Honoring the Continued Impacts of Jim Boulger, PhD

Jim Boulger, Phd, Distinguished University Teaching Professor Emeritus, Department of Family Medicine and BioBehavioral Health

Jim Boulger, PhD, is one of the longest tenured, influential and endeared faculty members of the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus. 

Dr. Boulger joined the faculty during the early stages of the U of M Medical School, Duluth Campus. The South Minneapolis native was working in Ohio when he and his wife heard about the new U of M Medical School campus in Duluth. 

“My wife was really eager to move back to Minnesota, and now there was this opportunity in Duluth,” he said.

He landed in Duluth in 1972, where he spent the next 48 years holding a variety of roles and truly embodying the school’s mission — to inspire students to serve rural Minnesota as family doctors.

Since starting as a faculty member and Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs, he served in the majority of the school’s administrative positions at one time or another. 

He helped to construct, mount and deliver a curriculum for incoming students that would meet the legislative goal of producing and training rural family physicians to primarily serve Minnesota and the greater Upper Midwest region. He — along with the faculty in Duluth — also added a third leg to the Medical School’s mission. 

“When we opened in Duluth in 1972, we realized that out of all medical schools in the U.S., there were only eight Native Americans trained in the history of the country,” Dr. Boulger said. “We knew we had to do something about that.”

The faculty got together and made Native American health integral to the Duluth campus’ mission, a priority that was also adopted by the Twin Cities campus. 

Lasting Impact on Students

Dr. Boulger especially enjoyed his time working in student affairs. 

“I just loved working with the students,” Dr. Boulger said. “Students were fantastic — they still are.”

In celebration of his retirement in 2021, alumni shared their memories of a wonderful leader, teacher and mentor as a tribute to the impact that Dr. Boulgerhas made in numerous places. 

As a result of the impact Dr. Boulger had on them, his former students created the James Boulger, PhD, Endowed Scholarship in 2010 to show their appreciation and honor him. The idea was conceived by Randy Card, ’91, MD, and Kristi Elliot, ’91, MD, who eventually married after having met as medical students at the Duluth campus. They reached out to fellow alumni from their class to establish a scholarship fund for incoming students at Duluth. 

“You feel really great if you have taken just a little part in a student’s medical education, but to take credit for it in a scholarship name — It is terribly gratifying,” Dr. Boulger said.

The funding provides one or more scholarships annually to new students at the Medical School. Preference is given to those who begin their medical education at the Duluth campus and are interested in rural and family medicine or Native American health. 

Dr. Boulger has since contributed to the scholarship fund himself because he believes in the importance of the cause. 

“I believe the amount of debt a student incurs influences what they decide to do for the rest of their life — and what specialty they pursue. If we can help reduce the debt load for a student, hopefully the student has much more freedom about what they want to do and what specialty they want to select,” Dr. Boulger said. “Not only does giving someone a hand help them, but it also enables us to become better humans.” 

Please consider supporting future students by making a gift to the James Boulger, PhD, Endowed Scholarship Fund or another fund of your choice. If you would like to learn more about this giving opportunity, please contact Elizabeth Simonson, director of development, esimonso@umn.edu.

“I just loved working with the students,” Dr. Boulger said. “Students were fantastic — they still are.”

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