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Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, UMKC School of Medicine’s Long-Standing Dean, Prepares for New Role in 2024

Pediatrician and educator reflects on her legacy and looks to the future
Rohma Zaidi
Jackson is a UMKC School of Medicine alumna and currently serving her sixth year as dean.

  When her mother cut out an article boasting the recently launched six-year B.A./M.D. program from a newspaper in their hometown of St. Louis, Dr. Mary Anne Jackson said she immediately knew the profession matched her ambitious personality. 

  Jackson’s parents couldn’t afford private university tuition for her or her four other siblings, so her options were limited to public schools in Missouri. Years later and well into her career, Jackson became the only dean in the history of the UMKC School of Medicine to have graduated from the school itself.

  “When I saw the opportunity, I thought it matched who I am as a self-starter, interested in something new,” Jackson said. “I applied, and then I got in, and I started in 1972 in the second graduating class.”

  Half a century later, Jackson is now serving her sixth year as dean of the School of Medicine, nearly double the tenure of the average dean. This came after serving many years as a pediatrician of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Jackson said she has continued her career for so long because medicine, meaning being around learners, education and research have served as a source of energy. 

  However, she’ll be stepping down as dean in 2024, and will stay on UMKC faculty as a special advisor on health affairs. 

  “When I went to the chancellor, I said, ‘I want you to know that I love what I’m doing. I would love to continue doing this for 10 more years, but I’m not the person to take that next 10 years on,’” Jackson said. “Being a dean is all-encompassing; there is not a minute of your time that is not yours if there’s something within the School of Medicine that needs you.”

  In her new role, Jackson will be able to take on projects she would not have been able to as dean, she said, such as increasing recruitment of students living in rural areas of Missouri. Jackson emphasized her dedication to improving rural access to healthcare during her tenure, and she hopes to continue doing so by increasing awareness for the program in these areas, as she knows there are many talented students who would be excellent candidates for the BA/MD program.

  When appointing the next dean, Jackson said an ideal contender should be internationally recognized for their work in research and education, and truly understand the inner workings of a medical school. They also must “understand the importance of social justice and of having a diverse healthcare team to improve patient outcomes.” 

  In addition to her administrative work during her deanship, Jackson also seeks to establish meaningful connections with as many of UMKC’s 900 medical students as she can. She said her favorite part of her job is meeting up with them and having conversations. 

  “On average, I see students one-on-one at least two or three days every single week,” she said. “Those are my best days.”

  During these meetings, Jackson said she usually guides students on how they can continue to excel on their path or overcome an academic stumble. One of these students is Sophie Sun, a third-year in the BA/MD program. Sun describes talking to Jackson “like having a conversation with a friend.”

  “She listens to what you have to say about classes and really takes it all to heart. She just wants to get to know her students as people,” Sun said. “That definitely makes her a lot more approachable when having conversations with her.”

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