Service is at the soul of DMU

December 10, 2013 —

Photo: Duane Tinkey/Des Moines Business Record

J.D. Polk, D.O., M.S., MMM, CPE, FACOEP
Photo: Duane Tinkey/Des Moines Business Record

As the new dean of DMU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, I have been well indoctrinated in my first month. But one area that I have been particularly impressed by is the commitment of DMU to serving the needs of others. I have been very proud of my military, government and medical service. There is nothing more satisfying than serving the interest of others, or a greater purpose and mission. I think that “service before self” mentality is part of what drew me to DMU.

You will notice many examples of service in this issue of DMU Magazine. But service has many meanings. There is, of course, service to one’s country in the military. DMU students, grads and faculty have had a strong history of serving our country’s armed forces.

There is also the service to health care itself, which is symbolized by students’ acceptance of that service responsibility in the White Coat Ceremony, which I was proud to recently take part in. Students further fulfill this responsibility with a wide variety of volunteer activities, from providing free sports physicals for school kids to working at local free clinics.

There is service via stewardship and mentorship, which the faculty take on numerous times by mentoring students in their research and clinical work, allowing the students recently to take home several first-place awards for their poster sessions. There is service to the profession, through engagement in associations, boards and state and national committees, which both faculty and students have been thoroughly engaged in as well. Alumni serve their professions and also the University by leading DMU boards, giving campus presentations and mentoring our students.

But I recently was schooled that service can take on many additional forms. I had the chance to thank a family member for their loved one’s participation in the University’s body donor program. For them, this was about serving the needs of health care, science and education, even in death.

I also recently sat with an endowment donor and became aware of their wish to continue serving the medical and educational community well into retirement via a gift to the medical school. For them, the need to serve continued beyond their career. The 2012-2013 Honor Roll of Donors included in this issue lists hundreds of individuals and organizations that also acted generously on their belief in and commitment to our educational/service mission.

So with this issue, DMU is paying homage to all of those who serve, in all of the ways that service can be given. Thank you for all that you do for your country, your profession, your patients and your University.


J.D. Polk became dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine in August 2013. Previously, he was the assistant secretary (acting) for health affairs and chief medical officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), assuming that post after serving as the principal deputy assistant secretary for health affairs and deputy chief medical officer. Prior to his work at DHS, Polk was the deputy chief medical officer and chief of space medicine for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Johnson Space Center and an assistant professor in the departments of preventive medicine and emergency medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Well-published in the fields of emergency medicine, disaster medicine, space medicine and medical management, Polk is a member of the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, a fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians and an associate fellow of the Aerospace Medicine Association.