Gov forms panel to rebuild med-school prominence

In an attempt to revitalize the University of Minnesota Medical School, Gov. Mark Dayton today established a committee to suggest ways to bring it back to its former glory.

The move comes after years of decline in med-school rankings as well as a recent review that says the institution, though strong, has suffered from staff discontent.

Dayton says he wants to raise the school's national prominence, beef up research, expand clinical services and address the state's need for health care workers.

"I see a tremendous opportunity for us to be one of the meccas in the country and even the world for medical technology, development and advances, and medical innovations," Dayton said.

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Over the past few years, the U has hit a few bumps -- and Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller says Dayton has noticed.

A 2012 external review said the school was strong, but was suffering from a "malaise." And its ranking in the amount of National Institute of Health funding it receives, though on the rise, is below what it was in 1970.

Earlier this week, Dayton told MPR News the school was among the eighth best in the country when he applied as a pre-med student in the late 1960s, but that it has dropped considerably since then.

The governor said the state needs to reverse direction and take advantage of the state's health-care resources:

"If we build that medical school back to its national preeminence and pair that with [the Mayo Clinic], the synergy will be incredible."

Pogemiller, who is one of the committee members, says university leaders are already addressing concerns raised in the 2012 review.

He says his committee will go beyond that:

"What could outside stakeholders do to be useful? That's, I think, the approach we'll take. We absolutely don't want to try to get into the internal business of the university."

One of the main areas the committee will analyze, Pogemiller said, is how to boost the school's research standings.

He pointed to major breakthroughs -- the world's first open-heart surgery, the invention of the portable pacemaker, and the first successful bone-marrow transplant -- that propelled the school to prominence in past decades.

The governor, Pogemiller said, "thinks it would be good for Minnesota to get back there. ... Having a world-renowned medical school is good for Minnesota and good for society."

In recent months, university officials have also expressed concern over the affordability of medical school -- along with professional education in general -- because of ever-rising tuition. The school is the third most expensive in the country.

They've also warned of a coming shortage of doctors in Minnesota and the rest of the country. Limited federal funding has created a cap on the number of residencies, which medical-school graduates need to become physicians.

Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), chairwoman of the state Senate higher-education committee, has said she and other lawmakers are looking for other ways to fund more residencies for Minnesota.

Pogemiller said those concerns will likely be addressed.

Dr. Brooks Jackson, another panelist and the new dean of the U's medical school, was away at a conference Friday. But in a press release, he wrote that he welcomed the governor's work:

"If we are truly going to live up to our potential as a top tier medical school, we will need to make smart investments to enhance our research capabilities, and to support the education and training that will bring the best possible care to patients throughout the state."

Jackson became dean early this year. When he was chosen, the U noted that under his leadership, the Johns Hopkins pathology department went from fifth to first nationwide in NIH funding.

The governor's panel is made up of more than a dozen medical faculty and administrators, state officials and health-care executives:

Dayton says they'll suggest specific policy and budget changes for next year's legislative session.

MPR reporter Tom Scheck contributed to this report.

Here's this morning's announcement, which contains the names of those on the panel:

Governor Dayton Launches Blue Ribbon Committee to Enhance National Prominence of University of Minnesota Medical School

Fifty years after declaring a pre-Med major in college, Governor Mark Dayton today launched a milestone effort to enhance the national prominence of the University of Minnesota Medical School. Governor Dayton today signed Executive Order 14-13 establishing a Blue Ribbon Committee on the University of Minnesota Medical School. The Committee will advise the Governor and Legislature on strategies and state investments to ensure the state’s preeminent medical school is a national leader in medical training, research, and innovation.“The future health of Minnesotans depends on what we do now to train the next generation of medical professionals in our state,” said Governor Dayton. “Today’s medical students will become the doctors who will care for our families, and the research professionals who will develop life-saving innovations in medical technology in the years to come.”

The University of Minnesota Medical School plays a critical role in Minnesota’s position as a leader in providing broad access to the highest-quality, low-cost health care. In order to continue Minnesota’s tradition of excellence in health care, the Governor believes the University of Minnesota must leverage the Medical School’s strengths, invest wisely, and commit to the institution’s continued improvement.

More than 70 percent of Minnesota’s physicians have taken classes or earned their medical degrees from the University of Minnesota’s Medical School. The Medical School provides training to 1,200 primary care and specialty residents, and provides continuing education courses to 10,000 physicians each year – making the School a major asset to the continued improvement of Minnesota’s health care system.

Committee Will Deliver Specific Recommendations for 2015 Legislative Session

The Blue Ribbon Committee appointed today by Governor Dayton is made up of University leaders, health system and other private sector leaders, legislators, state officials, health professional associations, and patient representatives. The Governor has charged the Committee to provide a report with specific policy and budget recommendations to be considered during the 2015 Legislative Session. Those recommendations will be focused on the following goals:


  1. National Prominence – Ensuring the Medical School’s national preeminence by retaining and attracting world class faculty, staff, students and residents.

  2. Nation-Leading Research and Innovation – Sustaining the University’s national leadership in health research, care innovation, and health care delivery, capitalizing on the state’s investments in biomedical research and ground-breaking discoveries.

  3. Excellence in Clinical Services – Expanding the University’s clinical services to strengthen its ability to serve as a statewide health care resource for providers and patients, as a training site for health professional students and residents, as a site for cutting-edge clinical research, and as a source of critical funding for the Medical School and health sciences.

  4. Meeting the Health Care Needs of a Changing Minnesota – Addressing the state’s health workforce needs so as to serve Minnesota’s broad continuum of health care needs, including primary care, a growing aging population, and increased chronic health needs.


Members of the Blue Ribbon Committee

Governor Dayton appointed the following individuals to serve on the Blue Ribbon Committee on the University of Minnesota Medical School:


David Abelson, MD, Senior Executive Vice President, HealthPartners and CEO of Park Nicollet Health Services

James G. Boulger, PhD, Professor at U of M Duluth Medical School

Kathleen Brooks, Director, Rural Physician Associate Program, Medical School

Jay Brooks Jackson, MD, Dean, Medical School and Vice President for Health Sciences

Renee Crichlow, MD, Minnesota Association of Family Physicians & U of M Physicians Broadway Clinic

Ed Ehlinger, MD, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health

Cindy Firkins Smith, MD, Dermatologist and U of M faculty member and president of the Minnesota Medical Association

Mary Maertens, CEO, Avera Health-Marshall, Minnesota Hospital Association

Richard Migliori, MD, Chief Medical Officer at UnitedHealth Group

Larry Pogemiller, Commissioner, Office of Higher Education

Jon Pryor, CEO, Hennepin County Medical Center

Patrick Rock, MD, CEO at Indian Health Board of Minneapolis and representative from Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers

Rulon Stacey, CEO, Fairview

Elizabeth Seaquist, MD, Professor of Medicine and Researcher, University of Minnesota

Additionally, the leaders of each legislative caucus have been tasked with appointing one of their members to serve on the Committee. Speaker Paul Thissen has appointed State Representative Tom Huntley to serve on the Committee. Senator Tom Bakk has appointed Senator Leroy Stumpf. Other legislative appointments are pending the decisions of the two remaining caucus leaders.