Dean Paula Termuhlen, MD, highlights great work being done at WMed during annual State of the Medical School presentation

Dr. Paula Termuhlen
Dr. Paula M. Termuhlen

In December, the medical school community got the opportunity to join Dean Paula Termuhlen, MD, as she highlighted the great work being done at WMed during the annual State of the Medical School update.

The event included two town hall sessions that were held in-person on December 12 at the Oakland Drive Campus Media Room, with hybrid participation available via Microsoft Teams. Sessions were also held for faculty and staff at WMed Health-Mall Drive Portage and Family Medicine-Battle Creek.

“Whatever your role at WMed, you are a part of a local effort toward health equity in Southwest Michigan as well as a national effort in creating the physicians who reflect and understand the people we serve,” Dr. Termuhlen said. “What starts in WMed’s team-based learning halls, our clinics, our labs, and our community saves lives here in Southwest Michigan and across the country. It means something to be a part of a medical school, and today I want to highlight some examples of excellence on our teams.”

During her presentation, Dr. Termuhlen listed off numerous points of pride and several accomplishments that took place at the medical school in the past year. Among the highlights were the medical school’s annual Health Equity Summit, a partnership with the Kalamazoo Growlers baseball team, the announcement of the new WMed Promise Scholarship, and the important work being done by Street Medicine Kalamazoo to provide care to the unhoused in the Kalamazoo community.

“Many of you are supporting the work with contributions of time, talent and treasure,” Dr. Termuhlen said of Street Medicine Kalamazoo. “It is amazing what our WMed students, residents, and faculty have been able to accomplish.”  

Dr. Termuhlen said that one of the most important outcomes of the medical school curriculum is to develop physicians who are advocates for their patients. With that in mind, she highlighted a student-led initiative that took place recently and brought MyChart to Spanish-speaking WMed Health patients. More than 300 WMed Health patients primarily speak Spanish and the students’ efforts allow those patients to access their electronic health records, schedule appointments, update medication lists, read peer-reviewed information about medical conditions, view lab results, update medication lists, pay bills, and enter insurance information in their primary language. The students launched the project while studying health equity in our longitudinal Active Citizenship program, which combines community service and research. 

“Our students are making a difference today and we are proud to see them act as advocates for our patients,” Dr. Termuhlen said.

In addition to the great work by WMed students, Dr. Termuhlen said the medical school’s clinical footprint continues to grow as we increase access to primary care and offer subspecialty care that would not otherwise be available in Southwest Michigan.

Beyond clinical care, WMed faculty are also helping the medical school grow its reputation nationally. For example, Joyce deJong, DO, chair of the Department of Pathology, was recently named president of the National Association of Medical Examiners and Robert W. Rebar, MD, founding chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, was presented with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The medical school is also building upon its impressive foundation in research. In fiscal year 2022, WMed faculty produced 328 peer-reviewed journal articles, six books, and 65 book chapters.

The medical school had the opportunity to celebrate research this past spring during the 40th Annual Research Day at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus. This year’s theme was “Celebrating Research, Transforming Health” and the event included a focus on projects involving breakthroughs in basic and translational sciences, clinical, public health, medical education, social and behavioral sciences, and quality improvement.

“Research Day is a celebration of the proud tradition of medical and health sciences research in the region and it offers an opportunity to develop and promote the richness and diversity of research in the local medical community,” Dr. Termuhlen said.   

Looking ahead, Dr. Termuhlen said the medical school is intensely focused on being a part of creating a physician workforce that reflects and understands the people we serve. To do that, she said WMed leaders are working to manage the perils of student indebtedness. At WMed, student scholarships continued to grow for academic year 2022-2023, with 35 half- and 10 full-tuition scholarships, merit scholarships for all MD students without other scholarship support, and merit scholarships to students in the top quartile. 

Dr. Termuhlen said work also continues internally to foster a culture of success and belonging at WMed. This summer, the medical school’s organizational leadership was redesigned to provide a sustainable structure to lead WMed through intentional planning, high-level decision making, and collaborative problem solving. 

Additionally, the launch of the WMed Ally Training Program is serving as a catalyst for culture change at the medical school and helping to embed the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice into the fabric of the institution. Wellness also remains a focus and in September the medical school hosted the inaugural suicide prevention and well-being symposium, where more than 300 people came to learn more about ways to take care of themselves and others.   

The medical school also recruited new leaders in 2022, including Daniel Stulberg, MD, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine; Santhosh Koshy, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine, Kevin Ault, MD, chair the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Nicole Allbee, PhD, as the medical school’s inaugural chief of staff.   

“These leaders have already begun taking WMed to the next level,” Dr. Termuhlen said.

“In closing, I want to say thank you for the time and effort that you put into helping WMed develop a new inspirational and aspirational strategic plan,” Dr. Termuhlen said. “You gave of your time and talent despite needing to work harder and longer due to staffing shortages. Our new vision is one of health equity for all people in Southwest Michigan through innovation in the practice and study of medicine. We are committed to excellence and health equity through transformative medical education, high-quality, patient- and family-centered care, innovative research, and community partnerships within a just culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

“Our values share how we accomplish this by excelling with integrity and professionalism, championing safety and belonging, and listening, collaborating and serving with respect and compassion,” Dr. Termuhlen added. “You can hear how the four pillars of medical education, research, clinical care, and community engagement are represented in these new guideposts for WMed. As we continue forward, our three new strategic priorities will help guide our work.”