Medical School Legacy

How we see things is important. When we look at things in the moment, we only see the surface. This is true for time itself. Yet we all know that the surface is not the only thing that matters. Legacy gives us the viewpoint that we are right in the middle of a continuum. We have received our legacy from those who went before, and we are preparing our legacy for those who come after. It gives us perspective, foundation and purpose.
Here at the University of Minnesota, we have received a truly remarkable legacy. Founded in 1851, seven years before Minnesota achieved statehood, it was established as a land-grant university in 1867, with the Medical School being founded in 1888. How we got from then—being organized solely to train physicians—to where we are today—a rich network of providing care, researching scientific and medical problems, and educating and training physicians—is a perfect example of what the University does best.
There is an idea that the ultimate value of anything is its perfect use. For a scalpel, this would be to cut. For a thermometer, to measure temperature. The ultimate value of the University is to bring together a community of curious minds and focus them with clarity and precision in thought that is not just reflection, but analysis and a pursuit of why things work the way they do. We don’t just see patients and think, “They are sick.” We ask, “Why are they sick, and what can we do to relieve their suffering?” We look beyond the surface. We have the ability to see what lies beneath and to pursue collecting and organizing this information in a systematic way … and we call that science.
In medicine, science has changed everything. This can be seen in the increased emphasis on the physician-scientist, of bridging the gap so that clinical need drives research and research improves clinical care. Increasingly our collaborators in improving care come from engineering, computer science, imaging and other scientific areas not traditionally associated with medicine. This is how we change the world within the context of scientific, clinical and educational excellence.
The excellence of the institution depends on the willingness of talented individuals to come to work here. We come together to obtain and to exchange knowledge; not information alone, but a depth of understanding, meaning, character and experience. And when we are absorbed into something that is greater than we are individually, we are able to participate in its advancement. I see the U as a place where we are invited as guests into its tradition and legacy. As good guests, we should leave it a little better, more organized, and more knowledgeable for those who come after us.

Thank you,

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD
Dean of the Medical School, interim Vice President of the Health Sciences