20x20 strategy proceeds as planned
By Sasha Dudding, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 28, 2012
Since announcing the start of the 20x20 strategic plan — an initiative to elevate the Geisel School of Medicine to one of the country’s top 20 medical schools by 2020 — in June 2011, the Geisel School has hired new faculty members, continued with plans for a new research center and pursued curricular revisions.
The 2013 U.S. News and World Report graduate school rankings released in March showed the plan’s initial success, according to Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education Richard Simons. Geisel jumped to 38th place from 67th place in the primary care category, the largest improvement of any school. The school also rose to 31st place in the research category, a small increase from last year’s 32nd-place ranking.
The Geisel School also hopes to improve its reputation as a national leader in medical education and scientific research, according to Dean of the Geisel School Wiley Souba.
“Our most fundamental goal is to become the medical school that sets the standard for educating physicians, scientists and teachers to be leaders of change in creating a healthier, better world,” Souba said. “It is important to measure how we’re doing so we can continuously get better.”
The school has already implemented one of its plans by hiring over 20 new faculty members, who in turn bring previously obtained research funding with them to Geisel. These additions will help increase activity and collaboration in several strategic areas of research such as neuroscience and bioinformatics, according to Senior Associate Dean for Research Duane Compton.
Many of these new faculty members will receive research space in a new building to be built on the campus of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center by 2015, to be called the Williamson Translational Research Building, according to Compton. This expansion will lead to new research opportunities for undergraduates and Geisel students, he said.
“As we recruit more faculty, we’ve got to have more research space,” Compton said. “The overall goal is to increase our scholarly output and reputation.”
There may be up to 75 new faculty members by 2020, according to Simons. He noted his own hire was part of the 20x20 plan and that he has been impressed by the initiative over the course of the three months he has been at Dartmouth so far.
There are also significant efforts to change the ways in which these professors teach and the general structure of medical education at Geisel, he said. The curricular redesign process currently consists of a working group of students and faculty that meet weekly and a team dedicated to students’ mental and physical well-being, according to Simons.
“We want to change that tradition in medical education to a more active learning format,” Simons said. “We want from day one for our medical students to be seeing patients with experienced physicians in their practices.”
Each first-year student will receive a mentor and a group of patients, a change from the former method of learning solely in the classroom throughout the first two years of medical school, he said. There will be more focus on hands-on learning and increased interaction with DHMC and other graduate programs.
Students will also benefit from the opportunity to participate in programs such as a pilot program partnering with Peruvian organizations to improve global health delivery, according to second-year Geisel School student Sadie Marden ’06, who went on the school’s inaugural trip to Peru this summer.
“I think they are consciously looking at initiatives in a lot of different sites to align directly with the 20x20 initiative,” Marden said. “The more passionate people we bring in, the more opportunity students have for direct learning opportunities.”
Geisel students and faculty said they are optimistic about the results of the 20x20 plan and do not see the school’s rural location as a disadvantage. Although the geographic isolation may not be an attractive factor for everyone, it leads to a self-selecting group of enthusiastic students and faculty, Marder said.
“It puts us at an advantage for getting people that want to be here and are passionate about the school and rural issues,” she said. “I think that we have a lot of phenomenal qualities that could attract some amazing student and faculty candidates.”
Faculty do not anticipate that the departure of former College President Jim Yong Kim, a leader in the field of global health, will negatively impact the 20x20 plan, they said. In Kim’s absence, the Board of Trustees has reassured the Geisel School that it will continue to support the plan, according to Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Student Services Ann Davis.
“The Board of Trustees is completely behind everything we’re doing,” Davis said. “It really should have no impact whatsoever.”
While prospective students should focus on the school’s quality of education, they are likely to consider rankings to a varying degree, according to Geisel School professor Surachai Supattapone.
“I believe nowadays students do pay attention to rankings, maybe not in an absolute way but in a broad sense,” he said. “Moving into the top 20 would put us in pretty good company.”