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Medical School-Duluth Campus celebrates its charter anniversary

Artist Jane Frees-Kluth's sculpture, depicting a woman pointing toward a small-town street, honors the people who have supported the Duluth campus medical school over its 40-year history. (Photo: Jeff Fifield)

In the late 1960s, Minnesota state legislators agonized over physician shortages throughout the state. After months of debate, in May 1969 they decided to fund a new medical school at the University of Minnesota Duluth campus—one that would encourage students to practice in rural communities.

With that investment, Dean Robert Carter, M.D., was hired to build a staff and a curriculum. Forty years and many achievements later, on June 5, 2009, about 150 people packed the atrium of what’s now known as the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth Campus to dedicate a Legends and Leaders Wall of Honor and celebrate the people who gave their time, talents, and gifts to build this medical school and its pioneering programs.

Here are just a few of the school’s achievements:

  • Charter faculty members recruited Native Americans to join the first class of medical students in Duluth. A focus on supporting Native American students through medical school remains today through the Center of American Indian and Minority Health.
  • Duluth was among the first medical schools in the country to move first- and second-year students out of the classroom and into hospitals and clinics for real-world rural experiences. More than 700 physicians have served as their preceptors over the years.
  • Today more than 1,500 Duluth alumni are in residency or practicing—half of them in rural areas.

At the June 5 celebration, senior associate dean Gary Davis, Ph.D., announced that Duluth faculty and staff plan to integrate more inter- professional educational programs into student training to unite clinical and academic health disciplines, including medicine, pharmacy, mental health, and nursing.

“If students can learn health sciences together, they can practice together more effectively as a team—and, ultimately, health care can be delivered more efficiently,” he told the crowd.

But much work lies ahead to shape this new model of education, including adding new teaching space that facilitates integrated learning, Davis added. “We need your input, and for the next 40 years and beyond, we need your support.”

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