educating and training doctors and health care personnel for the state.

Rep. Jon Nelson and member of the Good Samaritan Hospital Association spoke on the importance of UND's medical school being a leader in addressing the shortage of primary care physicians in rural communities across the state. Nelson acknowledged the university does graduate a number of primary care doctors every year and several do remain in the state, but unfortunately, few find their way to rural communities such as Rugby.

Kelley agreed that is a concern and addressing it requires several elements.

One includes improving the federal Medicare reimbursement levels the state presently receives. A more favorable reimbursement rate would enable physicians and medical centers to recoup a large percentage of the costs toward services and procedures. And that will help to pay family practice physicians a more attractive salary and provide them incentives to practice in rural areas. Right now that incentive isn't great because they can make more money in other places because of the reimbursement rate. Another key involves debt forgiveness programs. If incentives can be put into place to encourage doctors come work in rural areas and receive their medical schooling partially paid for, it would help solve the shortage. And it also requires patients, medical centers and UND to embrace ever-changing medical technology to serve rural areas. That would include more physician assistants and nurse practitioners playing a larger role in patient care and tele-medicine services.

About 60 percent of the approximately 50 doctors who graduate from the medical center each year go into primary care medicine and about one-half go to work in the state, Kelley said.

Nickname issue

Kelley said the Fighting Sioux nickname issue must be resolved - and resolved soon.

He said it's having a negative impact on the university, its students, and athletic programs. UND's pursuit of gaining a Division I conference affiliation is being hamstrung by the nickname debate.

Gary Mayer asked if the logo and nickname are retired, why is it necessary to adopt another one? Why not be simply called The University of North Dakota.

Kelley said there is merit to that thinking and it's something that has been considered. He said whatever path happens, the university won't rush into adopting a new nickname.



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