On November 2, 2017, one of the first things I did as Dean was to travel to our Duluth Campus.

During the course of the day, there were meetings with faculty and undergraduate students, an open house at the new Memory Keepers facility, a visit with local elementary students, and the Boman Research Symposium.

It should have just been routine, but it wasn’t. The whole day felt different in a powerful way.

There was a connection to the community, to the entire northern part of the state, even to the land and water itself. The Memory Keepers center overlooked Lake Superior and was designed specifically to invite people in and to make them feel welcome. The energy, excitement, and passion the faculty and graduate students showed to the elementary kids was contagious. The affection and respect shown to the memory of Dr. Anette Boman was profoundly moving.

I left (honestly a little reluctantly) with a better understanding of the distinctive identity of that campus and the role it plays in the Medical School―and with a personal commitment to not mess it up. Which is why, although this year will see a transition in leadership, leadership of the Duluth Campus will remain in Duluth.

What I hope we can do in this time of change is use it as an opportunity for growth and to bring our campuses closer together—independent, but interconnected—using the lessons learned from the pandemic about how we can link remotely. It’s important to our future.

We need to come together around initiatives like the Cancer Consortium, rural and Native American care, and improving our community relationships throughout the state. We need to share the exemplars, people like Ray Christensen and his understanding of rural medicine practice, people like Anna Wirta Kosobuski and her relationships with indigenous communities to encourage young people’s interest in science and medicine, and people like Lester Drewes and his persistent and influential work on the blood-brain barrier. These are just three of many incredible Duluth faculty whose work we should all know more about.

In the months to come, we will be working to streamline and consolidate communications across the Medical School. This will include Duluth so that the two campuses can learn about and be more connected to each other with the goal of building on their respective strengths. We are two campuses, but one Medical School.

Duluth’s strengths—their relationship to the community, their service to improving rural healthcare, their commitment to ensuring better health and education for indigenous people, their ability to work locally and yet expand the vision globally, their history of collaborative basic science, and their deep sense of identity and collegiality—are necessary to this Medical School. We will find a leader for Duluth who is capable of nurturing this uniqueness and building on this legacy.

In the meantime, the Duluth Campus is in good hands. Drs. Regal and Nalin will step in to provide interim leadership at the end of Regional Dean Termuhlen’s service. This gives us time to make a thorough and careful candidate search, and I welcome your thoughts on this process via the feedback button below.