Back to School

With the start of a new academic year, I’ve been thinking about our University of Michigan Medical students. In addition to superior academic credentials, they bring a multitude of impressive successes, unprecedented commitment to their craft, inspiring global awareness and wonderful diversity.

For example, this year’s incoming class of 177 new U-M medical students has a mean MCAT score of 34.2 and a mean GPA of 3.78. Sixty-three percent of the class received simultaneous offers from other top 10 medical schools in the country, 48% speaks at least one language in addition to English, 87% have been involved in medically-related volunteering or community service, 26% are entering medical school with at least one peer-reviewed publication already on their CVs and 12 students spent a year or more participating in intensive service activities through AmeriCorps, Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Additionally, the class features jugglers, beat boxers/DJs, cross-country cyclers, musicians and avid climbers. This is a truly extraordinary group!

Of course, our students are just as impressive when they complete their Michigan medical school training. Of the most recent graduating class, 99.3% matched – exceeding the national average of 95% – and of those that matched, 93% matched into one of their top five choices. Matching is the very competitive process by which graduating medical school seniors seek entrance into a residency program. Residency directors from schools across the United States consistently rank U-M medical students as among the most desirable. In fact, the most recent US News & World Report ranking of medical student desirability placed U-M second behind Johns Hopkins and Harvard, which tied for first.

So, I’ve addressed the beginning and ends of the Michigan medical school experience, but what happens in between? The answer is exceptional didactic and hands-on learning. From the lecture hall to the clinic to the OR to the lab to the community, students immerse themselves in absorbing as much knowledge and experience as possible so they can launch exceptional careers that will shape the future of medicine and science.

Recently, I was forwarded an e-mail from Emma Lawrence, a member of the UMMS Class of 2015. In the e-mail, Emma described her experience this summer helping to establish a center for fetal monitoring in Ghana. Below is an abbreviated version of her story. It is a terrific example of the remarkable character and caliber of UMMS students:

Unlike past trips to Ghana, my primary responsibility this summer is research. Along with a University of Michigan undergraduate student, I am based at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, a large tertiary care center in one of Ghana’s busiest cities. The hospital is a maze of crowded wards, hurried health workers and an unrelenting inpouring of patients. I spend my time in the “A ward,” a 4-floor block dedicated to OBGYN. The high-risk antenatal ward, where I recruit patients and follow up on their care, is constantly hovering at the brink of barely controlled chaos. Physically, the room is bursting at the seams with laboring patients; hospital beds are always full and the doctors weave among the extra mattresses squeezed into every spare space, attempting to hang IVs from window sills and examine the women as they lie on the floor. Women are rushed from nearby hospitals in the throes of eclamptic seizures, with blood pressures at impossibly high levels, and with obstetric histories full of loss. Last year, the hospital averaged 33 deliveries a day, a staggering number by any account.

My research involves the implementation of cardiotocograph monitoring, a form of electronic fetal monitoring that is routinely used in the United States. In an effort to reduce the staggering number of stillbirths at Komfo Anokye, the monitors give an inside look into the health of the fetus and allow doctors to take action, by inducing labor or performing a c-section, in the critical period that precedes fetal death.  My work has been both fascinating and challenging on every level. We started with a bare room and a hospital staff largely unfamiliar with the indications and interpretations of cardiotocographs. After countless phone calls and meetings, endless trips to the ATMs, and an impressive battery of stabilizers, surge protectors, voltage transformers, and socket adaptors, the “fetal assessment center” is newly equipped with patient beds, privacy screens, 3 cardiotocographs, and an ultrasound machine. An additional 15 cardiotocographs have been distributed to OBGYNs in two of Ghana¹s other major teaching hospitals and to 6 district hospitals.

Despite the strides we have made, we are just scratching the surface.  Doing this research and working with patients has been a clash of emotional highs and lows. On a daily basis, I struggle with the ethical dilemma of my own place in the hierarchy of medicine (as a rising second year medical student with no business making critical care decisions) and the conflicting realization that the doctor I¹m sharing a strip with might not understand the importance of the lines and wiggles and black marks that now mean so much to me.

After finishing my first year of medical school with a short sequence on embryology, words like “spontaneous abortion” and “intrauterine fetal death” conjured images that seemed only remotely connected to the idea of life and birth. However, as we began to monitor patients, these words and numbers have taken on a new reality.

When I stop by on the weekend to monitor a single patient and end up leaving 8 hours later, I leave exhausted and invigorated and emotionally drained and so deeply amazed at the dedication and fortitude of the physicians here. I know that medicine is never easy anywhere, but I cannot imagine that most doctors in America will have to help a women deliver in a chair because the labor beds are full or manually squeeze bags of saline into a women dying of septic shock or induce labor in an eclamptic women to save the mother¹s life, knowing full well that the baby will die here in Ghana because of the limited capabilities of the NICU.

I have grown enormously from this experience. I realize both the remarkable gains in knowledge my classmates and I have made, and the enormity of what I have left to learn. (Read the complete version of Emma’s story on the Global Reach website.)

To sustain a top 10 medical school takes many things in addition to outstanding students. It takes incredible faculty and staff who educate and support students throughout their time here. And it takes superb medical school leadership, which we are very fortunate to have in Dean James O. Woolliscroft, Dr. Joe Kolars, our senior associate dean for Education and Global Initiatives, Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for Medical Student Education, Dr. Steven Gay, assistant dean for Admissions, Robert Ruiz, director of Medical School Admissions and the entire Admissions team.

I doubt I could have competed with our incoming medical students for a spot in the U-M Medical School class when I started medical school in 1976, but I am so thrilled to be a part of it today. I hope all of you take as much pride in our Medical School as I do. When we refer to the ‘future of health care’, our medical students are at the center of that future. And, because they are so exceptional, I know that our future is a bright one!

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Photos from the Ice Cream Social – Enjoy!

Join the University of Michigan in an event to support finding a cure for diabetes

As a pediatric endocrinologist, I am all too familiar with the impact diabetes can have on children and families. I have long been a supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation because of their unwavering commitment to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes – a disease which strikes both children and adults suddenly, makes them insulin dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications, including kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputation, heart attack and stroke. The need for insulin will not decrease over time.  The only remedy is a cure.

On Sunday, Sept. 23, at Hudson Mills Metro Park in Dexter, MI, the University of Michigan will join hundreds of corporations from across Southeastern Michigan to participate in the 2012 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. This year, our Health System is serving as a Gold-level Sponsor of the Walk and I am honored to be the Corporate Chair. I am inviting you to participate in this fun, family-oriented event as a great way to support JDRF, the U-M and our community. Also, it is a great way to get outside and get MHealthy!

Getting involved is easy. Here’s how:

Step 1: Make the commitment to form or join an existing team (Note: You can form a team within your department or school, and register under the “University of Michigan” team umbrella.)

Step 2: Designate a Team Captain.

Step 3: Register online at

Step 4: Recruit faculty, staff, students, family and friends to join as walkers on your team. Team members aren’t required to be affiliated with the University.

Step 5: Raise funds to help fuel the fight against diabetes. All proceeds from the event will support research vital to finding a cure for diabetes.

I hope that you will be part of this year’s Walk to Cure Diabetes. Please feel free to contact our Company Captain, Michelle Eleby ( for more information, or visit the event website. Learn more about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and its mission to create a world without diabetes here.

Thanks for your support!

Improving our UMHS IT Environment

This week marks an important milestone in the world of Health System technology with the launch of the MiChart electronic health record (EHR) system and the new UMHS patient portal MiChart will help improve clinical care through streamlined workflows and it enables UMHS to meet external expectations for health providers, including the federal government’s goals for meaningful use of electronic health records and the federal deadline to use the ICD-10 medical coding system. The first phase of the roll-out gives patients access to their medical records online, as well as immunization and allergy records, test results and prescription renewals.

I am very proud of the faculty and staff who have dedicated days, weeks, months and even years preparing for, implementing and learning the new systems. Certainly, learning and using a new and sophisticated health care information system like this one is a significant change which requires patience and time. I realize that, at times, this transition has been frustrating and difficult for some of you, but I want to assure you that the benefits MiChart offers are invaluable to our organization and your ongoing engagement and support are essential to our success.

When we launched CareWeb in 1998, it was unique to unite clinical and investigative information for patients in one system. We were cutting edge at that time, but technology has moved on. Now, nearly 15 years later, it is necessary to make a significant investment in clinical informatics to keep UMHS at the forefront of innovative medical care, education and research.

Becoming comfortable with Epic and MiChart will take time, and I know that the next few weeks may present challenges. I ask that you remain positive and patient as we work through this transition.  I value and appreciate your support and dedication to this important change, which ultimately will provide a significantly more integrated health information system for the University of Michigan Health System.


New Translational Oncology Program Represents the U-M Health System’s Tradition of Visionary Cancer Research and Patient Care

Diane Simeone, M.D.

Today, we announced creation of a new UMHS Translational Oncology program to be housed at the North Campus Research Complex and led by Diane Simeone, M.D. This program will strengthen the bridge between our tremendous strength in basic science and our excellent clinical care.

I first heard the impressive vision for a UMHS Translational Oncology program from Cancer Center director Max Wicha within my first few months at Michigan. Since then, he, Diane and others in the Health System have worked diligently to bring this idea to fruition.

The new program will bring together scientists from diverse areas, as well as industry partners, thus promoting multidisciplinary collaboration and innovation. The program fulfills the mission and vision of the NCRC, which are to expand the University’s capabilities as one of the nation’s top translational research institutions and create a world of fast-paced scientific discovery that ignites improvements to humanity’s health and well-being.

At the same time, it is one of many efforts that will ‘move the needle’ on our cancer-related strategic goals and, thus, move us closer to achieving our institutional vision of creating the future of health care through discovery and establishing UMHS as a national leader in health care and biomedical innovation.

As Diane says, the new Translational Oncology program will provide an opportunity to “really make a difference in patients’ lives – which is the real reason we are all here.”

I can think of no one more suited to direct this new program and ensure its success than Diane. She has served as the director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at the Cancer Center since 2005 and is a world-renowned leader in pancreatic cancer surgery. Her lab was the first to identify cancer stem cells in pancreatic tumors, and has translated this finding into clinical trials testing new treatments aimed at the cancer stem cells. Additionally, she is co-PI on the GI SPORE (Specialized Program in Research Excellence) grant and was part of the team responsible for the original work defining the genes important in pancreatic cancer development and progression. Nationally, she has served as president of the American Pancreatic Association.

This is an exciting initiative for our Health System and one that holds tremendous promise in the fight against cancer. Please join me in congratulating Diane and taking great pride in the exemplary science taking place in our Health System.

More about the new Translational Oncology program