GRAND RAPIDS — When he graduated in 1990 from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, Dr. Norman Beauchamp Jr. told himself he wanted to return some day to give back.
He now has the opportunity to pursue that goal when he becomes the new dean of the MSU medical school. Pending approval by the university Board of Trustees, Beauchamp takes over as dean at the Grand Rapids-based College of Human Medicine on Oct. 1.
Partly driving his desire to return to MSU is a significant grant he received 30 years ago when he decided to attend the College of Human Medicine.
“I said, ‘One day I want to come back and help the state and do well to serve the school,’” Beauchamp said.
A native of St. Johns who earned an undergraduate degree in biology from MSU’s Lyman Briggs College in 1986 and his medical degree in 1990, Beauchamp succeeds Marsha Rappley as dean. Rappley left a year ago to become dean of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., and run its health system.
Beauchamp comes to the MSU College of Human Medicine from the University of Washington in Seattle, where he serves as chairman of the Department of Radiology. He just completed a tenure as chairman the university’s Faculty Senate and serves on the board of the Washington Biotech and Biomedical Association, a trade association for the state’s life sciences industry.
The potential to put his background to use in his home state running the medical school from which he graduated drew Beauchamp to seek the dean’s position. He also cited MSU’s role in biomedical research that will expand with the development of the Grand Rapids Research Center in the city’s downtown.
He hopes to become involved in helping to generate more startup companies in Michigan through innovations emanating from the research lab.
“When you think about what an academic university should be, it should be generating an economic return on investment and a social return on investment,” he said. “I’m very excited about what we can do there both in job creation as well as in innovation in the state.
“I absolutely think one of our measures of success will be how many new companies we help start and how many entrepreneurs we bring to the area.”
Part of Beauchamp’s recent professional background in driving collaboration may serve him well in Grand Rapids.
His department serves five hospitals and has 140 faculty members. As its president, he’s led the 1,600-physician clinical practice at the University of Washington, where he “brought together the doctors across all aspects of medicine.”
Then there’s his term as Faculty Senate chair, working with the biotech trade association on a strategic plan for the industry in Washington, and running a large free clinic as medical director of the Seattle/King County Clinic.
The dean’s position at MSU’s College of Human Medicine will provide Beauchamp the opportunity to put all of his background to work in a single setting.
“What I came to realize was that in a world of struggles, if I could actually try to find a place where I could line those things up all together, we could do something extraordinary,” he said. “As I sat in Washington, I was doing a lot of that, but I started to look for places where perhaps I could help to lead that coming together faster.
“When I started to look for universities, it was kind of a really cool alignment of the commitment I made when I was able to attend the College of Human Medicine and seeing that the state of Michigan and Michigan State would be a place where I could actually help mobilize that alignment and have a bigger impact.”
While interviewing for the dean’s position, Beauchamp noted the collaborative nature he saw in Grand Rapids and the development that’s occurred in the community since he left. That includes the Medical Mile research, health care and education corridor that today plays home to the College of Human Medicine at the Secchia Center, and the Grand Rapids Research Center, currently under construction at the northeast corner of Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue.
“To come back and see what’s happened, this is incredible and really emblematic of what collaboration looks like,” he said. “It was very inspiring. It really is a place that you’re going to get all of the components aligned to making a difference.”
After earning his medical degree from MSU, Beauchamp went to Johns Hopkins University to serve a medical residency and a fellowship. He joined the faculty there in 1996 and served as vice chairperson for clinical operations and as interim chairperson for a period. He left to go to the University of Washington in 2002.
Beauchamp sought the job at MSU’s College of Human Medicine at the urging of friends and colleagues with whom he went to school, and after he was contacted by a few search firms who had reached out to him about open dean positions.
“Dr. Beauchamp has a unique understanding and appreciation of the complex mission of the College of Human Medicine,” MSU Provost June Pierce Youatt said in a statement. “He understands the imperative to support research in critical areas, to deliver the highest quality preparation for the next generation of physicians, and to continue to add value to the communities in which we are engaged.”