Medical College gets $37.8 million gift from Kern Foundation

Will establish institute aimed at transforming medical education

The Medical College of Wisconsin
The Medical College of Wisconsin

The Medical College of Wisconsin announced this morning the launch of the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education, thanks to its largest-ever philanthropic gift of $37.8 million from the Kern Family and Kern Family Foundation.

Robert and Patricia Kern founded Waukesha-based Generac Power Systems.

The Kern Institute, which will be housed on MCW’s Wauwatosa campus, will focus on developing new methods for training medical students.

John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin, announces the launch of the Kern Institute.

John Raymond, president and CEO of MCW, said medical colleges have been training students the same way since the early 1900s, with students undergoing two years of lecture-based coursework followed by two years of clinical training.

“Although this traditional model has worked well for 107 years, health care has evolved dramatically, so that we now recognize a need for change,” Raymond said.

Some of those changes, he said, includes teaching aspiring medical professionals “how to think and communicate, rather than memorize,” integrating humanism with science, and “creating lifelong learners with an entrepreneurial mindset.”

James Rahn, president of the Kern Family Foundation, said the goal of the new institute is to change “systems and culture” around medical education.

Organizers said the initiative will work to transform medical education by promoting three key components: “character, competence and caring.”

“On behalf of the Kern Family and the Kern Family Foundation, we are incredibly proud of our partnerships with MCW and other medical schools throughout the country which led to the vision and launch of the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education,” Rahn said. “We strongly believe that this collaboration provides a singular opportunity for us to have a lasting impact on medical education and securing quality and compassionate health care for all of us in the future.”

The initiative also includes the establishment of the National Transformation Network, a collaborative effort among seven medical schools. They include MCW, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, University of California – San Francisco School of Medicine, University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The network will focus on capitalizing on the strengths of each medical school to find educational innovations and put them into practice, Raymond said.

This type of collaboration among medical colleges isn’t common, said Cheryl Maurana, founding director of the Kern Institute.

“For seven medical schools to work together, that’s pretty amazing,” she said.

The total initial investment in the Kern Institute is $52.5 million, which includes the gift from the Kern Family and Kern Family Foundation, and contributions from MCW, National Transformation Network partner medical schools and other philanthropic support.

MCW Board of Trustees Chair and former Johnson Controls CEO Steven Roell and his wife Shelagh provided a gift to establish the Stephen and Shelagh Roell Endowed Chair of the Kern Institute. Maurana has been named as the inaugural holder of the Stephen and Shelagh Roell Endowed Chair.

“Steve and Shelagh are highly respected for their tireless efforts to strengthen our community, and they have been friends and generous supporters of MCW and our health care and education partners for many years,” Maurana said. “We truly appreciate their support for the Kern Institute, and are excited about the impact this gift is going to have on future generations of MCW medical students. This model would allow us to set the standard in medical education around the world.”

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