Tenure-track positions, a pre-med undergrad program, health care academic tracks, increasing diversity


Q: Hi, I’m Hans Van Dongen. I’m the director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center. I noticed we’ve made it into this packet here, so I’m very happy about that.


Q: We’re also one of those groups that bring in that funding you were alluding to from the NIH and the Department of Defense. So we’re well positioned to help move the Drive to 25 forward. I heard you mention in an earlier communication that one of the things that’s important to do in that context is to start to bring in additional faculty, particularly tenured faculty. And that point resonated very well with me because as our group is well poised to bring in people from Ivy League institutions and other important institutions that want to come work here—people who have seen the things we do here and are very enthusiastic about it. They would bring their med portfolios along with them. They would help grow us our institution and our group. But we can’t offer them the tenure-track position because we just don’t get to create those out of nowhere. So we need your support and those tenure-track positions to come, to flow to us somehow. I was wondering if you would be willing to tell us a little bit more about what you’re thinking in that regard. Do you have some sense of a timeline for that?

Kirk Schulz: Since Dan handles all this, I can make all kinds of promises and he has to figure out how to handle it.


KS: A couple things. One is, during the startup phase of the medical school and the whole enterprise, my philosophy is that we provide funds to our deans and allow our deans and the campus network to have that opportunity to figure out where those dollars are going. So I don’t think, generally-speaking, it’s appropriate for folks in French Admin to say, ‘We’re going to place these faculty positions all the way down the org chart here.’ So that needs to really come out of the campus leadership.

The reason I mention the general idea that we’ve got to grow our tenure-track faculty—I think Dan and I both commented that this is something we’re going to have to figure out ways to do—is we’ve got some of our financial issues now we’re working through, and we’re going to get there. The question then becomes, as we have additional revenues come in over the next several years for new initiatives and things like that, how are we making sure we’re using those strategically to advance the institution? And I think we got a lot of dialogue with the Faculty Senate, and I mean good dialogue, over tenure-track positions, clinical faculty— an appointment title that means something different in Washington state than almost anywhere else I’ve worked. But we’re going to have teaching faculty, all these different kinds of positions, and how come we’re not having more tenure-track positions? I think that’s a dialogue we’ve got to go into and we’ve got to work with our deans on because ultimately, at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to be our driving success is bringing in great young people and promoting them through and they stay, as well as recruiting people nationally that come in and see better opportunities here than at their current institution.

How are we going to get there? I can’t tell you that right now. After four months, you ought to worry if I have too much of a solution. But I think next year, at this time, if you ask that same exact question—and I’ve done this before—then next year you’ll stand up and go, ‘Remember, I asked you a year ago.’


I think we’ll have a better sense then of where some of these resources are going to come in and how we’re going to do this in a creative fashion. Do you want to add something?

Dan Bernardo: Not really. I think that the only point I would add is we are going to have to be creative in terms of being a revenue-generating institution and allocating it to that explicit purpose. We have a couple of initiatives we’re evaluating right now that look very promising. One of the challenges has been—not so much in this entity because you’re pretty much a startup—we’ve moved toward more of a tuition-driven institution. We pushed dollars out to the colleges to teach the students, right? And that really tilted us toward non-tenure track faculty because they were viewed as temporary dollars. We have to change that. We have to re-equilibrate our institution. And I think we’re going to have to do more things like the reallocation. Maybe not in that specific way. I think a provost only has about one of those in his lifespan. But I guess it is the president’s though.


But that type of thing, we’re going to have to figure out how to reallocate dollars to the uses that are going to drive us to where we want to be. Hiring tenure-track faculty is an important component of that that’s got us a little out of balance.

Q: This is more of a suggestion that maybe you’ve already considered, but to create a pre-med undergraduate program. It would achieve a couple of things. First of all, it would help prepare Washington State undergraduates to compete effectively in our new medical school undergraduate base. And we have faculty here that’d be willing to help teach a pre-med track as a prerequisite to have a graduate program, because the undergraduate base actually provides potential TA positions which is one way to fund a graduate program.

 So I’m just wondering if you considered this as something that might be part of your plan? We have existing biology programs through Pullman and our sister campuses, but we don’t really have a pre-med emphasis. That is something that would help all of these areas.

KS: I’m going to answer that philosophically and not like Dan, who will provide concrete data and information to you. You know, one of the issues I always have with pre-anything programs is I always worry about the student that isn’t successful, that doesn’t get into medical school or law school or whatever, and if they decide to do a different route. Do we have a degree program that has really prepared them effectively for something else?

And so sometimes the advantage of going chemistry, biochemistry, biology, or pick whatever as a pre-medical kind of track, is that if you don’t get into medical school and then you’d like to go do something else, you’ve got a degree with a credential that is more meaningful in the marketplace. So I’m a glass half-empty kind of guy right here, but I think they just always have to be careful of that and make sure. It doesn’t mean that you don’t do it, but I think we have to ask ourselves, for the ones that don’t go to medical school, what is that track and how do we sit down with the parents who say, ‘Well, my son or daughter just didn’t quite get there, and now what are they supposed to do?’ We really have to have some good concrete answers and direction for them.

DB: It’s an interesting idea. Like the president said, you need the offramps to make sure that those students have a place to go because the vast majority of them don’t go into vet school or med school or whatever. We have pre-vet tracks, not a degree, but we have tracks. That’s a possibility. I think we need you guys to really help out in that discussion. We made some changes in our pre-health sciences area, particularly in Pullman. I don’t think we’re where we need to be. I would agree with that, and this provides the opportunity to really figure that out with the people who are going to land them, or where they’re going to land. You know, I’ve already recruited three students for the first class, but we still have 57 to go . . .


DB: . . . and they’re all really good. So . . .

KS: You recruited applicant to the first class, right?

DB: Well, I’m the provost.

KS: We only have 57 slots left.

DB: Yes, they’re applicants, but they’re going to be the top of the heap. One is the student body president from last year. So I think you guys can really help us there, once we get this thing rolling. You have a lot to do right now, but in a year or two, maybe just a year, we need to start having that discussion to sort of figure out how we’re going to pipeline students in. And not only to our med school, but to all health care professions.

Q: And they’re not all at odds, so it doesn’t have to be called pre med. Just means that we’re offering courses that will prepare them for medical school. Not exactly sure we’re there yet across campuses.

DB: I’m pretty sure we’re not. That’s what I’ve heard, and I don’t think we’re offering the full suite of wraparound services for them either.

KS: We would welcome that kind of dialogue because that’s the kind of thing we need to be thinking about that, frankly. We can offload some of that from what you all need to do if you have some sense of what that should or could look like.

Q: It could also increase recruitment of a higher caliber student and more of them, which we’re not tapping now. It’s all good if it happens that way.

Q: We had some discussion of the curriculum when we talked about interdisciplinary teams and the people who might have some kind of quantum-like uncertainty of which medical discipline that they were going into and that will be established at the end of their time so everybody would be channeled into something. Nobody would be left out. They might not be MDs, might not be PAs, or other medical associated things. It seems like a common idea.

DB: The question, I think, is that the idea of recruiting students into more of a general health care provider curriculum can give them a lot of exposure to options and then they would branch out into a specific PA, MD, DNP whatever, is that right? And when would the branchout occur?

I mean I think it’s up to you all. We have a marvelous opportunity here, with the startup med school, to do things very differently. Because once you have things encased in stone, if you will, and established, it’s very hard to change. Like, if you presented that idea to our friends across the state, I think everybody would line up in their silos. I think that those types of creative ideas, I think we really should be looking at as we try to design something that creates a better and different health care professional. And we’ve already discussed with pharmacy and nursing—the whole idea of inter-professional education keeps coming up—but it seems like we really have a lot of work to do here, and you all need to lead it. And I think, to be honest with you, this college has to provide the leadership.

I think even nursing and pharmacy would say that. It just feels like the medical college has to be the one that really steps forward and says, ‘We’re going to do this. We’re serious about this,’ because, to be honest, I think that in most environments, that’s where the skepticism is. ‘Oh, yeah. The med school folks… Yeah, they say they’re on board, but they’re going to go do their own thing.’ It seems like the way it is, so we need real leadership, once you kind of get your feet on the ground a little bit, around the whole idea of inter-professional education.

KS: The other thing I would add is, we have a tremendous number of students at the undergraduate level that are interested in health care, and there are going to be a lot that maybe default to say, ‘I want to go pre-med,’ just because they simply aren’t aware of the other career pathways that are available. And it’s not just handing somebody a sheet, but how do they experience some of the other avenues? I think that needs to be something that we have a pretty broad discussion on, because there will be some students that may come in and say, ‘I want to go into medicine.’ And they don’t do well in any particular class, and maybe they just don’t have the background for that. They still have an interest and passion in that area, it’s just that MD may not be the right pathway for them to take. I don’t want to just discard those students. The question is, how do we steer and direct, and give people exposure to things?

I’m an engineer, and largely students come in thinking electrical, mechanical, or civil engineer—today mostly mechanical engineer—and if you ask why, generally, they don’t have really good reasons. They knew somebody, they think, ‘Well, I like building stuff, and so this ought to be it.’ Yeah, you say, ‘What about chemical and these other things?’ And part of the challenge in engineering education is how do we ensure that people who don’t really have a clue about the profession understand all the different pathways they can go to, and do that in a meaningful way? This may be a broader question than what you asked. It’s just that I think, institutionally, we have to figure out, there are a lot of pathways to go. We want students, and to be able to guide them in a meaningful way, we’re going to need some leadership from the medical school to help us get there.

Sixty slots and 400 students who say they want to be pre-med. You know, it doesn’t mean we have to get rid of them. We just have to make sure people understand what they’re actually signing up for.

Q: I guess I’m kind of in this conversation because I am one of those students that was pre-med, did all that. I’ve applied twice and haven’t gotten in, but in my two years off from college, I’ve done nursing assistant stuff, first responder things, community health. I’ve had to kind of do a second phase of education, and I’ve realized that you don’t necessarily need to go to med school to do what everyone kind of imagines you do as a doctor. You can deal with policy, which a lot of this health sciences is cool because you see the whole pre-health thing, and I kind of agree with them in that if there was a pre-health track that exposed you to what it’s like in a nursing home, or more practical things, like feeding communities, because there’s huge shortages in capable nursing assistants, and stuff like that.

So, I would agree that I think there are creative ways that you could keep it so that people could shift around and say, ‘Oh, maybe MD is not for me, but I could be a policy person or nurse practitioner or physical therapy,’ but still have started your first two years with some meaningful base experience that everyone interested in health care would be into. So I kind of agree with what they’re saying.

KS: Are you going to apply again?

Q: Yeah.


KS: One less slot. Okay.


Q: I’m going to switch gears a little bit. Diversity, and addressing the issue of how the student body has increased, but obviously does not reflect that. It’s one of the things I want to put forward, and I wanted to know a little bit more of what are your plans toward that, and whether gender is part of that you want to think about?

KS: So, a couple things. First is, I don’t have a definitive set of plans, to say here’s what to do. Because to be honest, if it was that easy, and you could just quickly put something together, the University would’ve done it 10 years ago. We want some campus dialogue around this particular topic. And just a couple for instances that I’ve shared in other groups: At one of my previous intuitions, there was a sense that we weren’t doing the faculty hiring a particular way and we weren’t diversifying the faculty. So you talk to folks: Well, we can’t find candidates of color and there are pools and so on and so forth. The president then put together a pool of resources so you get a second faculty position if you find candidates of color, and they were overwhelmed after three months. Everybody went out—and it was amazing how they found people when all of a sudden they got a new position. I say that, not to make a joke as much as to show that we need to think campus-wide of ways to encourage everybody to not simply post an ad, but to go and try to recruit. And there’s a big difference between those two.

Generally, when I was leading faculty searches as a department head, we just posted an ad and yet we’d get 80 applicants you didn’t recruit—you were winnowing. And we’ve got to change the way we do some things, so we’re going to want input from folks across campus about the types of things and programs we need to put in place that would constitute something different than we’re doing now. So, that’s where I want to go.

We’re doing some things already, and as Dan can share, in Arts and Sciences, we’ve had some excellent success in bringing in more women in STEM. There was a great article in the Chronicle of Higher Education in the last couple of weeks about Montana State. And Waded Cruzado, who’s the president there, put some things in place and they made huge strides in a very difficult climate to recruit women to—really making a big difference in Bozeman, Montana. And they did some unique things that they talked about there. So that’s what I would like to do—have that campus dialogue and bring forth ideas about things that we can do. Because it’s not easy. We’ve been making some success in certain areas of campus, but to me, if we’re going to change the slope of the line, we’re going to have to look at it differently. Anything else?

John Tomkowiak: I want to make sure we keep the president and provost on time. Three quick things and then the last thing is, I want to give Chancellor Brown an opportunity to close the session. But I have to just tell a little story, and I can’t wait for this LCME hurdle to be over. I was at a Rotary Club meeting with the president the other day and he makes this comment about, ‘Oh, if I say this, Doctor Tomkowiak will run from the room screaming.’ So we have to get that idea out of your head.


At least I’ve done my job of getting the message out. The second thing, though, I just want to make sure we all show our appreciation for President Schulz and Provost Bernardo for coming and making the effort to talk with all of you and to get your ideas and comments. So if we could do that.


JT: And then Chancellor Brown has been so supportive of the medical school and our efforts, and I just want to give her the chance to close our session today.

Lisa Brown: Okay, he didn’t tell me he was going to do that.


LB: So watch out, ’cause payback can really hurt.


No, just thank you everybody. It is Friday afternoon, and it has been great. I’ve been in on all three of these. And we’ve got two leaders of our university here who go way beyond paying lip service to the system and the campuses and the presence of our university across the state. They are really living it and racking up the miles on their trucks and other vehicles to show it and probably their frequent flyer miles as well.

And I haven’t met everyone yet, and that’s a great problem to have. That you’re growing and changing so rapidly that it hasn’t occurred yet. And the culture of this campus is changing because of you and because of people that have been here over 20 years. And it’s a really exciting thing to be part of, so thanks to everyone who is playing their part— whether it’s making sure the elevator got vacuumed before the president showed up.


And the leaves got swept. Or the work that you’re doing putting together the curriculum for the new students, or the work that you’re doing in your labs and with your research and the grant proposals that you’re submitting. On this campus, we have doubled our federal research expenditures in the last three years. And in the last year we’ve doubled the proposals going in, and our student staff and faculty are inspiring to me every day. So thank you all for being part of that.