Imagining a university for the future

Des Moines University is seizing a rare opportunity: creating a brand new medical and health sciences campus on a blank slate of central Iowa farmland.

West Des Moines Campus unveiling
DMU President Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D., at the June press conference at the site of the new West Des Moines campus.


What began in December 2018 as a modest proposal to the city of Des Moines to add 45 parking spaces and an electricity generator with ample landscaping turned into dramatic debate and ultimately a transformative decision to move the campus of Des Moines University to an 88-acre parcel of land in West Des Moines. If all goes according to plan, the new campus will be open in 2023 – the year marking DMU’s 125th anniversary.

The site for the new campus sits on the north side of Grand Avenue between South Jordan Creek Parkway and South 88th Street. It is bounded on the north by Booneville Road.

DMU has occupied its current location at 3200 Grand Avenue since moving in 1972 from Sixth Avenue in downtown Des Moines.

“This property will permit us to realize our vision for the development of an exciting new campus that will ensure DMU remains a premier medicine and health sciences university serving the community and the world,” says Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., University president and CEO.

“It would be impossible to expand our educational offerings and other programs at our current location with the restrictions in place. Now, the entire campus can truly dream big and explore exciting innovations in all dimensions.”


Signing of property agreement between the McKinney family and the DMU Board of Trustees
It’s official: Members of the McKinney family, previous owners of the site for the new campus, joined DMU leaders as they signed the purchase agreement.

DMU’s timeline provides for planning and design to continue through November of this year, with excavation and construction to start in spring 2020. The master planning process began in April with representatives of all campus constituents. The information gathering, which will continue through fall, is being facilitated by the joint team of local specialty consulting organizations RDG Planning and Design and GTG Companies.

“We are setting the stage for strategic growth and prosperity of the University, and we are taking advantage of the evolutionary trends occurring worldwide in health sciences education and health care delivery,” says President Franklin. “I am also proud to share that we have been having energetic discussions on campus and across the community, as people think about the opportunities this change presents for our region.”

The RDG/GTG team will deliver campus design concepts by the end of 2019.


“President Franklin has again demonstrated the commitment of her leadership team to pursue a transformative process in realizing a vision for building a new campus that will deliver innovations in health sciences teaching, research and community service,” says DMU Board of Trustees Chair Michael C. Witte, D.O.’77.

“I smile as I remember the very moment she first shared this big, bold vision with the full board: it was a prideful moment when, in a nanosecond, the room burst into cheers and applause. Quite simply, this opportunity makes perfect sense for all involved.”

Stay informed about DMU’s progress in building the new campus by visiting our New Campus page.


With “wellness” as one of its guiding principles, DMU will benefit from the city of West Des Moines’ walking and biking pathways near the new campus. Environmental planning and sustainability will be important aspects in determining the best use of the 88 acres as the campus is integrated into the surrounding neighborhood.

“We have an opportunity to design and build a creative, connected campus with all of the latest environmentally friendly operations possible,” says Mark Peiffer, M.B.A., CPA, DMU’s senior vice president and chief financial officer. “We want to be as efficient as possible, have a minimal carbon footprint and be the model for others to follow.”


President Franklin adds, “We are very grateful to have been warmly received by the city of West Des Moines, which has demonstrated an eager partnership with us to meet our needs for a successful development process.”

In the words of West Des Moines Mayor Steven Gaer during a June news conference, during which a temporary sign at the new campus site was unveiled, DMU will design the campus and its education model to be “the envy of medical schools nationwide.”

“The city of West Des Moines is extremely excited to welcome DMU to our community,” he said. “Their move here helps us accelerate our economic development plans that will add exponential value to our city and benefit our residents in many ways.”

He noted the nearby locations of Microsoft and the Des Moines Area Community College’s West Des Moines campus.

“Together with [these] and other progressive organizations, DMU’s presence will constitute what we are calling the ‘Innovation Corridor’ of West Des Moines,” he added.

DMU Magazine wants to know

Amid all the changes, what should remain constant? Throughout Des Moines University’s history, evolution and change have been ongoing, and not just in the ways medicine and the health sciences are taught. Seven different names. From one program – osteopathic medicine – to its current eight, with corresponding increases in enrollment. Two different campuses, with now a third in the planning stages, which could represent the most epic transformation of the institution yet. Alumni, amid all these changes – most of which have been positive and beneficial to students – what about your medical/health sciences alma mater should never change? What elements of its character, people and place in American medical education are worthy of protecting into perpetuity?

Please share your answers with Editor Barbara Dietrich Boose via, 515-271-1599 or by mail at DMU, 3200 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50312.

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