“They won't care how much you know until they know how much you care”

Jun 6, 2019

Norman J. Beauchamp Jr. MD is the dean of Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, and he is the associate provost and assistant vice president for health affairs at MSU.

“MSU really changed my life,” says Beauchamp. “I grew up in St. Johns. I came here as an undergrad then stayed for medical school. It gave me the skills and the belief in self to make a difference. I was off for 12 years at Johns Hopkins and 14 at the University of Washington, and my hope and dream was to come back here and be part of making a difference for the university and the college I love in the state that was so important to me.


“I chose the medical school here even though I'd been accepted to the other medical schools in the state. I was attracted to the college’s ethos of ‘they won't care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ I feel that is really at the core of what we need to do to bring health, hope and healing to people.”

Beauchamp says MSU’s College of Human Medicine is taking on “some of the biggest challenges in the state. Things like autism, Alzheimer's disease, depression, behavioral health, and drug addiction, things that are hugely untreated. If you're leading with caring and compassion, then those move to the front of the list of the things that you want to go at.

“Those very defining principles that I learned when I was here have helped guide me. The other thing is that when I came here I got a scholarship to go to medical school. I remember saying to the dean of the med school, ‘One day I'll come back and I'll pay it forward.’ It's been a privilege to be able to come back and deliver on that promise that I made a few decades ago when MSU made it possible for me to attend medical school.”

Beauchamp talks about the mission of the college.

Dean Beauchamp in the MSU Audio Studios
Credit Russ White MSU Today

“One big part of our mission is to bring health and healing to people where they live. When we think about what our mission is, it really is to bring hope and healing to all those who seek health. We do it through our education mission, our clinical care, and our research efforts.

“Autism, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, really diseases of the brain, precision health and then public health. We feel like in doing those things we can start to move the dial on hope and healing for everyone.”

Dean Beauchamp discusses how students have changed over the years and how the curriculum has evolved to reflect the changing student body.

“At the core students still want to be a part of changing the world. That's why they come into medicine. Probably the one shift though in the most recent generations is this belief that in working together they can have a bigger impact, as opposed to maybe 20, 30 years ago when it was this solo journey to be that practitioner who has that direct effect on patients’ lives.

“Now, it's ‘I'll be a part of this team that has this impact.’ It's led to this creation of our new curriculum, which is called the Shared Discovery Curriculum, where one of the pieces of this is to train the physician, but train her or him to be a part of a team.

“From the very earliest moment, we have them in the clinic learning about what are the challenges people face.  Then once they see that challenge, you connect it to the biochemistry or the physiology or the ethics. What that does is, from the very earliest moment, you're reinforcing the importance of the patient in why you're in med school, but you also create a lattice for knowledge to stick if you will.”

Beauchamp describes his role as associate provost and assistant vice president for health affairs and how it compliments his role as dean.

“A lot of what I do in this role is provide support and find the alignments and the synergies across the three health colleges and the practice plan. It was the realization that we had to make this the safest place to get care in the country. We owed it to the survivors, we owed it to their families and we owed it to anyone who would come to us seeking health and hope and healing. In trying to put in place policies and procedures and get it right for every patient every time, we had four different silos and had to try to put in place policies and procedures without standardization, without uniformity, and without clarity around who's responsible, who's accountable, and who's informed. That's where predators can exist.

“It was the commitment of this university that we're going to get it right every person every time that led us at a pace that wouldn't be possible to really restructure, so that in this role we can make sure that if it's patient privacy, if it's informed consent, if it's helping to address the power gradient that exists that didn't make it possible for medical assistants and nurses to speak up, if it's mobilizing the voice of the survivors to help us reverse engineer and say, ‘Okay, if there was a predator now practicing, do we have the systems to detect it?’

“All of that moves quicker and more uniformly when you create this structure that aligns policies and procedures. In this role, that's really what it's about is defining policies and procedures and alignment across the colleges to make sure that this is the safest campus in the country.

“I would like to thank all of those folks out in the community who help make all we do possible. Ultimately, a university exists to serve them and that's our commitment and we're very thankful for the opportunity.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.