Published in Health Care

Analysis estimates economic activity spurred by WMed in Kalamazoo, Calhoun counties

BY Thursday, April 29, 2021 05:14pm

KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine helped add 1,600 mostly private-sector jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in personal income and sales across the Kalamazoo region in 2020, according to an economic impact study. 

The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research conducted the analysis for the medical school, commonly known as WMed, that estimates its economic effects on Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties. 

Dr. Hal Jenson

In addition to the job growth, WMed helped generate $115.1 million in personal income and more than $353 million in sales across the region, according to the study.

The estimated economic effects result from spending by both medical students and the organization, according to the Upjohn Institute.

“While the potential change in behavior patterns by faculty, residents, staff, and students may affect the magnitude of the local economic impact, the spending by WMed (including employees) and its students will continue to have an important impact on the study area of Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties,” Upjohn Institute researchers wrote in the analysis.

WMed commissioned the analysis to gauge the economic role that it has on the region a decade after forming. The Upjohn Institute collected data from WMed and by surveying medical students.

“When I came to Kalamazoo 10 years ago, we were determined and steadfast in our goals to make WMed a beacon for medical education, research, and compassionate patient care,” Dr. Hal Jenson, WMed’s founding dean who retires in June, said in a statement.

“Our work in each of those areas has had a palpable and positive impact on the communities we serve. And this report from the Upjohn Institute confirms that the presence of the medical school has had a positive impact in another way by adding to the economic vitality of the region,” Jenson added. “I’m enormously proud of the work we’ve done together at WMed. This report measures the financial impact that our work has had on the broader community. Our success as a medical school is truly a community success.”

WMed was formed through a partnership between WMU and Kalamazoo health systems Ascension Borgess and Bronson Healthcare. WMed graduated its inaugural class in 2018.

The Upjohn Institute analysis also found that WMed in 2020 spent more than $93 million on labor and operations, an amount that was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Private-sector jobs alone in Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties grew by an estimated 1,512 jobs and gross domestic product increased by nearly $223 million.

WMed’s 337 students alone spent more than $7.2 million in 2020 across the economy, including in areas like housing, furniture, clothing, electronics and appliances, travel and vehicle insurance.

Upjohn Institute researchers did note that while “similar results could be expected in future years,” data for 2020 was surely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These estimates combine data for a full academic year with expenditure patterns of students based on a COVID-19 environment,” researchers wrote. “It is unknown how or if the administrative conditions and changes in personal preferences due to COVID-19 may affect the student survey results and, consequently, the estimates of impacts. It is unknown how or if the conditions due to the response to the COVID19 situation will change future employment, spending, or consumption patterns.”

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