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Hess Hits the Road: Dean visits campuses in Gary and South Bend

Northwest visit

IU School of Medicine Dean Jay L. Hess, MD (left), visits with Elizabeth Ryan, EdD, associate dean and director of the school’s Northwest-Gary campus, and medical student Chiamara Anokwute on December 5, 2018.

IU School of Medicine Dean Jay L. Hess, MD (left), visits with Elizabeth Ryan, EdD, associate dean and director of the school’s Northwest-Gary campus, and medical student Chiamara Anokwute on December 5, 2018.

We’re here to help you succeed. That’s the message Dean Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA, delivered to medical students this week during visits to the school’s campuses in Gary and South Bend.

“One of our highest priorities is maximizing student success,” he told a gathering of first- and second-year students at IU School of Medicine-Northwest-Gary over lunch on Wednesday, December 5. “What we’re trying to do is help each of you realize your dreams.”

Specifically, he cited goals to:

  • Ensure students successfully complete medical school in four years
  • Help students choose a medical specialty that is the right fit for them
  • Position students to match into the best residency
  • Emphasize wellness and work-life balance

Hess scheduled the visits to hear what’s on the minds of students and faculty; to learn what is working well and what needs improvement; and to highlight some of the school’s top priorities and new initiatives.

After visiting Gary, he headed to IU School of Medicine-South Bend on Thursday, December 6. The following are some of the thoughts he shared with students on a variety of topics:


Hess noted that the school has grown the mental health services team, including with the addition of Dana Lasek, a psychologist assigned to work with students on regional campuses. And he said the school is working to contract with local psychiatrists to be available to students at each campus who might be experiencing depression, anxiety, or other personal or mental health issues.

“It’s amazing, the physician’s life and all the opportunities you have available to you,” Hess said. “We don’t want you to lose your passion as you go through some of the tough times in medical school. We want you to keep that passion alive.”

Choosing A Specialty

Hess urged students to make connections early with faculty who can help mentor and guide them. “If you’re pretty sure about an area of medicine, you really need to get to know the chair of the department,” he said. “I know sometimes there’s a bit of shyness. You don’t think you can just contact their office. That’s actually part of their job description.”

Regional Campuses

Hess said he was not very familiar with regional campuses when he arrived at IU School of Medicine six years ago but has come to appreciate their advantages, such as smaller class sizes, close relationships with faculty, and the opportunity to work one-on-one with attendings during clinical rotations. And he assured students that data demonstrate that the regional campus system is effective: Students at the campuses perform well on Step exams and have exceptional match rates.

He also emphasized that, no matter where students are located, they should take advantage of the opportunities available across the entire state. “Do a rotation in Indy. Get to know the chair or vice chair of a department. Do research.”

Small-Group Learning

“Going back 30 years to when I was in medical school, I forgot 99 percent of the lectures. But I remember much more from the times we worked in small groups to go over a case,” he said. “I still remember things I learned from that.”

Still, he said there’s a recognition that small groups can vary substantially in effectiveness and value and said the school is working on improvements, including faculty development for those who facilitate the sessions.

“I genuinely enjoy visiting with students and hearing their perspectives,” Hess said of the meetings. “The feedback they provide is critical as we continue to improve the way medical education is delivered and the support we offer students. While we feel confident that we are preparing our students to be ready for both residency and practice, we also know we have to continue evolving and improving. I want our students to know we are fully committed to their success.”

Learn more about IU School of Medicine’s strategic plan and the goal of maximizing success of all learners.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Karen Spataro

Director of Strategic Communications

Karen Spataro served as director of the Indiana University School of Medicine Office of Strategic Communications from 2018-2020. She is now the Chief Communications Officer at Riley Children's Foundation.