Three new med schools inch toward reality

Three candidates for the founding dean of the Western Michigan University Medical School are making public presentations in November and December in Kalamazoo.

A search committee, made up of representatives from WMU, Bronson Methodist Hospital and Borgess Health, has sorted through nearly 70 candidates and is bringing these three back for repeat visits, said Bob Miller, WMU’s associate vice president for community outreach.

“The committee obviously has some very definite characteristics they are looking for in a founding dean,” Miller said. “They have all gone through an initial interview with the search committee. The next step is an opportunity for others in the community to get to know them.”

The fledgling medical school is being led by an interim dean, Jack Luderer, who is executive director of WMU’s Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center. The school is being developed as a private entity with an affiliation to WMU.

“Our interim, Dr. Jack Luderer, said it’s not about doing it quickly; it’s about doing it right,” Miller said, adding that no timetable has been set for opening the doors of the medical school first proposed by WMU President John Dunn about two years ago.

The candidates include:

Dr. Robert A. Forse, whose public presentation occurred last week. Forse is a professor and associate chair for surgical education at Creighton University School of Medicine, a Catholic Jesuit university in Omaha, Neb. His clinical and research interests are focused on surgical treatment for obesity. He holds three degrees from McGill University in Montreal.
Dr. Rubens J. Pamies is scheduled to speak to the public at 5 p.m. Thursday in Borgess’ Lawrence Education Center. He is vice chancellor for academic affairs, dean for graduate studies and professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, also in Omaha. He has academic experience at six medical schools. He is an expert in health care disparities.
Dr. Hal B. Jenson is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 2 in Bronson’s Gilmore Auditorium. He is a professor of pediatrics and regional dean for Tufts University School of Medicine’s Western Campus in Springfield, Mass. In addition to his medical degree, he holds an MBA. He specializes in infectious diseases and virology.

Miller said committees also are looking at curriculum and facilities issues, but no decisions have been made. He said committee members are considering best practices and the state of the art before forging forward with the school.

Meanwhile, construction has begun on a $24 million, 60,000-square-foot addition to Central Michigan University’s Health Professions Building to house the new College of Medicine there, said Steve Smith, director of public relations. The building, designed by URS Corp. and being built by Rockford Construction, both of Grand Rapids, is expected to be complete by January 2012, with the first medical school class entering that summer.

Dr. Ernest Yoder, the former education and research vice president for Ascension Health’s Michigan operations, became the founding dean in June.

While a $25 million fundraising campaign is underway, CMU’s trustees are planning to fund medical school start-up costs with $25 million from reserves, Smith said. The Liaison Committee for Medical Education, the accrediting body for medical schools, is expected to visit the campus next year. Third- and fourth-year students will train at one of a half-dozen mid-Michigan hospitals, emphasizing the school’s rural primary care focus, Smith said.

The Oakland University William Beaumont Medical School has received preliminary accreditation from the LCME and is preparing to open to students this fall. First and second year classes will be conducted at the Oakland University campus in Rochester, while third and fourth year students will undergo clinical training at one of Beaumont’s three locations.

The founding dean is Dr. Robert Folberg, a pathologist and ophthalmologist who was a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Combined, Beaumont and OU plan to raise $260 million over 10 years to fund the private school.

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