UMR: Educating the next generation of medical professionals

“We are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist – to solve problems that aren’t yet known – using technologies that have not yet been invented.”

If you’ve heard University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) Chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle speak, chances are you’ve heard this statement.

UMR has a big job. They are tasked with educating the next generation of medical professionals and equipping them with the transferable skills they’ll need to succeed in today’s high-tech, high-touch world of health care.

But Lehmkuhle and his staff are intent on providing more than quality education. “We are not just recruiting students to our college,” Lehmkuhle explains, “we are recruiting them into the health care profession.”

A community campus located in the Heart of the City, UMR students study, eat, and sleep within a couple blocks of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. They are in a position to rub elbows with future colleagues in the medical field every day.

“Our value proposition to the city is to develop the health care workforce that Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center, and others in Rochester will need to grow in the future,” Lehmkuhle says. But UMR is not just educating the talent that already exists in Rochester. In fact, more than 80% of UMR students come from over 50 miles away. “We are attracting talent to the region,” he explains.

Earlier this month, more than 50 prospective students, along with their family members, were invited to UMR to compete for scholarships to help offset their educational costs during the school’s Health Care Scholars Day. They were asked to tell a story of a life struggle and how they overcame it. For many of the students who applied, this experience came from a place of deep emotion.

“These are 17- and 18-year-olds being asked to tell very real, very personal stories about a life experience,” says Lehmkuhle. “It could be a personal health crisis or an illness of a family member or friend.” The students then described how they responded to that experience and how it helped them grow.

One student’s story was brought to Lehmkuhle’s attention by a staff member, so the Chancellor sought the student out to hear it for himself.

“The student was a young man who drove here from Texas with his parents,” says Lehmkuhle. “It turned out he had wanted to attend UMR since he was in 7th grade. When I asked him why, he responded, ‘I have always wanted a career in the medical field, and I knew Rochester, Minnesota was the best place to pursue that.’” The Chancellor couldn’t help but agree.

Brett Schieve is UMR’s cultural engagement director and a Scholars Day judge. He explains that many of the scholarship candidates have had specific volunteer experience in health care settings. “These experiences drive their passion for health care,” he says. “We are lucky to have them as future UMR students.”

Enrollment projections for the University of Minnesota Rochester remain strong and on-track. With 170 incoming first-year and transfer students in 2016, UMR had a near-record number of new students enroll. So, while school leaders work on long-term plans for “space to develop human potential” in the DMC Learning & Recreation sub-district, Lehmkuhle says the school’s growth requires them to meet some immediate infrastructure needs as well. “We need housing space now,” he says.

But UMR will remain consistent with its distributed downtown model and seek to identify additional public/private partnerships as it looks to provide long-term facilities for students. “The space we develop [in the Learning & Recreation sub-district] will blend nicely with what’s happening in Discovery Square,” he predicts. “I see our partners being located in both places.”

Rochester is home to several existing assets, like UMR, which offer credibility and vibrancy to our city and provide a better experience for all who live, work, learn, and visit here. Together, we can build America’s City for Health.