Not many medical school deans start their first day on the job celebrating the announcement of a $100 million gift to the school they've been hired to develop.
In fact, there's only been one.
Dr. Hal B. Jenson, founding dean of the WMU School of Medicine, began his tenure surrounded by news cameras and reporters chronicling an announcement that anonymous donors had committed $100 million to the school. It is the largest cash gift to a college or university in Michigan’s history—and among the 10 largest ever made to an American public university.
What he once saw as a partnership involving WMU and Kalamazoo’s two world-class teaching hospitals, Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare, Jenson now knows has a critical fourth party—the Kalamazoo community. More than 300 members of the community are now part of the initiative—planning for curriculum, physical facilities, library and IT resources, a simulation center, student services, business operations and communication. Under Jenson’s guidance, they’re working at an accelerated pace to submit accreditation materials with a goal of welcoming the first class in the fall of 2014.
The school is being launched at a time when a physician shortage is looming, when the science of medicine is changing and when the way medicine is taught is about to undergo a revolution.
“Building a medical school from the ground up has its advantages in such a climate,” Jenson notes. “We have the opportunity here to develop a new structure based on the current environment.”
The curriculum being built will focus on the early introduction of clinical experiences and having students learn to work in interdisciplinary medical teams from their earliest days as caregivers. A research emphasis and the use of simulation technology for training are two additional ingredients that will be part of medical education at WMU.
“Our students will become great clinicians, researchers, educators, leaders and advocates, not just for Kalamazoo, but for health care and our patients,” Jenson says. “People will look at graduates of this school and recognize what I expect will be the extraordinary spirit they will carry with them.”