WMU Home > WMU News >

WMU News

Study affirms Kalamazoo's potential as medical school site

Feb. 6, 2009

KALAMAZOO--An in-depth feasibility study by a team of nationally known consultants has confirmed that a medical school operated by Western Michigan University in partnership with Bronson Healthcare Group and Borgess Health is not only feasible but could put the Kalamazoo area on an important growth trajectory.

The consultants' assessment came after nearly nine months of detailed study involving the entire region, with a focus on the three entities--WMU, Bronson and Borgess--that would be partners in launching such a school. Answering the study's basic question of whether the three organizations have the capability to successfully run a medical school, academic health consultants and physicians Stephen Larned and Ethel Weinberg were unequivocal in their assessment.

"We believe that the answer to that question is yes," the pair reported. "There is present within the region the resources necessary for establishing and maintaining an excellent medical school. Further, we believe that a medical school could be an important contributor to the future success of Kalamazoo and the region."

The study was presented last week to a community wide committee studying the idea, and it was publicly unveiled Feb. 5 by WMU President John M. Dunn in a presentation to the University's Faculty Senate.

"This is not a 'go, no go' point in our decision-making process, but this report lays out a compelling enough case to take this concept to the next level," Dunn told those in attendance. "We will begin work on a business plan and form committees charged with looking at the critical issues of finance, facilities, governance and accreditation requirements."

WMU, Borgess and Bronson commissioned the Larned & Weinberg report after a positive preliminary study was done by another firm, DJW Associates. The Larned & Weinberg study was conceived as a more detailed assessment that could also be used to begin the strategic planning process for a medical school. Beginning last summer, the firm interviewed a broad spectrum of potential stakeholders, including the leadership of the three principal organization, business and political leaders in the region and members of the medical community.

Important findings of the report revolve around the firm's recommendation that rather than focus on establishing a stand-alone medical school, the community should focus on establishing an academic health center that, with the commitment and resources of all three partners, would "provide the highest quality in patient care, medical education and research." Such an academic center would be made up of interdependent components that would take advantage of existing strengths as well as newly developed areas of focus. Those would include a medical school, cutting-edge clinical care, a research emphasis and graduate medical education.

Other preliminary or working recommendations developed for the report include the following:

  • Size--an annual individual class size of up to 80 students.
  • Funding--a reliance on private gifts, tuition, income from the clinical enterprise, and ultimately research grants with no state funding.
  • Curriculum--to be developed after broad input from the local medical community, Western Michigan University faculty, Bronson HealthCare Group and the Borgess Medical Center. In addition to traditional biomedical science, significant thought will be given to incorporate how medicine will be practiced in the future with consideration of scientific and technical advances that will drive change in the coming years.
  • Location--possible campuses at Borgess, Bronson and WMU to house selected departments and facilities, as appropriate.

"This is a time-sensitive opportunity that has come to us at a difficult economic time," says Dunn. "But this may well be a transformational opportunity for our community and region. We owe it to ourselves and those who follow us to fully examine the potential and move decisively. Borgess, Bronson and the University have developed a real partnership to take us to this point, and all three entities will continue working together toward a final decision."

A new Web site has been activated with complete information about the medical school initiative. To read the full Larned & Weinberg report, see a timeline of the initiative, read about the future of medicine and learn the answers to frequently asked questions, visit kzoomedschool.org.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400