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Board endorses med school proposal, accepts seed money

Nov. 3, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Adopting a formal statement on the topic at its Nov. 2 public meeting, the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees voiced support for the administration to actively pursue the next steps in the process of developing a school of medicine. WMU President John M. Dunn also announced an anonymous gift made for this purpose.

In a unanimous roll call vote, the board authorized the following:

  • Securing the services of a "dean pro tem" for the medical school.
  • Filing a notice of intent with the national Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) to begin the accreditation process.
  • Formalizing planning committees recommended by the LCME.
  • Finalizing agreements with partner hospitals.

The board's action, according to Chair Kenneth V. Miller, was intended to affirm the board's support for the feasibility study that has been under way for nearly two years. Dunn has worked with the medical communities in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek to determine the feasibility and type of medical education model most likely to benefit the region.

School to be privately funded

Dunn has pledged that a medical school could only become a reality as a privately funded entity that would not require public money or existing University resources. In keeping with that commitment, he said, the next phase of the work would be undertaken with an anonymous gift. A restricted $1.8 million gift has been pledged to hire a dean pro tem and support the next levels of intense planning needed.

WMU's next steps

"There is still much work to do to make a school of medicine a reality, but we've already made great progress as a community," Dunn told the board.

"Our next steps will include extending the planning process in a way that will take advantage of even more of the expertise available locally. We will be forming several planning committees to specifically address key areas such as curriculum, staffing, facilities and graduate education. There is work to do, but this is simply the right time and place to do that work. For our community, this will mean compassionate, caring and high-quality patient care opportunities and a stronger economic base with new job opportunities generated by research and company spinoffs."

Community impact

Speaking in support of the board resolution, several trustees praised the work done to date and the potential that such a medical school could have in the region, the state and nation.

Trustee Dennis W. Archer of Detroit noted the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek communities' ability to create and sustain "a great medical school and provide the kind of patient care that each of us would want for our self, seems to have great promise. It also creates…an enormous opportunity for economic development."

"The whole notion of a medical school is sometimes thought of in terms of today rather than tomorrow," said Trustee William Johnston of Portage, Mich., who urged those involved to remember the importance of vision in difficult times. He also noted the need to "connect the dots" by combining the community's legacies in life sciences, discovery research and biomedical research with the possibilities inherent in a world-class health center.

"We're talking about the potential of unlocking research ideas that really have significance not just in terms of our local community, our state and our nation, but the entire globe," Johnston said. "As an institution of higher learning that's really one of the things that should be at the highest part of our mission and dream."

Feasibility studies

Trustees noted the positive results of studies commissioned by WMU, Bronson Hospital and Borgess Health. In their formal reports, two consulting firms endorsed the idea of a medical school in Kalamazoo and pointed to the strong infrastructure already in place that would allow the community to develop a medical school well positioned to address the nation's growing and unmet need for physicians.

"There is present within the region the resources necessary for establishing and maintaining an excellent medical school," said the report of one study by Larned & Weinberg. "Further, we believe that a medical school could be an important contributor to the future success of Kalamazoo and of the region."

Learn more

A Web site with complete information about the medical school initiative has been available since early this year. It includes the reports of both consultant groups, a timeline of the initiative, information about the future of medicine and answers to frequently asked questions. Visit kzoomedschool.org for more information.

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

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