Outreach, optimism highlight

Sean Madigan

The Medical School attributes much of its success to the accomplishment of the faculty, but the future of the school lies in the hands of its students, Dr. Alfred Michael told more than 80 faculty members in his second State of the Medical School Address on Wednesday.
Michael, the Medical School dean, has two major initiatives: to develop strong academic excellence, and to reach out to the community.
“I’m truly amazed and invigorated by the accomplishments of the faculty, but we truly exist because of our students,” Michael said. Last year Michael said he wanted to see the school ranked among the nation’s elite schools like Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Stanford.
While the school made some gains toward this goal, they still have work to do.
“We are either 17th or 18th ranked in terms of (National Institutes of Health) grants. We want to get near 10th,” Michael said.
This year the faculty grant proposals landed several multi-million dollar grants from the NIH and the U.S. Department of Energy for advanced technology and clinical and AIDS research.
Despite the faculty’s achievement, Michael wants get back to the students.
“The purpose of the Medical School, first and foremost, is to educate,” Michael said. “But I keep finding myself pushing the school out into the community.”
Arron Kabb finds the idea of bringing the school into the public very appealing. Kabb, a graduate of the University of Colorado, is currently working as a lab technician in the University’s pharmacology department and is considering attending the Medical School.
“I really like the idea of forging a link between the school and the community,” Kabb said.
But the school does not limit the community to Hennepin or Ramsey counties, or even Minnesota. The Medical School established an Office of International Medical Education to further diversify and enrich its curriculum.
More than 10 percent of the Medical School’s students are currently enrolled in the study abroad program, said Greg Vercellotti, senior associate dean for education. Students are studying in a number of countries including Chile, Costa Rica, Tanzania and Sweden.
When students return they will have learned to treat people from an array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. This type of training is invaluable for students, Vercellotti said, even while practicing in Minnesota.
Minnesota is home to a large number of Hmong and Somali immigrants. Although the immigrants bring diversity to the state, they also introduce new health challenges, such as tropical diseases.
Michael also addressed the need to attract students to the school. He said the lack of sufficient space and funding will have to be met by the private sector. But he is confident that the need will be met.
“After all, donors give to winning causes, not sinking ships,” he said.