Medical school dean comes back because of new administration

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COLUMBIA - Dr. Patrick Delafontaine previously served as dean of the medical school at Mizzou and is now moving back into that role. Delafontaine may still be moving back into his office, but long term plans are already in the works for University Hospital.

The school of medicine will be starting a health disparities clinic in July. "We'll be focusing on some of the conditions that are prevalent in underrepresented minorities," Delafontaine said. He will also be working with other administrators to develop a national advisory board for the school of medicine with members including former US Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin.

Delafontaine says the school of medicine is early on in establishing a pipeline program for underrepresented minorities.  It would be "a training program for students that come from different backgrounds and would like to enter a medical career."

The review board is currently just for Mizzou, but Delafontaine said he could see it extending to other departments across the country.

Delafontaine did not want to comment on why he left the university under the Loftin administration, but said "I'm confident that with the current leadership of the university that we are going in the right direction."

"The current leadership of the university asked me to come back, and I must say that discussions with the current leadership really made me certain that the university is really going in the right direction there's an emphasis on all the things I think that matter for excellent academic programs," Delafontaine said. "From an emphasis on diversity and inclusivity throughout the missions, an emphasis on excellence in research and excellence on patient care and an emphasis on excellent education and partnership in our community, which is really important, particularly for a medical school."

Delafontaine is not currently involved in discussions regarding the University of Missouri Medical School's relationship with planned parenthood, but Delafontaine said "I suspect at some point I will be involved in that and I'm willing to help in any way I can."

Raised in South Africa, Delafontaine is no stranger to racial tension and he thinks the experiences of his youth might help the university as it sifts through it's own racial discord. 

"I had first hand knowledge of racial discord and segregation, this was at a time when Mandela is in prison," Delafontaine said. As a kid he would go surfing where you could see Robben Island where he was held prisoner.

"I think that experience to some extent sensitizes me to some of the issues that underrepresented minorities and that definite different socio-economic groups face," said Delafontaine.

"Diversity and inclusivity is a very important aspect of actually every medical school and every medical school around the country is grappling with this. As physicians we treat everyone, in fact our Hippocratic oath says we treat everybody irrespective of gender or whether they can pay or ethnicity, background, religion do that already puts inclusivity and diversity at the forefront for a medical professional."

"As a medical school, to be excellent, we have to emphasize this," Delafontaine said.  "Like many medical schools we've had successes in this area and we've had challenges."