Marschall Runge, dean of the University of Michigan Medical School and executive vice president for medical affairs, stopped by the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs on Monday to talk about the Medical School and Michigan Medicine and how these institutions can better interact with faculty governance.

Runge, who has been with the Medical School for two years and is also CEO of Michigan Medicine, began his presentation to the committee with a PowerPoint outlining the missions and current affairs of all three roles of the University’s overall health system: research, education and clinical care.

“I strongly believe research drives innovation and clinical care and gives us the chance to be a real leader in this area,” Runge said. “None of that can occur … without our educational programs.”

According to Runge, the mission of Michigan Medicine is to improve all three of these areas as much as possible.

“Our vision overall is to be outstanding in each of these areas, so in research, to really bring discovery to health as well as broaden the spectrum of research that we do; in education, to prepare today’s doctors and scientists for tomorrow,” Runge said.

Runge then outlined the curriculum changes the Medical School has undergone in the last few years. The new curriculum is meant to bring together the first two years of medical school into one, so students can start their clinical rotations and narrow in on a specialty sooner.

In the new curriculum, year one outlines the foundational medical sciences and year two goes over patient care and clinical practice. In year three, students start rotations to choose a clinical focus, and in year four, the focus is on developing physician leaders.

Runge also emphasized that, though Michigan Medicine can sometimes seem separated from the University, it shares many of the same goals, including increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, per this fall’s DEI plan.

“We also have … priorities in diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. “This is really important in health care. People don’t think about it so much but people who are ill like to work with health care providers who understand them … When we’re ranked for diversity, among other academic medical centers, we look pretty good, but we don’t have nearly the level of diversity we need to. And it’s a tough uphill battle to increase that, so we’re focusing on starting with the medical students to do this.”

After Runge’s presentation, the committee moved into a Q&A session. SACUA member David Smith, a professor in the College of Pharmacy, began with an inquiry about how Runge felt clinical staff could be better integrated into the educational environment.

SACUA has spent a lot of time discussing whether or not they should extend the ability to become members of the Senate Assembly — a body traditionally reserved for tenure-track faculty — to clinical staff.

“We’ve had this discussion here as well, and it has to do with the status of the clinician scientist,” Smith said. “What are your views on how to integrate them into the Michigan culture? In other words, I don’t believe they’re part of the Senate (Assembly) … how do we get them more involved while also protecting some of the feelings of the people who have these tenure-track appointments and want to preserve that integrity?”

Runge said Michigan Medicine has been considering this problem as well lately, and he finds the apprehension surrounding it to be well-founded.

“There’s some of that tension in the Medical School but this group that we call ‘clinical track’ is actually our largest group,” Runge said. “I think that group would like to feel like they’re more part of the mainstream, but I certainly understand the inherent tension, because they outnumber (tenure-track faculty members).”

SACUA Chair Bill Schultz, a professor of engineering, asked the next question. He wanted to know the pros and cons of having Runge act as both the dean of the medical school and the executive vice president of medical affairs.

“We were sort of blindsided by the president in the fall of last year in you becoming both the executive vice president and the dean simultaneously,” Schultz said. “He indicated that this wasn’t that uncommon in medical schools, but … I’m wondering if you could talk briefly about the advantages of becoming both the executive vice president and the dean, and the disadvantages?” 

According to Runge, University President Mark Schlissel was correct in saying this practice is not uncommon among top-tier medical schools that also own their own hospital systems. This helps the University, though, by allowing the two entities to work more collaboratively.

“It’s common among places we consider peers, which are the highest level medical schools who own their own hospitals,” Runge said. “The advantage is it really aligns decision-making on how you divide your resources … The big disadvantage is no one person can do all that, that’s just the reality. This allows us to have three really important vice deans who have important portfolios and it makes them work together.” 

Once Runge left, the SACUA members once again brought up the issue of clinical staff in the Senate Assembly. Smith ended the meeting by saying he felt it was important to gauge the interest in clinical staff of being part of the assembly before moving forward with any action.

“I think it’s important to see what level of interaction they want,” Smith said. “They may be perfectly happy not getting involved, and there may be some that want to get involved in different levels.”

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