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When A Medical School Changes Its Name

They are changing the name of my med school alma mater and I am upset about it. But not for the reasons you may think.

I am a proud graduate of the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM). This has been the name of the school since it opened its doors in 1973. Last week, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to change the name of the school to the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMU). In a press release from the school, the new president and dean, Dr. Jay Gershen, said this:

“The current name no longer reflects who we are as a University. In addition to a College of Medicine and a College of Pharmacy, we also added a College of Graduate Studies last year,” said Gershen. “We are a strong institution with a health sciences curriculum, and we want a strong name that reflects who we are and who we serve.”

I have talked with many alumni who are upset about this change.

Vishvas Hegde, M.D. posted his opinion to this change on the comment page of the local newspaper where the medical school is located:

The name change alone will cost a large amount of time and money to be wasted. A few years ago, Medical College of Ohio in Toledo did a similar name change and it was estimated to cost over 300 thousand dollars for the entire process. Especially during tough economic times like this, I think almost everyone would agree that this is not a very wise use of funds… NEOUCOM is already cutting millions of dollars from their budget and reducing their employee count; this name change will lead to even more cuts in staff and services at the school.

While I empathize with Dr. Hegde’s point of view, I do not have that much of a problem with the change in the name of the school. Post-graduate education is a competitive environment. NEOMU is a state school and anyone in Ohio knows that the budget from the state capitol is diminishing with each 2 year budget cycle. Getting research dollars, however you can, is one of the keys to survival at the post-graduate level.

Now, in my opinion, the reason why many alumni are upset with this change, is not the name change itself, but the manner that it was done. In the press stories I have read and watched, NEOMU administration is painting the picture that a lot of feedback was obtained from key stakeholders before the decision was made. Some alumni disagree with this and are really questioning the perceived lack of transparency that took place in the name change.

If this is the case, then the new president and the NEOMU administration have a huge public relations problem with NEOUCOM alumni. If alumni don’t feel that they were heard, I really see this as potentially affecting alumni loyalty and willingness to assist the school — for example, with volunteering their time for teaching, or even with fund raising efforts. Because, if you do not have the alumni on your side, that’s going to be a real problem. And that’s my opinion. (Also check out my video post where I still call the school “Northeastern Ohio” instead of “Northeast Ohio.”)

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

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