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UMD’s Medical School: Small Campus, Big Opportunities

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UMD’s Medical School: Small Campus, Big Opportunities

At the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Medical School, sixty first-year students enter the doors each year eager to learn the science and art of medicine. Today, one its first students will become its interim dean.

Dr. Alan Johns was appointed to the position mid-June by Brooks Jackson, dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. Johns is an assistant dean at the Minnesota Duluth campus and a faculty member in the schools’ Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

dr alan johns“I’m certainly excited. I’ve had connections with this school since I was 20 years old,” said Johns. “I’m a northern Minnesota boy, and I have a lot of local knowledge of this community and this medical community.”

Johns is taking over for Dr. Gary Davis, who announced he was stepping down in April. Johns began studying medicine at UMD’s Medical School in 1972, the first year the University of Minnesota Medical School had a branch in Duluth. He later earned his Master of Education degree from UMD and just completed his first year in UMD’s educational doctoral program.

Johns said the search for a permanent dean is underway and has attracted a strong field of applicants. A decision is expected in about six months.

While medical students started taking classes on UMD’s campus in the fall of 1972, it was on July 1, 2003 when the University of Minnesota Medical School campuses of the Twin Cities and Duluth combined to form one Medical School.

When rural family physicians were in short supply and the problem was getting worse in Minnesota, state legislators establushed a two-year medical campus in Duluth that would specialize in educating students committed to practicing in rural communities and who would complete medical school on the Twin Cities campus.

In 2010, fifty percent of UMD Medical School alumni practice in small communities, compared with four percent of doctors nationwide.

In 2009, fifty-eight percent of Duluth graduates chose primary-care residencies — family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and medicine/pediatrics. Thirty-four percent selected family medicine — four times the national average.

At the Raiter Clinic in Cloquet, Medical School alumna Victoria Heren, M.D., mentors medical student Brock Urie as part of the University’s Rural Physician Associate Program, which is designed to encourage students to practice in rural areas after they graduate.

“Our success starts at admissions,” said Gary Davis, Ph.D., former dean to UMD’s Medical School. “We especially select students with a demonstrated commitment to rural or Native American communities. We look for students demonstrating leadership and service — major responsibilities for family physicians.”

Davis also credits a nationally recognized curriculum that emphasizes preceptorships and other opportunities for students to work closely with community doctors.

The mission of the University of Minnesota Duluth Medical school is simple; to be a leader in educating physicians dedicated to family medicine, to serve the health care needs of rural Minnesota and American Indian communities, and discover and disseminate knowledge through research. In Duluth, the focus is on educating doctors who will serve these rural and American Indian communities. In fact, in 2010, the Medical School on UMD’s campus was named #1 in the country in percentage of MDs who practice in rural areas and #3 in the nation in graduating American Indian physicians.

In addition to taking standard course work, UMD’s medical students participate in one-on-one clinical teaching experiences with doctors in small or Native American communities. After two years, medical students have a variety of options for completing their medical education, including the Rural Physician Associate program or clerkships in Duluth, Minneapolis, or St. Paul.

Learn more about the University of Minnesota Medical School’s history and ground-breaking medical discoveries.

medical school history

The Medical School on Duluth’s campus is part of the University of Minnesota Duluth, where more than 11,5000 students study in their undergraduate and graduate programs. Students enjoy the benefits of being part of a large and top-notch medical school, but all the personal attention a smaller school environment delivers. This proximity to faculty gives students ready and rapid access to teachers, researchers, and administrators.

The smaller size also ensures early exposure to clinical experiences. With placement in rural community, students have enhanced access to hands-on patient care. Through community-based programs, they get to know physicians from Duluth and rural Minnesota who come to campus to teach and who open their offices so that students may work by their sides.

On Duluth’s campus, daily life is simple so students can focus on learning. Getting to and from school is easy with good public transportation and little traffic congestion. At the school, parking is close and plentiful. And the fully connect campus means no one has to go outside (especially in Duluth’s famous chilly, and sometimes brutal, winters) — traveling within UMD’s campus is always comfortable and easy.

Duluth was also recently named Outdoor Magazine’s 2014 Best Outdoor Town. Not only do students study hard at within their classes, but they also have a variety of outdoor activities to choose from when a study break is needed.

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