‘Something very special’:
Founding associate dean set to speak at OUWB commencement
An image of Dr. Gillum near OU's Elliott Tower
Linda Gillum, Ph.D., founding associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs, near OU's Elliott Tower in 2018.

Two things make Linda Gillum, Ph.D., smile instantly: talking about the excitement of what it was like to be involved in launching OUWB — and where the school is today.

After all, as founding associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs, Gillum was the school’s second hire after Robert Folberg, M.D., founding dean. She retired in 2019.

Gillum had critical roles in just about all things OUWB, from establishing the school’s culture and coordinating the school’s successful accreditation — and then reaccreditation — to overseeing launch of key OUWB events and being a member of the inaugural Dean’s Advisory Board.

On Friday, Gillum will add to her list of OUWB accomplishments when she returns to campus to serve as commencement speaker for the Class of 2024.

She said it makes her feel “very special,” and that it’s another instance of OUWB bringing a smile to her face.

““It’s been like watching a child grow when I see the progress that’s been made at OUWB,” said Gillum. “I feel humbled because we really didn’t know how the whole trajectory (of OUWB) would evolve, and also deeply honored to know that someone thought I might have something to share with the graduating class.”

Christopher Carpenter, M.D., Stephan Sharf interim dean, said Gillum is the perfect commencement speaker because “it's important for our OUWB community to recognize those instrumental in its founding and to bring us back to our roots.”

“Dr. Gillum had such an instrumental role in bringing the school forward, including serving as founding associate dean of faculty affairs, shepherding us through our initial successful accreditation, and spearheading our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts,” he said.

“It's important for the graduates to know the history of OUWB and what efforts made it possible for all of us to be here today.

‘We did really well’

Gillum is nationally recognized for her contributions to the development of faculty in academic medicine and has been a leading proponent of evidence-based approaches to faculty mentorship in medical education.

In 2008, she joined OUWB, where, among other things, she established and secured funding for The Center for Excellence in Medical Education (CEME) to support faculty teaching. Gillum also launched OUWB’s Medical Education Week. Further, she served as the OUWB coordinator for the successful Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) provisional, preliminary, and full accreditation process.

The first site visit from LCME is one of her favorite memories.

“Dean Folberg was very kind and really allowed me to lead the accreditation team through the site visit,” she said. “That was the most exciting day I can ever remember in my professional career because everything was on the line at that time.”

Gillum said that everyone involved with OUWB at the time was very proud of the feedback — and subsequent accreditation — provided by LCME.

An image of Dr. Gillum and students during a 2018 OUWB summer pathway program

Gillum works with middle school students during one of OUWB's summer pathway programs in 2018.

“We had hoped they could see the difference that we were trying to create in our culture, and what we were trying to do for faculty, students, and staff,” she said.

“And we did really well,” she said with a smile.

Prior to OUWB, Gillum served for almost 20 years at the University of Michigan Medical School as a member of the faculty and assistant dean of students where she was responsible for medical students, residents, and graduate student research programs.

She also served as a primary research advisor and clinical supervisor for postdoctoral fellows and led the Office of Faculty Affairs at the medical school, which launched numerous faculty development and mentorship programs and implemented the Michigan Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan.

Gillum was selected as an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow and was later recognized as a Fellow of the Oxford University International Roundtable. Following her ACE fellowship year at Princeton University, she was promoted to assistant provost at the University of Michigan, where she led and promulgated initiatives on high-impact faculty research, promotion and tenure policies and practices.

Gillum served as a member of the several organizations, such as the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Women in Medicine and Science. Further, she has been honored by the Michigan Women’s Foundation and The Bates Street Society for her significant contributions to support community health and wellness, and for encouraging and nurturing STEM careers for high school students. (A complete bio can be found here.)

Gillum was elected to the Cranbrook Educational Community Board of Trustees in 2007 and was elected chair of the board in 2022. She also serves on the Priority Health Board of Directors and is a member of the OUWB Dean’s Advisory Board.

Training to be kind

Gillum said that from her time at OUWB, she is most proud of the fact that the school was accredited and that a unique culture was established that’s been sustained.

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“At OUWB, we were driven to create a culture that would be very, very helpful to our students and make their lives better as they matriculated through medical school,” she said. “We knew that if we had a culture that could be transmitted to our students, they would transmit a different kind of practice with their patients.”

The driving force behind the culture came from a physician at what is now Corewell Health who challenged the OUWB team with one question: how do you train a physician to be kind?

“That quote sat on my desk,” said Gillum. “And we kept that at the forefront of everything we did.”

That approach will be among the topics Gillum said she plans to talk about during the OUWB Class of 2024’s commencement.

She’ll also touch on what it was like to essentially start a medical school with a blank sheet of paper, being captivated by that opportunity, and have the courage to take advantage of it — and how it feels to see it all play out in 2024.

“We didn’t know if anyone else could see, feel or understand that we were trying to change the way medical students would be taught,” she said.

“But we knew we had created something very special.”

The OUWB commencement for Class of 2024 is set for 2 p.m., May 10, at the OU Credit Union O’rena. More details, including a livestream link at the time of the event, can be found here.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.