Planning Our Vision and Strategic Direction for the Next Decade

Dean Termuhlen's Take Header

By early fall, WMed will kick off a comprehensive planning process, the Empowering Our Future planning initiative, that will define the medical school’s future identity and strategic direction for the next decade. Our dean, Dr. Paula Termuhlen, is excited to share how the planning initiative will create an inspiring and aspirational vision for WMed’s future and why it’s important for the medical school to undertake this endeavor now.

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You are at the start of launching a comprehensive process to create a vision for the medical school’s future. Why is this important to do now? 

Every organization needs to determine its path forward. It’s important for us to understand where we’re headed and what we want to accomplish. We are an organization in evolution from being a “new school startup” moving to a stable sustainable academic institution with a rich history of success.  Creating an aspirational and inspirational vision will help us clearly define our identity and build a strong culture. Now is the time, our current strategic plan was developed to end by June 30, 2022. As the new dean, the timing could not be better. I am here and excited to lead this planning process to identify what mark we want to make in the world and how we can be the best partner in our community.

What are the steps of this process and how long do you expect it to take?

It’s a three-phased planning process involving discovery, shaping the vision, and translating the vision into action. First is discovery. We have to understand what people are expecting from us by doing an environmental scan which involves listening and talking to our internal and external stakeholders. We want to know what is it that Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan are looking for from WMed? What is it that the U.S. medical school community is looking for from WMed? Through national benchmarking, we take a look at what other schools are doing and how we can fill a void in what’s being offered. What is it that our patients and local partners need from us? This phase of the process typically explores our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and the challenges that we see on the horizon that might impact us. At the end of the discovery phase we should have a data-based understanding of the current state and a lot of inspiring and ambitious ideas.

During phase two we shape the vision. With all of the information gathered in phase one, we engage multiple stakeholder groups to think through and match the expectations with our strengths.  We use this insight to define who we aspire to be. We build out the vision for the future and understand what it will take to achieve it. The third phase is translating that vision into goals, strategies, and action plans for the future. This comprehensive planning process will take about a year. We want a strategic plan with long-term goals that will guide us through the next decade, short-term action plans that we can implement each year, and outcomes that we can measure. This will be new and challenging work we have not done like this before as an institution. I will be engaging outside expertise to assist us. I want to thank people in advance for their willingness to engage in this process. We want to make this a meaningful experience for everyone to feel a part of what we’re doing.

A central focus of the $300 million Empowering Futures Gift is to make WMed a more inclusive and welcoming environment for students who are underrepresented in the field of medicine. How will this generous gift help shape this strategic planning process?

We have a responsibility to be the best stewards of this gift and this planning process will help us get there. It’s so important for us to link the priorities identified by the donors of this gift to our strategic planning process so we can measure the outcomes. It is the opportunity that’s been put before us to make a mark in the world of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. The gift provides the resources and the opportunity to set us apart. We will be developing an external national advisory board around diversity, equity, and inclusion. The board will include individuals on a national level and locally who are experts in this field. We can uncover best practices and then develop our own. As we do this work, others will be able to learn from us so they can replicate it in their organizations and their communities. 

Looking ahead, how is the next decade different for the medical school from its inception and first decade? In planning for the medical school’s next decade, what do we need to look at and plan for that we haven’t addressed yet?

The first decade was internally facing with creating the components of the medical school. I see the next decade as being externally facing – who are we becoming, who are we serving, and how are we partnering with our local health systems, with our community organizations, and with national organizations so that we can ultimately help to alleviate health disparities, create health equity, and create a workforce of physicians and scientists that reflect and understand the populations we serve.

Who will be involved in this strategic planning process? How can people within WMed and within the Kalamazoo community get involved?

The whole goal is to have all of our faculty, residents, students, and staff touch the process in some way. For example, that could be a survey, a focus group, or participation on a steering committee. We will create a wide variety of ways people can engage with the process internally. Externally, we will reach out to a broad range of groups that can help inform us around the work that we’re doing and help us understand what the expectations are. That will include our healthcare affiliates, higher education partners, non-profit community organizations, the business community, and other medical schools. 

Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share?

I recognize that I am asking everyone to be a part of it. What I’ve learned my first couple of months is that we have such an incredibly dedicated and hard-working group of people at WMed. It’s with humility that I personally ask everyone to commit to be a part of this process because it’s absolutely vital for our future. We want to make it a worthwhile and rewarding experience, so all feel like they are helping us determine the trajectory and identity of WMed going forward.

A Hat Tip from Dr. T

I want to take a moment to acknowledge those of you who have been serving patients during the pandemic and the work that’s been happening on behalf of WMed. 

Since February 2021, WMed has been consistently providing medical and non-medical volunteers to staff the Kalamazoo County COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the Expo Center. Thank you to all in the WMed community who contributed their time and talents to this important effort to vaccinate our community. WMed volunteers staffed 544 shifts at 47 clinics for a total of 2,176 hours of time. In addition, our students and residents have staffed many vaccination clinics throughout the community with a focus on the underserved and most vulnerable populations. We have provided COVID-19 testing since April 2020. Our care team has administered 2,242 tests to patients and 572 tests to our WMed employees and students through June 2021. This work helps us establish WMed as a meaningful partner and contributor to our community. 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