There have been many big moments in the development of a new medical school at Western Michigan University.
There were large gifts to help get the school started, the location downtown, and the name, the Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine.
But until recently, it was still a vision for the future. Now the first class of 54 students has arrived. 23 of them come from Michigan, but others have arrived from all over the country. The founding dean of the School of Medicine, Hal Jenson, told WMUK's Gordon Evans that the group of students is strong academically and in terms of diversity. He says they come from "coast to coast to coast and Alaska."
Jenson says future classes should be larger for the medical school. He says over the next three years the classes will grow to 84 students each year.
The medical school was first proposed shortly after John Dunn became President of Western Michigan University in 2007. Early on it was decided that the university would not seek any state funding for the new medical school. Jenson says the value of large private donations to the medical school "is priceless." He says that while Western, along with Borgess and Bronson Hospitals are seen as the three "parents" of the medical school, the community support is also crucial to the medical school's existence.
The Affordable Care Act and other developments make this a time of change in health care. But Jenson says medicine is complex, and is often in a state of flux. He says change has been going on for a long time, and will continue. Jenson says regardless of changes "there will always be a need for skilled, compassionate physicians" to take care of individual patients and to develop systems that take care of communities.
A physician shortage has been projected for Michigan and the United States in coming years. Jenson says a medical school will also be a recruiting tool for doctors to locate in Southwest Michigan. He says it will become an important pipeline for physicians in the community.
Jenson says the focus for the medical school has been on developing the curriculum. But he says in the future, life sciences research will be housed at the Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. Jenson says this year work will begin on remodeling the medical school building downtown to update the labs, and recruit life sciences researchers to the facility in downtown Kalamazoo.