Gov. Doug Burgum today appointed University of North Dakota Interim President Joshua Wynne to be the state’s chief health strategist and Dr. Andrew Stahl to serve as interim state health officer overseeing the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH). The governor thanked outgoing State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte for her leadership of the NDDoH for over three years, including through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“This emergency has revealed a historic opportunity to develop a more comprehensive, collaborative and strategic approach to public health in North Dakota,” Burgum said. “The scale, urgency and complex nature of the situation have underscored the need to provide additional capacity to carry out both the day-to-day operations and strategic direction. Dr. Wynne and Dr. Stahl have the broad expertise and experience we need to create a blueprint for development of the best public health system in the nation.”

As the state’s chief health strategist, Wynne will work within the NDDoH to create a vision and strategy for developing a world-class public health enterprise in partnership with the North Dakota University System (NDUS), local public health entities, the private sector and local, state, federal and tribal governments. Wynne, whose term as UND’s interim president expires May 31, will split his time between the temporary NDDoH leadership position and his role since 2010 as UND’s vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Grand Forks.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to work with Governor Burgum, the Department of Health and the great leadership team across the state of North Dakota to catalyze transformative change in the public health enterprise and contribute to the efforts to improve the well-being of North Dakotans across our state,” Wynne said.

Stahl has been providing strategic medical analysis for North Dakota’s COVID-19 response efforts and will begin serving as interim state health officer effective June 1. He has served as an officer in the North Dakota Army National Guard’s Medical Corps since 2009, currently holding the rank of major, and as a member of the Guard’s COVID-19 Task Force since March.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to come home to North Dakota and serve as the State Health Officer to confront the challenges presented by COVID-19,” Stahl said. “I look forward to working with the outstanding team at the North Dakota Department of Health to continue positioning the agency for the future and helping the state of North Dakota through these extraordinary times.”

Burgum expressed his thanks and appreciation for Tufte’s leadership of the NDDoH since he appointed her state health officer in February 2017. Tufte, a former health management executive and critical care nurse, cited a desire to return to the private sector in her resignation letter.

“The efforts of Mylynn and her team at the Department of Health, in conjunction with the National Guard and other state agencies, to scale up the state’s capacity and capability to respond to the COVID-19 crisis have been nothing short of heroic,” Burgum said. “We are deeply grateful for her leadership and service to the state of North Dakota and wish her all the best in her next chapter.” Tufte will remain in an advisory role for three weeks to ensure continuity of operations through the transition.

Wynne was appointed interim president of UND in June 2019. He earned his medical degree from Boston University and did his internal medicine residency and his cardiology fellowship at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He was chief of the Division of Cardiology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., from 1984-1997 and served as a member of the Faculty Senate at Wayne State University School of Medicine, serving as vice president from 1997-1999 and president from 1999-2001.

A Bismarck native, Stahl earned his bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University in Fargo and his medical degree from the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences. He previously worked as an internal medicine physician at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Cloud, Minn. Stahl served active duty in the Army from 2001 to 2005, earning the rank of sergeant, and as a staff sergeant in the North Dakota Army National Guard from 2005-2009. He is a recipient of numerous medals, including the Army Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Incoming UND President Andrew Armacost and NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott both expressed their support for Wynne’s appointment.

“Dr. Wynne has done a marvelous job both as interim president at the University of North Dakota and as leader for the system-wide NDUS COVID Restart Task Force,” Hagerott said. “With the arrival of President Armacost, this is a great opportunity for the NDUS and its 11 campuses to have even more direct engagement in the state’s pandemic response.”

“Josh’s background as a leader, strategic thinker, physician, and public health advocate makes him the perfect choice to advise Governor Burgum,” Armacost said. “This collaboration demonstrates how higher education can support public health transformation while enhancing research, education and workforce development. His example will inspire new learners in the importance of public health.”​

Tammy Miller, who serves as chief operating officer in the Governor’s Office and is co-leading the state’s Unified Command with Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, will assist Stahl with administration of the NDDoH during his transition into the state health officer role.

“Dr. Stahl has proven his leadership in combat and has been a trusted and respected advisor to the Unified Command and Department of Health,” Dohrmann said. “He has demonstrated the potential to help lead the state through this pandemic.”