Our History

Dr. Hal B. Jenson
Dr. Hal B. Jenson, Founding Dean

At WMed, we are rooted in the heart of Kalamazoo, a Michigan city with a proud history of excellence in education, healthcare, research and life-science exploration – all of which are assets for the continued growth of the medical school. 

A recognition of those rich resources led John M. Dunn, then the new president of Western Michigan University, to challenge the community to consider the development of a medical school during his first Academic Convocation and State of the University address in October 2007. President Dunn's address sparked community interest and within six weeks a Medical School Feasibility Committee was formed. In 2008, consultants were retained to conduct detailed feasibility assessments and by January 2009, the feasibility studies confirmed what President Dunn had observed – Kalamazoo possessed the substantial assets and necessary building blocks to establish an outstanding medical school. 

John M. Dunn (Our History)
WMU President John M. Dunn (Photo Courtesy of MLive Media Group)

Together, with the collaboration of WMU, Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare, President Dunn’s vision transformed quickly into reality and, in November 2009, an anonymous donation of $1.8 million buoyed efforts and planning for WMed. A committee comprised of President Dunn and the chief executive officers of Borgess and Bronson met regularly to guide the development process. In 2010, WMed was awarded applicant status by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), a search committee was developed to recruit the school’s founding dean, and Jack Luderer, MD, was named interim dean. After a national search, Hal B. Jenson, MD, MBA, was named WMed’s founding dean in January 2011.

Dr. Jenson’s first day on the job -- March 22, 2011 – was the same day that a $100 million cash gift to WMU was announced to serve as the foundation funding for WMed. At the time, the anonymous gift was the largest ever made to a Michigan college or university, the 10th largest cash gift ever made to an American public university, and the 15th largest cash gift in the history of American higher education. Today, proceeds from the gift remain invested in a dedicated reserve and the investment return and principal is available for the unrestricted use of WMed. 

William U. Parfet (Our History)
On December 8, 2011, William U. Parfet donated to WMU a 350,000 square-foot building in downtown Kalamazoo. After a major renovation and addition, this building now serves as the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus of the medical school.

Less than six months after the historic announcement, on December 8, 2011, William U. Parfet, then the chairman and chief executive officer of MPI Research and the great-grandson of W.E. Upjohn, donated to WMU a 350,000 square-foot building in downtown Kalamazoo that now serves as the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus of the medical school. Our downtown campus, which is on the original plot of land acquired by W. E. Upjohn to begin The Upjohn Company., at one time housed the very research facility where drugs such as Motrin, Xanax, Halcion, Rogaine, and Zyvox were discovered. Locally known as Pfizer Building 267, the property is adjacent to Bronson Healthcare, only three miles from Borgess Health and two miles from WMU and the Oakland Drive Campus of the medical school 

In July 2012, the Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies (MSU/KCMS) Board of Directors approved the merger into WMed. Under the terms of the merger, all MSU/KCMS operations, programs, personnel and facilities became part of WMed. The merger included the clinical education and patient care programs, administrative functions, 223 staff, 200 residents and 61 full-time faculty. Additionally, more than 420 physicians from the Kalamazoo community volunteer their time as clinical faculty at MSU/KCMS to extend the educational experiences for medical students and residents into their private offices. From that foundation, the medical school has added several new residency and fellowship training programs, increased the size of training programs, and had significant growth in the numbers of full-time faculty and also community volunteer faculty.

On October 12, 2012, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of the new downtown medical school building on the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus. During the groundbreaking ceremony, Dean Jenson announced that WMed was granted preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), permitting WMed to move forward to recruit its first class of medical students.

Topping Out Ceremony (Our History)
The "topping out" ceremony for the renovation and addition at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus was held on October 2, 2013.

Rapid progress was made on the $68 million renovation and addition at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus. Just one year after the groundbreaking, on October 2, 2013, 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, the new medical school was named for Dr. Homer H. Stryker, a WMU alumnus and founder of Stryker Corporation. The naming honored the wishes of donors of the $100 million gift, Stryker's granddaughter, Ronda Stryker, and her husband William Johnston, a WMU trustee.

Naming of medical school (Our History)
The medical school was named for Dr. Homer H. Stryker on March 11, 2014.

Five months later, on August 18, 2014, the medical school welcomed its inaugural class, which was selected from a pool of more than 3,500 applicants and was comprised of 24 women and 30 men from 14 states, including 23 students from Michigan and 15 from California. The students represented 35 colleges and universities from across the country. Three students were WMU graduates and two were Kalamazoo College alumni. One member of the class attended college as a Kalamazoo Promise scholarship recipient.

The first-year medical students were honored on September 17, 2014, during a White Coat Ceremony and reception at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus. In the presence of family and guests, the students were welcomed into the medical community by leaders and faculty of the medical school and ceremonially cloaked with their first white coat. That day, they stood to take the oath committing them to the profession of medicine. The ceremony impressed upon the students the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship. Click here to watch the first White Coat Ceremony.

The Grand Opening Celebration for the downtown medical school building was held on September 18, 2014, with more than 1,500 guests attending. Dean Jenson, President Dunn, Borgess and Bronson 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 a video of highlights from the event or click here to watch the entire ceremony.

The medical school has marked several other milestones during the early years. In 2016, the medical school was granted accreditation, provisional status, by the LCME and was named as a Candidate for institutional accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission. In March 2017, the medical school was certified by the U.S. Department of Education for our students having eligibility to participate in federal financial aid.

On July 31, 2017, WMed welcomed the Class of 2021, its fourth class of medical students and its first full class of 84 students.

In February 2018, WMed was granted full accreditation for a five-year period from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. Five years is the maximum possible for a new school receiving its initial full accreditation. On March 16, 2018 the inaugural class of medical students participated in Match Day, when medical students across the nation learn where they will spend the next three or more years in residency training. On May 13, 2018, 48 students participated in the inaugural commencement as they were hooded and the degree doctor of medicine was conferred upon them.

The graduation of our first class of medical students marked the end of the "firsts" as WMed itself graduated from being a "new" medical school.

Medical Education in Kalamazoo Before the Medical School

KCMS (Our History)
The Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies was unveiled in 1989.

The roots of medical education and excellence in Kalamazoo can be traced back to 1946 when 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 – a residency training program 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 of Directors wrote at the time that "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 Upjohn Board had the foresight to recognize that the presence of graduate medical education in Kalamazoo would significantly contribute to the city’s reputation as a medical community, rich in hospital resources and in businesses such as 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 program between the hospitals – an Orthopaedic Surgery program – was created.

The success of the joint residency program, as well as a shared desire to strengthen graduate medical education in Kalamazoo, led both hospitals in 1973 to form the Southwest Michigan Area Health Education Center (SMAHEC), a non-profit organization devoted to medical education. However, SMAHEC's corporate structure was not conducive to respond to national changes in health care and, in 1989, Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine was added as a corporation partner as SMAHEC transitioned under a new name: Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies.

The appellation aptly reflected the renewed direction of the organization. MSU brought an academic focus to the corporation, with Kalamazoo serving as a regional clinical campus of the MSU medical school and having faculty in Kalamazoo appointed by MSU, recognizing faculty 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. The center 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.