The Transformational Power of the Empowering Futures Gift

Dean Termuhlen's Take Header


After the historic announcement on Tuesday, June 8, about the Empowering Futures Gift – a transformational donation of $300 million over the next decade that will fuel the medical school’s ability to carry out its mission and profoundly impact Southwest Michigan – our dean, Dr. Paula Termuhlen, took a moment to reflect and share her take on our donors’ incredible generosity and the work and responsibility that now lay ahead for WMed and each of its stakeholders. 

Dean Termuhlen's Take PhotoThe announcement of the Empowering Futures Gift came just a little more than five weeks after your first day as the new dean at WMed. How does this type of gift help jumpstart your tenure at the medical school as you lead the medical school into its second decade?

It took 10 years to develop and grow WMed and get us to where we are today, and my role now is really to take us to the next level. This incredibly generous gift now makes that possible in a way that would not have been possible before. My vision is that this new funding will empower us to accomplish several new and critical initiatives, most notably diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, as well as community-based research, and student scholarships.

A central focus of the Empowering Futures Gift is to make WMed a more inclusive and welcoming environment for students who are underrepresented in the field of medicine. Talk about how the medical school will be a driver in accomplishing this important initiative.

Part of our responsibility going forward is to shape and define our vision for the future at WMed and part of that is our duty to create a physician and researcher workforce that is reflective of the populations we serve. We can accomplish that by building diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice into our institution, not just with our students, but with our faculty and staff. This is an issue that our peer institutions have wrestled with just as we have at WMed but the Empowering Futures Gift positions us to become the leader among medical schools in the country in creating a more equitable society.

As the new dean, but also as a new community member in Southwest Michigan, what does the gift mean to you on a personal level?

This gift to our institution is incredible. It serves as a reminder to me that I have joined a community here in Michigan steeped in generosity and a deep commitment to help each and every person who calls Southwest Michigan home. Now, we have a huge responsibility to build something and become the example – the standard bearer – of how others can do this work. We will get there by creating a plan and really defining our goals.

What are some of the next steps that lay ahead for the medical school?

This gift is truly transformational and it comes with the responsibility and an obligation to be effective stewards. As an institution, we will start that process by really taking a deep dive into what we are about and who we are at WMed. We have a 12-month window to do the work that will push us forward and help us execute our vision, and it will be all hands on deck. Our faculty, staff, residents, students, and leadership will be involved in the process and equally important will be the involvement of our community stakeholders and our founding partners – Ascension Borgess, Bronson Healthcare, and Western Michigan University. 

Are there any final thoughts about the gift that you would like to share?

I want to close by saying that in my short time here in Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan, I’ve quickly come to appreciate how our community believes in education as a force to address inequities, to lift up individuals, and improve our community as a whole. This gift gives us the resources to make significant strides in these efforts as we carry out our mission to produce exemplary physicians. Investing in the next generation of doctors and diversifying the ranks of our profession are critical. Healthcare is a powerful way to lift up a community, and medical schools should produce physicians that reflect the populations they serve. I am incredibly grateful to our donors and awed by their generosity and commitment.

A Hat Tip from Dr. T

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the great work by our Office of Diversity and Inclusiveness, under the leadership of Donovan Roy, EdD, in coordinating the first-ever 2021 WMed and AAMC High School and College Student-Athlete Medicine and Healthcare Career Conference. The national event, which was held virtually June 2-3, attracted numerous middle, high school, and college students from across the country, and provided them with valuable information and insights about how they can adapt their skills in sports to become competitive healthcare professionals off the field. All of this would not have been possible without the Office of Diversity and Inclusiveness and the collaborative efforts that involved several of our faculty, residents, staff, and students. Thank you! 

Dean Termuhlen’s Take On ... is a monthly message from our dean to discuss topics of importance to WMed, medical school stakeholders, and the communities that make up Southwest Michigan. Is there a topic you would like to hear Dean Termuhlen’s take on? Let us know by sending a message to office.dean@med.wmich.edu.