Jackson arrives at a time of great ferment in American health care, with the federal health law expected to increase the demand for doctors, extract new efficiencies and push medical care in the direction of preventive medicine and primary care.
The U — with its strong reputation in primary care and collaboration among health disciplines — could be well positioned to help chart the new course.
The U received an important NIH grant to establish the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, which could set new standards for training medical professionals to work as a team, according to Dr. Aaron Friedman, who served as the school’s dean for the past three years.
Friedman said America’s fee-for-service health care model has relied too much on rewarding volume of services and physician specialists. Those trends are unsustainable, he said, and the Affordable Care Act will oblige medical schools to adapt.
“It’s really a question of how to … provide more and better care with a whole array of health professionals, whether they’re nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists [or] doctors,” Friedman said. “That challenge is big. There aren’t that many places that actually practice in an interprofessional level.”
Four years ago, the U overhauled its curriculum to emphasize interprofessional education among the schools of nursing, pharmacy, social work, dentistry, public health, mortuary science and medicine, according to Dr. Kathleen Watson, senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re continually evolving,” Watson said.
Mallory Yelenich-Huss, president of the medical school’s class of 2014, disputes the “malaise” characterization and said the school is nationally competitive for students and new faculty.
“Our classes are consistently scoring above national average on our board exams. We match into amazing residency positions nationwide,” said Yelenich-Huss, who’s vying for a residency in ear, nose and throat surgery.
In a widely watched scorecard by U.S. News & World Report, the medical school ranks fifth nationally for rural medicine, seventh for primary care and 10th for family medicine — but 38th for research. In related subjects, the U ranks second for health care management, third for pharmacy, sixth for clinical psychology and eighth for both public health and nursing-midwifery.
Nearly a decade ago, the medical school formed a panel of prestigious advisers called the Board of Visitors and asked them to help restore the school’s luster. Even in the worst of times, the school had its strengths, several members said in recent interviews. Now, with the selection of Jackson as dean, they said the school appears to be getting back on track to become a national leader.
One member, Dr. Richard Carlson, past-president of the Medical Alumni Society, said he’s encouraged that the schism between the U and Fairview has been resolved and that the medical school will see great improvements as a result.
“We’ll have to wait and see, though,” he cautioned.
Jackson, a prolific scholar with an international reputation in HIV-AIDS research, said in an interview that he agrees high tuition and student debt are serious concerns. He said he worries that costs will drive some students away from medical school, or away from academic medicine, which typically pays less than private practice.
Even so, Jackson said, “I’m very optimistic for the medical school as well as the health sciences.”
In addition to his reputation as a pathologist and researcher, Jackson has proved himself an accomplished fundraiser, and he thinks he knows why. People want to give to programs they believe will result in a cure or prevent a particular disease, Jackson said. You achieve that by being the best in the field, then getting the word out by publishing.
“And so there will be a big focus on scholarship, and applying for funding, and on taking on projects that are truly meaningful and will ultimately change the practice of medicine,” Jackson said.
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