Published in Health Care

Crystal Ball 2019 Outlook Q&A: Dr. Hal Jenson, Western Michigan University

BY Sunday, December 23, 2018 04:04pm

The Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine achieved significant milestones in 2018. Among them: Receiving full accreditations from The Higher Learning Commission and the Liaison Committee of Medical Education, plus graduating its inaugural class of 48 medical students in May, all of whom were placed in residencies across the country. Since opening in 2014, the medical school — commonly known as WMed — has ramped up to peak capacity of 84 students per incoming class. After “quite a great year” in 2018, founding Dean Hal Jenson said WMed is now focused on improving and building on the foundation that’s been established.

How do you view WMed today after graduating your first class during the past year?


When that first class graduated, we have done everything once and gone through the complete cycle. Obviously there are classes behind them, and we have done some things three and four and five times, but we have done everything once. When that first class graduated, I like to say we graduated from being a new medical school to being a newer medical school. We’ve been around the block already. Now instead of looking to do things the first time, we’re looking to do things even better the second, third and fourth time.

What’s your focus for 2019?

When I came here (in 2011), we had a strategic plan that got us through 2014, but our first real strategic plan was for 2014 to 2018, and that has served us really well in both accreditation and maturation as a medical school. Over the past year, we’ve gone through a process of a new strategic plan that carries us forward from 2018 to 2022. The focus is really to do things better and continue to be even better.

Where will that new strategic plan take you?

We are still on the same trajectory. It’s not like the medical school is changing direction, but it’s what we have to do over the next four years to get there. So our strategic plan over the next four years is really on what I call operational excellence, to do what we do and do it even better. We have a great foundation and we want to emphasize improvement, efficiency and delivering even better programs and services to our learners and to our patients.

What’s coming up that’s new for the medical school?

We have a new residency program this year in obstetrics and gynecology. They took their first four residents and that will take four years to ramp up to a full 16 residents. We have another residency program that’s beginning next July in family medicine in Battle Creek. We are looking at the opportunities to create additional training programs for residents and fellows in Kalamazoo. The growth will be coming in some of the graduate medical education programs.

Where else are you continuing to build?

We are continuing to grow our basic science research programs. We recruited new faculty this year in medical engineering to work in collaboration with the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Western to develop research and graduate programs in medical engineering. Also, the faculty we have recruited will help Western develop its undergraduate programs in medical engineering and, hopefully someday, a Ph.D. program in medical engineering at Western. Those faculty are just here in the past couple of months.

We are working to recruit faculty in our Center for Immunobiology. We have three principal investigators now, one of whom is new this year. We are recruiting for two additional researchers, and it’s all about fit and getting the right people.

Another area that we’re focusing on is the operational excellence in our clinical services we provide on Oakland Drive. Many of our faculty also participate in clinical services with Ascension-Borgess and with Bronson Healthcare. We are working through our faculty to help the hospitals provide even better clinical care and at our Oakland Drive site.

As you look ahead to 2019, are you where you wanted to be at this point in time?

We are. We are as good as we could possibly have hoped for in terms of our accreditation. We are in a really great place and we’re on a great trajectory, so I’m very optimistic for the next five to 10 years and beyond.

Interview conducted and condensed by Mark Sanchez. 

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated. 

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