March 2, 2021

A Champion for Health

Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Thomasine Heitkamp multiplies access to behavioral health services.

Thomasine Heitkamp

Photo by Jackie Lorentz/UND Today.

Thomasine Heitkamp, a longtime professor in UND’s College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines (CNPD), has brought her expertise and aptitude for applied research into the classroom, across campus and throughout the Midwest. As the eldest girl of seven children and daughter of a community change agent, it was Heitkamp’s upbringing in rural North Dakota that opened her eyes to what would become her future.

“My mom was not medically trained but served as the local community guide regarding the need for medical attention,” said Heitkamp. “Our healthcare facility was several miles from our home, so a trip to the clinic or ER was a big decision and the costs associated were an issue. I learned the value of expanding access to healthcare and the need for affordability of that care.”

Endowed Faculty

Both the importance of teamwork and accessibly to services are two principles Heitkamp has carried into her career. As a Grand Challenge champion for rural health and communities, she has expanded behavioral health providers across six states through $9.1 million in grant awards since 2018 alone. Millions more in grant funding exist at UND because of Heitkamp’s efforts and strong collaborations.

Heitkamp, in her role as a Grand Challenge champion, has worked collaboratively to develop a multidisciplinary team of UND scholars from CNPD, the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences and the ND Center for Rural Health. Together, they have created the Behavioral Health Bridge, among other resources that provide behavioral health expertise and services across the region.

After nearly 40 years of service within CNPD, Heitkamp received the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorship in 2019, the highest academic honor UND offers its faculty. She has received multiple other UND awards, including the UND Foundation/Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Achievement Award and two UND Awards for Interdisciplinary Collaborative in Research and Creative Activity.

One professor can touch the lives of many. An endowed position for leaders like Heitkamp will help recruit and retain the best of the best.

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