JOHN KAUFFMAN, DO | FOUNDING DEAN, CAMPBELL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE
BY BILLY LIGGETT, PHOTO BY BRYAN REAGAN
Dr. John Kauffman has built programs from scratch before. He believes his career — and divine providence — have prepared him for his next role as founding dean of Campbell’s medical school.
t’s 11:30 a.m. on a gorgeous spring day in Buies Creek, and I’m waiting patiently in a vast, mostly empty lobby on the second floor of Carrie Rich Hall — at the time the unimpressive temporary home to Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Patiently waiting” for Dr. John Kauffman — the founding dean of North Carolina’s first new medical school in 35 years — and an interview that was supposed to begin 30 minutes earlier.
“I’m so sorry you’re waiting,” his executive assistant, Nancy Lawrence, tells me at approximately 11:31. “Dean Kauffman’s on a phone call …”
She goes on to further explain the call, the important people on the other line and a few other details that I won’t remember. It’s not the first time she’s told this to somebody, and it won’t be the last.
Thirty-two minutes in — pretending to read emails and occasionally checking Facebook for anything interesting — I completely understand. Founding deans have a lot on their plate. Launching a med school is no easy task.
At minute 33, the dean is ready for me. I walk in and shake his hand, noticing the books, notepads and laptops strewn about the office he’d occupied for less than two years [the one he’d be leaving in just a month for newer, more spacious state-of-the-art digs].
“Do I need to reschedule?” I ask, knowing the interview I had planned would now probably dig into his lunchtime … likely his only “alone time” that day if there were no business lunches to attend.
“No, no … now’s perfect,” he responds cordially. “Let me make sure I have nothing coming up.”
He breaks out his laptop, now connected to a wall projector that displays calendar software full of colored blocks marking past and future meetings and phone calls. The calendar is 90 percent full … most of his days start and end well before and after 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
I notice the green block labeled “Magazine Interview.” One of the rare white spots followed.
We have time, he confirms.
I explain the point of the interview — an introduction to the man who will lead Campbell’s medical school … who he is, how he got here, where he’s taking us. I explain that the next edition of Campbell Magazine will be dedicated to the medical school.
Kauffman is excited to get started. His suit jacket has been shed, and his tie is a little looser. No doubt both will be back in place once the orange block on today’s calendar coincides with 1 p.m.
My first question is about why he got into medicine and medical education in the first place.
“Well, my father was a school teacher,” he begins.
“And I always enjoyed the sciences …”
John Kauffman did always enjoy the sciences, and from an early age, he always thought he’d grow up to be a scientist … even if he never really thought about what being a “scientist” entailed.
He also loved music, but Kauffman says he had “very wise parents” who encouraged him in high school to perhaps pursue a career in science or medicine instead. He spent much of his senior year in high school studying abroad in Australia, which made for little time to apply to several colleges. The one college he did try for, Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., accepted him … and that was that. Kauffman studied biology and psychology there, and worked as an orderly at a local hospital during his summers. During that time, he was heavily influenced by a doctor of osteopathic medicine, Jerry Powell, DO.
Dr. Powell was a missionary doctor who worked a lot as a surgeon in Indonesia.
“I was very impressed by him,” Kauffman recalls. “He was a larger-than-life figure in my life at the time. I was impressed by what a great doctor he was and how compassionate he was to his patients. I wanted nothing more than to go to medical school where he went to school.”
That school was the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, one of the oldest and largest DO schools in the nation. He was an internal medicine resident at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., and it was during college and his early professional career when he decided he wanted to become a family doctor.
But there was something else he loved about Lehigh Valley — interacting with his fellow resident doctors. He enjoyed research. He enjoyed participating in lectures. He liked the idea of helping build residencies and new programs. Three years removed from medical school, Kauffman began teaching in addition to practicing medicine.
Then in 1993, an opportunity arose. Lehigh Valley Hospital was seeking a director of medical education — a full-time position coming at a time when most DMEs were part time.
“I felt like this was what I was created to do,” says Kauffman, who with his wife Sharon had just become parents of twins at the time. “And I loved it … but after four years, that hospital was bought by another hospital, which already had a DME. So I was back out in private practice, which I did until 2001. I still taught some during that time, but I found I missed full-time academics.”
In 2001, Kauffman joined University Hospitals in Cleveland and became director of medical programs. At the age of 41, he was taking over a 150-bed hospital that had previously closed and lost all of its residency programs a few years prior. UH charged Kauffman to start from scratch and establish university-based osteopathic residencies in dermatology and pediatrics.
Today, University Hospitals is considered one of the nation’s leading health care systems. In 2006, after five years helping build from the ground up, Kauffman left Ohio to become the associate dean for postgraduate affairs (and eventually the vice dean) at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was hired by the same woman who took his DME job at Lehigh Valley.
During Kauffman’s time at VCOM, the number of residency positions grew from 40 to 280 positions in family medicine, internal medicine, dermatology and neurosurgery.
“We just worked ourselves silly,” Kauffman says with a smile, which flows easily into his next sentence. “And I loved every minute of it. We developed programs in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. I was there about four-and-a-half years when in April 2010, the dean came to me to talk about a school opening up in North Carolina.
“Some school called Campbell.”
It took a little prodding for Kauffman to give Campbell a call. Not because he didn’t think it was a great opportunity, but he was still enjoying his work in Virginia.
In November 2010, a full seven months after first hearing about the small university in Buies Creek, N.C., Kauffman called Dr. Ronald Maddox, dean of Campbell’s pharmacy school and vice president of health programs at the University. On Dec. 5, Kauffman was invited to Buies Creek for a formal interview.
Kauffman was impressed by what he heard about Campbell, and he thought the interview “went OK, but he knew more than one of the men and women who were also being considered for the position. Men and women who had more experience. Some of them who had been deans at other schools.
In other words, it came as a surprise when on Dec. 16, he received a call from Campbell asking to meet Maddox and Campbell President Jerry Wallace at a hotel in Sheraton for another meeting. That other meeting was actually a job offer.
“They offered me the job on two conditions,” Kauffman recalls. “No. 1: That I can start in two weeks. No. 2: That I can have a feasibility study done in two months. Now, feasibility studies can take up to six months … but what do you say? How often do you get the chance to be the founding dean of a medical school?”
Kauffman was officially appointed dean on Jan. 3, 2011, and was formally appointed three days later on campus at Butler Chapel. His first impression of Campbell was its beauty.
“I liked the fact that we were in a rural setting,” he says. “I grew up in a farm community in western Pennsylvania, so it felt like home. I was also impressed by how genuine the people were and how excited everyone was about the future and this medical school. It was just a wonderful introduction to Campbell.”
Three weeks after Kauffman’s appointment, Campbell received the endorsement of the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians and the organization’s 2,900 members. Five months later, a study conducted by North Carolina State University economist Mike Walden revealed Campbell’s medical school would bring nearly $300 million and 1,150 jobs to Harnett County in its first 10 years.
The medical school was off and running long before the first bricks would be laid on the 96,500-square-foot facility that would break ground that December. Kauffman credited Campbell’s administration with the school’s success in those early months.
“I had never worked anywhere where the leadership was so approachable and just so excited about the future,” Kauffman says, citing Wallace, Maddox, Vice President of Business and Treasurer Jim Roberts and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Dwaine Greene, among others. “How do I explain success we’ve had to this point? First and foremost, we have a president with a phenomenal vision and an incredibly and supportive administration to work with.”
As he did in Virginia and Ohio before that, Kauffman has worked himself “silly” the past two years in preparation for Aug. 5, 2013, the day the first class of 162 medical students step inside the Leon Levine Hall of Medical Sciences to being their education.
“The last two years have been an absolute joy and pleasure,” Kauffman says. “I started with a blank slate here, as I’ve had in every job before this. I think I work best in a ‘blank slate’ environment. … I’ve recruited and surrounded myself with some of the top talent in the nation.”
It was 2 a.m., another late night during those first two months when Kauffman was assigned to write a feasibility study for accreditation purposes.
Kauffman was gathering information about Campbell for the study, and while browsing the University’s website, he came across the school’s stated mission.
Campbell University is a university of the liberal arts, sciences, and professions which is committed to helping students develop an integrated Christian personality characterized by a wholeness of body, mind and spirit that includes a method of critical judgment …
The mission statement mirrored the first tenet of osteopathic medicine: The body is a unit; the person is a unit of mind, body and spirit.
“I got to thinking about the connection between osteopathic medicine or the medical profession as a whole and faith-based schools like Campbell University,” Kauffman says. “There’s a link there. I believe coming to Campbell was a calling for me. My ending up here is very providential.”
It’s because of this Kauffman had no trouble using the word “Christian” in the school’s mission statement (despite suggestions to keep it out from outside agencies). Campbell’s begins: The Mission of the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine is to educate and prepare community-based osteopathic physicians in a Christian environment to care for the rural and underserved populations in North Carolina, the Southeastern United States and the nation.
The medical school is not the beginning, nor is it the end of Campbell University’s goal of becoming a leader in health education in North Carolina and points beyond. The pharmacy school and its programs have been established for 26 years, and already Campbell is working toward programs in physical therapy, nursing and more.
But today, Kauffman is thinking of August 2013 and the day Campbell’s first osteopathic medical school students walk through those doors to learn.
“It will be a proud moment,” he says. “The day we had our trustees touring the building … even then, I couldn’t stop smiling. The joy comes from knowing that all of this has been a wonderful team effort. This is the dawn of a new day at Campbell … we’re training the next generation of physicians who will go out and make a difference for rural and underserved North Carolina.”