From Student to Sponsor: Alumni Play Important Role in Lives of Future Leaders & Best

Creating the Future of Health Care . . . Through Philanthropy             

A few weeks ago, the University of Michigan Medical School officially welcomed the newest class of medical students to our campus – 172 aspiring physicians chosen from more than 5,440 applicants, and coming from 33 states and 73 undergraduate colleges and universities.

In our classrooms, laboratories and clinics, 1,200 medical and graduate students work with our world-class faculty as they prepare to join the ranks of the nation’s best-trained physicians and scientists. These students will become part of the legacy of thousands of alumni whose contributions to medical science have resulted in advances that have expanded the boundaries of knowledge and saved countless lives.

One important reason the University of Michigan is able to attract the best and the brightest to our Medical School is because of the generous philanthropic support of scholarships. And not surprisingly, nowhere is that generosity more evident than in contributions made to scholarships by our alumni.michigan-matching-initiative-for-student-support

There are nearly 20,000 U-M Medical School alumni spread across the world. Members of this community have done so much to offer students the opportunity to pursue their dreams – they serve as mentors, they host students in their homes during resident interviews and they invest financially in future learners.

Today, more than ever, the need for scholarship support is critical. The decline in state funding of public education has been a long and difficult trend, and funding for medical education is no exception. The average medical student now graduates with more than $125,000 in debt, forcing many to pursue the most lucrative specialties rather than follow their passions.

Through scholarship support, our alumni – and others who invest in students –play a critical role in keeping U-M among the elite American medical schools. Scholarships not only enhance the institution, but they also make a direct and meaningful impact on individual students – to them, these gifts of support mean the world.

The following video captures the tremendous impact of scholarships perfectly, as one of our bright and passionate medical students, Jessica Pedersen, says thank you to orthopedic surgeon Jerjis Denno (M.D., 1981) for investing in her education. This year, Jessica begins a pediatric residency in Grand Rapids, continuing her dream to provide care to children in underserved areas of Michigan.

In Celebration of Nurses

“You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.”  ― Clara Barton, Nurse & Founder of the American Red Cross

Each year for a week, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12, we celebrate those individuals who have dedicated their lives to a profession that is among the most noble, demanding and rewarding: Nursing.

Nurses are important ambassadors of the patient and family experience because they are on the frontlines delivering care and comfort 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  They are in classrooms, labs and clinics training future generations of nursing professionals and discovering ways to improve care and care delivery. They are in the community working and volunteering at shelters and in schools.  And, across the country, nursing professionals are strong voices for innovation and change when it comes to shaping health care policy and influencing health care reform.

Under the steadfast leadership of Kate Potempa, Dean of the U-M School of Nursing, and Margaret Calarco, Chief Nurse at UMHHC, nursing at Michigan is thriving and our institution continues to be regarded as one of the country’s best academic nursing centers.  The School’s Master’s Program is the sixth best in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, its research-focused Ph.D. programs rank in the National Research Council’s top 5 percent and it ranks sixth in NIH research funding. Additionally, it is a hub of groundbreaking innovation, as demonstrated by being the first U.S. nursing school to partner with the Peace Corps’ Masters International Program, achievement of a 5-year grant to fund the prestigious Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation, and, in partnership with the UMHS nursing community, establishing the Clinical Initiative for Excellence in Education, Practice and Scholarship to improve the quality and safety of nursing care practice and delivery. UMHS nurses have influenced the profession by publishing more than 50 manuscripts and book chapters this past year alone and presenting more than 70 paper and poster presentations to national and international audiences. Additionally, the Health System’s new Nursing governance model is enabling deeper partnerships with patients and families and establishing new models of nursing care.  As clinical mentors to the hundreds of nursing students we serve, our nurses join with nursing students and faculty to educate our next generation of nurses and create the future of health care delivery.

From care at the bedside to outpatient appointments to nursing education and research to professional and peer support and mentorship, there is no more committed community of nurses than the 4,000 plus nursing professionals at Michigan.

While it shouldn’t take a national event to remind us to thank the incredible nursing professionals who enable excellence across our Health System and University, there certainly is no better time for all of us to offer gratitude to the nursing heroes, teachers, mentors and leaders in our community. Thank you for all that you do!!

Our Global Impact: The Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative

When Rockefeller (Rocky) Oteng was a child living in Ghana, he noticed that people who went to Europe or the United States for their education often didn’t come back home. Instead, they stayed in those other countries to work, live and thrive. This made him wonder – Why did Ghanians have to go someplace else to become somebody?

When he was 9, Rocky and his family left Ghana and moved to Northern Virginia. He went on to earn a medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College Of Medicine and then joined the University of Michigan as a resident in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Rocky always believed that there would come a time when he could help make a difference in the world. One of the reasons he chose to study emergency medicine was because it would give him knowledge and skills to help the greatest number of people. Throughout his training, the question of why Ghanians needed to leave home to be “somebody” remained on his mind, and in 2009 he decided to dedicate his work to bringing emergency medicine to Ghana.

According to Rocky, prior to 2009 the state of emergency medicine in Ghana was dismal. There were terrifying stories within the Ghanaian community of family members presenting to the hospital and dying from easily preventable causes. There were studies that showed that the acutely ill and injured people were dying at a higher rate in Ghana than in other developed nations. Rocky dreamed of doing something to change this, starting with creating an in-country emergency medicine training program.

Of course, every dream requires support and for Rocky this help came in two forms: a pilot grant from the Medical Education Partnership Initiative, which funds medical education and research in Sub-Saharan African institutions, and matching funds provided Dr. William Barsan, who was chair of Emergency Medicine at the time.

Thus, the Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative was born.

Rocky is a man of great compassion, vision and ambition. But, to build a successful Collaborative, you need partners. Fortunately, Rocky also is a Michigan (Health System) man and therefore has access to incredible mentors like Drs. Barsan, Robert Neumar, Joe Kolars and Terry Kowalenko, as well as like-minded and like-hearted colleagues, such as Sue Ann Bell, MSN, FNP-BC. Working with partners from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, the Ghana Ministry of Health and the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, Oteng, Bell and the rest of the team have made great progress with the Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative through exchange and in-country training programs. To date, they have graduated seven Ghanaian physicians from the residency program, with 15 more physicians and 27 nurses currently in training. Additionally, they have been engaged in efforts to continue to build an academic department and local emergency response systems. It is impressive work that will serve the people of Ghana for decades to come. Take a look:

When we talk about our Health System’s global impact, we mean more than just going into other countries to help, though that is certainly an important part. We also mean creating programs like the Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative and partnering with in-country agencies, universities and governments to build sustainable and culturally-appropriate local health infrastructures and medical training programs. In doing so, we help bolster the health and productivity of citizens, communities and economies.

Today, as we celebrate Earth Day, let’s reflect on our role as global citizens.

What is/will be your global impact?



I’m Not a Rockette, But I Played One “For The Kids”

The caliber of students at the University of Michigan never ceases to amaze me! Their academic excellence and ambition are impressive, as is their extraordinary passion to serve others. This month, I experienced two powerful reminders of the important role that our terrific students play in the Health System.

On March 15, I got to stop in and say hello during the Match Day luncheon. I was incredibly inspired as I talked to members of the Medical School’s remarkable 2013 graduating class and their beaming friends and families. It was an exciting day for all as the students learned where they would be doing their residency training. This year, 72% of students matched to residency programs in the nation’s top hospitals, including U-M, Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University in St. Louis, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, UCSF Medical Center in California and other leading academic medical centers across the country.

Later that day, I participated in a video shoot with members of the Dance Marathon at University of Michigan team. DMUM is one of the largest student-run non-profit organizations on the U-M campus. We taped a PSA to promote this year’s Marathon – an event where hundreds of students stand on their feet for 30 hours to show their support for pediatric services at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Beaumont Hospital. Since 1998, DMUM has raised funds to support pediatric rehabilitation programs at Mott Hospital, as well as our Child and Family Life program and Trails Edge Camp for ventilator-dependent children.

In an email I received after the video shoot, Monica Walls, DMUM Internal Director 2012-2013, said: “. . . As a senior at the University of Michigan, I can truly say that DMUM has defined my college career and shaped me into the person that I am today. It has taught me the value of hard work, dedication and passion for a cause that I truly believe in. It means so much to have the support of Health System leadership in our mission. I feel so blessed, honored and humbled to be a part of this wonderful community, and know that I will forever feel tied to the Maize and Blue. . . .For The Kids, Monica”

I encourage all faculty and staff to support our students through mentoring, by celebrating Match Day and other milestones, or by participating in fundraisers like the Galens Medical Society’s Tag Days or Smoker, and the University of Michigan Dance Marathon. These and so many other opportunities are how we demonstrate a true community of Leaders & Best.

Be one of the first to see the official DMUM PSA:

Art & Medicine

Employee Art Exhibition

This year, I was honored to participate in Gifts of Art’s 25th Anniversary Employee Art Exhibition in two meaningful ways. First, I was delighted to co-host the Sept. 11 awards presentation and second, since I am not an artist myself, I submitted one of my late husband’s photographs to the show. To see such exceptional creative work by UMHS faculty and staff was truly inspiring. If you have an opportunity to view this exhibit, which is on display in South Taubman Lobby, Floor 1, through October 8, I encourage you to do so.

I’ve always believed that art and medicine are interconnected, and that the practice of art and the practice of medicine are strikingly similar. Both start with the act of observation – reflecting on an existing idea, theory or problem – and then finding a way to express that existing notion in a novel way and with new vision. In art and in medicine, the process that takes you from what is to what can be is cerebral, creative and full of limitless possibilities. And this is one of the many reasons that a career in medicine and health care is one of the most rewarding, because there is no limit to what can be achieved or to the impact you can have on others. In the words of the early-twentieth century physician Dr. William Osler: The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.”

I was reminded of this quote recently when I read the August issue of the journal Academic Medicine. The issue features a perspective piece titled “Acts of Interpretation: A Philosophical Approach to Using Creative Arts in Medical Education” written by our very own Dr. Arno Kumagai, clinical professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Education. In the article, Dr. Kumagai shares insights from his experience as director of the UMMS Family Centered Experience (FCE) program, a required course that uses creative arts to teach first and second-year medical students. Of particular note, it is unique among medical schools to require a course that uses creative arts as part of its curriculum.

Two Worlds Apart
Artists: Sara Neill and Alex Donaghy, UMMS Class of 2014

As part of the FCE program, students spend time with patients who volunteer to share their experiences with the students to help them better understand that the person in the exam room is much more than his or her disease. Midway through the first year, the students work together in small teams to create a work of art – be it a poem, song, painting, dance, multimedia presentation or something else. The work of art must tell the story of the patient experience based on what the students learned from the patient-volunteers.

This concept of storytelling is a cornerstone of the FCE program. In the article, Dr. Kumagai explains how storytelling can enhance empathy, complement traditional learning strategies, deepen self-awareness and expression in students, and, ultimately, make better doctors who appreciate and understand the importance of patient-centered, relationship-based medical care.

The FCE program is a wonderful example of just how powerful the combination of art and medicine can be for learners, for patients and for the future of health care.  You can view some FCE interpretive projects here.

From paintings that adorn our walls to music that fills our patient rooms to sculptures that decorate our grounds to curricula that inspire our learners, the University of Michigan Health System is demonstrating the art of practicing medicine equally with our heads and with our hearts.