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Nov. 28, 2023

Joyce deJong recommended as new dean of MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine

Joyce deJong has been recommended to serve as the new dean of the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. If approved by the MSU Board of Trustees, her appointment will be effective Feb. 5, 2024.

A nationally recognized forensic pathologist, deJong (pronounced DEE-young) currently serves as a professor and founding chair of the Department of Pathology at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, or WMed. She is also the medical examiner for 12 counties in Michigan, overseeing multiple deputy medical examiners and nearly 100 medical examiner investigators.  

As a forensic pathologist for the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 1997, deJong has made significant contributions to disaster response and mass fatality management, deploying to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and more. 

Headshot of Joyce DeJong.
Joyce deJong has been recommended to serve as the new dean of the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Courtesy photo.

Happy homecoming

While her professional experience has taken her around the world, deJong says she’s excited to come home to MSU. 

She is a graduate of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and was an associate professor in the MSU Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology and pathology division while she was the medical director for forensic pathology at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. 

“I don’t know that I’ve ever been so excited about taking a new position,” deJong said. “When I look at the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, I see so many opportunities for growth. More than ever, effective leadership in medicine requires a collaborative spirit, and I am looking forward to building bridges with different colleges, schools and institutions. I’m filled with energy and motivation and looking forward to elevating our college to new heights of excellence.” 

“We are elated to welcome deJong back to MSU to serve as dean of the college that helped launch her notable career,” said Norman Beauchamp Jr., executive vice president for Health Sciences. “The breadth and depth of her leadership experience is extraordinary. Combined with her deep commitment to student, staff, faculty and community success, she is the ideal individual to lead the College of Osteopathic Medicine.” 

A gap-year job changed everything

Interestingly, deJong never expected to become a dean of osteopathic medicine. In high school, she was fully committed to a career in law. A first-generation college student, deJong needed a gap year after high school to earn money for college and took a job as an autopsy assistant at what was then the Grand Rapids Osteopathic Hospital.  

“Working in the lab was fascinating, so I shifted gears and chose osteopathic medicine,” deJong said. “When I started my pathology residency, my first three months were in forensics on the autopsy service. By the end of the rotation, I loved it. 

“I continue to appreciate the public health aspects of forensic pathology,” she continued. “We interact with people who are experiencing the worst day, week, month or year of their life. It requires a lot of compassion and empathy while we gather needed information to not only answer questions about an individual death, but also the information required to guide policy, treatments and to prevent future deaths.” 

Looking ahead, deJong feels like her experience has prepared her well. 

“Considering what we can do for osteopathic medicine and how to further enhance its profile, I think about how to prepare medical leaders and researchers as well as osteopathic physicians,” she added. “The osteopathic community has a unique approach to caring for people and that’s valuable. We also need to strengthen the research, innovation and leadership as part of the profession.” 

What’s next?

DeJong says she is looking forward to having the College of Osteopathic Medicine be part of the cornerstone for transformative health care, education and practice. This will involve collaboration with programs at MSU, forging strong industry relationships and contributing to those that already are in progress, such as the Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences partnership. 

There are plans for a new building that will require alliances with the MSU development team to help generate funding, which aligns with deJong’s experience building the program at WMed where she created and grew donor programs, research programs, funding and outreach. 

“Envisioning the new building at MSU, I see it as a showcase of innovation for the entire university,” deJong said. “This facility can offer cutting-edge educational spaces and simulation technologies of value, not only to physicians but also to all who are pursuing careers in health care. Beyond an educational center, the building should be a sanctuary for the emotional and physical wellness of our students, faculty and staff . . . a place that extends its value beyond our campus to our community, state, nation and the world.”  

Motivated to help her teams accomplish their goals, deJong has a strong interest in strengthening diversity, equity and inclusion programs in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and says she prefers a collaborative approach with teams of inspired individuals who are willing to brainstorm and problem-solve. 

Experience drives vision

As a medical examiner, deJong’s witness of poor care and mistreatment of the elderly led her to work on the development of multiple elder death review teams with funding from the state of Michigan through the Prevent Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse, Exploitation, Neglect Today, or PREVNT, program.  

Named president of the National Association of Medical Examiners in 2023, deJong made history as the first osteopathic physician to lead this esteemed organization. This milestone achievement is just one example of her commitment to promoting osteopathic principles within forensic pathology. She is also a fellow and a member of the Ethics Committee for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. 

DeJong holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from Grand Valley State University and earned a doctor of osteopathic degree from MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed an anatomic pathology residency at Grand Rapids Area Medical Education Consortium/Michigan State University and a forensic pathology fellowship at Emory University and Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. She has had more than 30 articles published and has delivered dozens of professional presentations.  

If appointed, deJong will succeed Andrea Amalfitano who has served as dean since 2018. He is stepping down to focus on his ongoing research and faculty commitments. 

By: Dalin Clark