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Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday announced that he has selected members for a new group tasked with providing recommendations on the future of the University of Minnesota's health sciences programs, including its medical school.

The group — which includes a mixture of doctors, executives and politicians, among others — is beginning its work at a pivotal time for the university. The U faces a Dec. 31 deadline for signaling whether it wants to extend its affiliation with Fairview Health Services through 2026. The task force's work is expected to extend beyond that deadline, with a final report due in mid-January.

In 1997, Fairview acquired the University of Minnesota Medical Center; the health system and the U jointly market health care services under the M Health Fairview brand. The relationship has been strained, however, by financial challenges as well as a recently abandoned plan for Fairview to merge with South Dakota-based Sanford Health.

More than 60 people applied to serve on the task force, which the governor announced in August. Among those selected were Jakub Tolar, dean of the university's medical school; Penny Wheeler, a former Allina Health CEO who serves on the university's board of regents; Connie Delaney, dean of the university's nursing school; and David Herman, chief executive at Duluth-based Essentia Health.

Also selected were Meghan Walsh, Pahoua Hoffman, Julia Joseph-Di Caprio, Brenda Hilbrich, Barbara Joers and Vance Opperman. Sen. Melissa Wiklund (DFL-Bloomington) and Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) will also serve on the group, which is being chaired by Jan Malcolm, who retired earlier this year from her position as the state's health commissioner.

Former Govs. Mark Dayton, a DFL member, and Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, will serve as "special advisors" to the group.

Representatives for Fairview declined to comment, while U leaders on Thursday thanked the governor for forming the task force.

"The Governor's Task Force is not just about continuing the University's long history in educating, researching and providing the highest quality of health care well into the future," Interim U President Jeff Ettinger said in a statement. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop a path to provide world-class health care to all Minnesotans."

Star Tribune Reporter Christopher Snowbeck contributed to this report.