The city of Kalamazoo, Michigan has a history of excellence in education, health care, research and life science exploration – all of which are assets for the development of a new medical school. Recognizing these assets, in October 2007 the new President of Western Michigan University, John M. Dunn, challenged the community to consider the possibility of developing a medical school during his first Academic Convocation and State of the University address. President Dunn's address sparked community interest and within six weeks a Medical School Feasibility Committee was formed. Consultants were retained to conduct detailed feasibility assessments in 2008 with funding provided by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. By January 2009, the feasibility studies confirmed what President Dunn had observed during his short time in southwest Michigan – Kalamazoo has substantial existing assets and the necessary building blocks for developing an outstanding medical school. The assets in the community include: a nationally recognized research university, nationally recognized hospitals, a 39-year history of medical education, multiple outpatient facilities, a strong base of physicians with patient volume and mix, a century-long heritage of drug discovery and medical device development, a strong base of community philanthropy, and a vibrant, committed and supportive city.
With a commitment of collaboration from Western Michigan University, Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare, the medical school moved from merely an idea to a planned approach for development of Western Michigan University School of Medicine (WMed). In November 2009, an anonymous donation of $1.8 million was made to support efforts to plan for the new medical school. A committee comprised of the chief executive officers of Borgess Health, Bronson Healthcare, and the president of Western Michigan University met regularly to guide the development process. In 2010, WMed was awarded Applicant Status by the LCME, a search committee was developed to recruit the school’s founding dean, and Jack Luderer, MD was named interim dean. A Steering and Visioning Committee, later renamed the Institutional Setting Committee, included a broader group of the senior leadership of the three founding organizations. Following a national search with multiple on-site interviews of the candidates, Hal B. Jenson, MD, MBA was named as the founding dean of Western Michigan University School of Medicine in January 2011.
March 22, 2011 marked a historic moment for both the founding dean and the medical school. Not only was it the first day on the job for the new founding dean but also it was the day that a $100 million cash gift to WMU was announced to serve as the foundation funding for WMed. This anonymous gift was the largest ever made to a Michigan college or university, among the 10th largest cash gifts ever made to an American public university, and the 15th largest cash gift in the history of American higher education. The gift proceeds remain invested in a dedicated reserve and both the investment return and principal is available for the unrestricted use of WMed.
December 8, 2011 marked another major milestone in the history of WMed and illustrates the spirit of giving that is prevalent in Kalamazoo. At the WMU Board of Trustees meeting that day, William U. Parfet, the chairman and chief executive officer of MPI Research and the great-grandson of W.E. Upjohn, donated to WMU a 330,000 square foot building located in downtown Kalamazoo that will serve as the future home of WMed. This property, which is on the original plot of land acquired by W. E. Upjohn to begin the Upjohn Co., housed at the very research facility where Motrin, Xanax, Halcion, Rogaine, and Zyvox were discovered. Locally known as Pfizer Building 267, the property is adjacent to Bronson and only three miles from Borgess, and two miles from WMU and the WMed Oakland Drive campus.
The Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies (MSU/KCMS) Board of Directors approved the merger of the institution into WMed effective July 1, 2012. Under the terms of the merger, all MSU/KCMS operations, programs, personnel and facilities wholly merged into and became part of WMed. This merger included the clinical education and patient care programs, administrative functions, 223 staff, 200 residents and 61 full-time employed faculty. In addition, there are more than 420 clinical faculty members as physicians in the community who volunteer their time and extend the educational experiences for medical students and residents into their private offices.
Today, WMed, has 206 resident physicians training in the following accredited residency programs: Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, General Surgery, Internal Medicine, Medicine-Pediatrics, Orthopaedic Surgery, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry, along with fellowships in Sports Medicine, and Emergency Medical Services. WMed also offer dually accredited AOA/ACGME Family Medicine and Internal Medicine residencies. WMed has utilized electronic medical patient records since 2002 and provides a Simulation Center for resident and medical student training.
In October 12, 2012, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of the new medical school building on the W.E. Upjohn Campus, which will be ready for occupancy in June 2014, prior to the arrival of WMed’s first medical school class in August 2014. During the groundbreaking ceremony, Dean Jenson announced that WMed was granted preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, permitting WMed to move forward to recruit its first class of medical students.
A year later, the $68 million renovation and addition project showed tremendous progress. On a beautiful autumn day, October 2, 2013, a group of several hundred colleagues, community leaders and friends of the medical school gathered to sign the final steel beam that signaled the "topping out" of the new addition on the medical school building in downtown Kalamazoo.
On March 11, 2014 Western Michigan University announced the new medical school was named for Dr. Homer Stryker, a WMU alumnus and founder of Stryker Corporation. The move honored the donors of the 2011 $100 million gift, Stryker's granddaughter, Ronda Stryker, and her husband William Johnston, a WMU trustee. WMU also announced a separate corporate gift from Stryker Corporation for the medical school that bears its founder's name.
On August 18, 2014 the inaugural medical school class of 54 students arrived and began the CLEAR curriculum to prepare exceptional clinicians, leaders, educators, advocates, and researchers of tomorrow. Selected from an applicant pool of more than 3,500, the inaugural class has 24 women and 30 men from 14 states, including 23 students from Michigan and 15 from California. They represent 35 colleges and universities from across the country. Three students are graduates of Western Michigan University and two are from Kalamazoo College. One member of the class attended college as a Kalamazoo Promise scholarship recipient.
On September 17, 2014 the Inaugural Class of 2018 White Coat Ceremony was held along with a reception and self-guided tours immediately following the ceremony. The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage as new students begin medical school. In the presence of family and guests, students are welcomed into the medical community by leaders and faculty of the medical school and are ceremonially cloaked with their first white coat. Then, they stand to take the oath committing them to the profession of medicine. This ceremony impresses upon students the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship. Click here to watch the ceremony.
The Grand Opening Celebration of the new medical school was held on September 18, 2014 with more than 1,500 guests. Dean Hal Jenson, MD, WMU President John Dunn, hospital CEOs Paul Spaude and Frank Sardone, as well as keynote speaker AAMC Board Chair A. Lorris Betz, MD spoke at the ceremony to welcome the new medical students to Kalamazoo, recognize donor and community support, and to showcase the new medical education facility. Click here to watch video highlights of the event or the entire ceremony.
The Early Years
In 1946, The Upjohn Company, The Kalamazoo Foundation and The W.E. Upjohn Trustee Corporation contributed to a grant establishing the first graduate medical education program in Kalamazoo which was a residency in internal medicine at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Shortly thereafter, Borgess Medical Center began its internship and residency training programs.
In considering the impact of graduate medical education in Kalamazoo, the Upjohn Board wrote, "the institutions as well as the communities they serve benefit richly from the services of resident staffs, and the quality of medical care rises sharply under the responsibility posed by teaching."
The Board had the foresight to recognize that the presence of graduate medical education in Kalamazoo would significantly contribute to its reputation as a medical community, rich in hospital resources in businesses such as the Pharmacia & Upjohn, Inc., and the Stryker Corporation.
For many years, Borgess and Bronson independently offered numerous internship and residency programs. In 1966, the first joint residency between hospitals - an Orthopaedic Surgery program - was created.
Given the success of the orthopaedic residency and a shared desire to strengthen graduate medical education in Kalamazoo, in 1973 both hospitals agreed to form a joint venture, non-profit organization devoted to medical education: the Southwestern Michigan Area Health Education Center (SMAHEC). However, SMAHEC's corporate structure was not conducive for responding to national changes in health care. In 1989, the organization restructured, with the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University added as a corporation partner, and reemerged under a new name: Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies.
The appellation aptly reflected the renewed direction of the organization. Michigan State University brought an academic focus to the corporation, including serving as a clinical campus of the MSU medical school and having faculty appointed by the university in all teaching roles.
In 1994, the clinics and administrative offices, which had been scattered throughout the city, came together at one location. The University Medical and Health Sciences Center on Oakland Drive was renovated to offer state-of-the-art learning facilities and position the institution to continue medical student and resident training in a world of healthcare increasingly focused on outpatient care. The building's name symbolized the symbiotic relationship of two universities, two hospitals, and medicine and health.