$100 million gift supports new WMU medical school
March 22, 2011
KALAMAZOO--A $100 million cash gift, the largest ever made to a Michigan college or university, will be used to give birth to a private medical school at a public institution--Western Michigan University.
Announced today by WMU President John M. Dunn, the anonymous gift is among the 10 largest cash gifts ever made to an American public university and the 15th largest in the history of American higher education. The gift will serve as the foundation funding for a school of medicine that WMU is developing in partnership with Kalamazoo's two major hospitals, Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare.
You'd think that in this economy, this state budget crisis and this university's budget, that this would be a terrible time to start a new medical school in West Michigan. Especially since last fall Michigan State's School of Human Medicine just moved from East Lansing MI to the Medical Mile on the hill in Grand Rapids. But really, this was inevitable.
Even before we moved down to West Michigan in 1991, PBS had started airing their multi-year NOVA study on Harvard Medical School's New Pathways. Not only was it a fascinating topic in its own right, it gave me some perspective about the pre-med students that pass through my Physics classes. And somewhere in learning about the Grand Rapids area, I found out about the plethora of top flight hospitals in both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo -- and the large numbers of med students who come through here in their rotations -- and the lack of a local medical school. Having a medical school on this end of the state has made sense for a long time. Having two, one in Grand Rapids and one in Kalamazoo, might strike some as overkill, but I can see the Kalamazoo hospitals wanting to get in on the action. Remember, a lot of med school faculty are on staff in teaching hospitals. In town is not the same as out of town. (grin)
So I know that there are a lot of faculty probably upset with this, figuring that a new med school is going to be a drain on resources. But the claim from the start has been that Western has needed to privately fund this new medical school and not try to draw on dwindling state resources. A huge $100 million gift goes a long way towards making certain that private funding. The cynical might think that having a medical school at WMU will insulate the university from any discussion by the state to put Western on the short list if they feel they have to cut one of the state universities. Of course, the discussion about a medical school predates the current state government and budget slicing. (grin)
A school of medicine in Kalamazoo has been under discussion and in the planning stage since late 2007. In 2009, WMU received an anonymous $1.8 million gift that was characterized as "seed money" to allow the University and its community partners to begin development of the school.
Early in 2010, WMU filed a letter of intent and was awarded applicant status with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the group that accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada. Earlier this year, following a yearlong national search, the University announced the selection of Jenson as founding dean of the school. Committees with communitywide representation have been formed to tackle the development of curriculum, facilities, finances and communication.
The WMU School of Medicine will open in fall 2013 or fall 2014. For more information, visit wmich.edu/medicine.
So... Welcome to the WMU School of Medicine in Kalamazoo.
Save Us From P.R. Events
Of course there have been hints that this announcement was coming. Friday I got an email that had a Western email address, but was clearly not put together using any sort of standard university framework. Instead it talked about Operation:Historic Moment and Witnessing History -- and featured hyperlinks in dark blue against a black background? Spam fail?
I mean, what was I supposed to think, when one is faced with a graphic which reads WWW . OperationHistoricMoment . COM and the link looks like:
This is classic spammer behavior -- bait-and-switch websites. And of course the university's email spam system lets tons of bad emails through, so it's not like I don't know what a suspicious looking email with a university email address looks like. (evil grin)
Monday, there was an email through more normal channels. And at this point I knew the Medical School was on, because what else would be considered so historic from the administration's point of view?