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Interim dean named for medical school’s Duluth campus

He was one of the first students at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus more than 40 years ago, and soon he will be its new interim dean.

Dr. Alan Johns was appointed to the position on Wednesday by Brooks Jackson, dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. Johns is the assistant dean at the Minnesota Duluth campus and a faculty member in the school’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

“I’m certainly excited. I’ve had connections with this school since I was 20 years old,” Johns said. “I’m a northern Minnesota boy, and I have a lot of local knowledge of this community and this medical community.”

Johns, 62, takes over July 1 for Dr. Gary Davis, who announced he was stepping down in April.

Johns began studying medicine at the Minnesota Duluth campus in 1972, the first year the University of Minnesota Medical School had a branch in Duluth. He later earned his Master of Education degree from UMD, and just completed his first year in the university’s educational doctoral program.

Since it opened, the  Duluth branch has turned out more than 1,700 medical doctors, many in rural and Native American communities — two of the school’s stated areas of focus.

“You could go to any small town and find two or three physicians who are former UMD students,” said Johns, who also is an internist at Essentia Health in Duluth.

Johns said the search for a permanent dean is underway and has attracted a strong field of applicants. A decision is expected in about six months.

Until then, Johns said he plans to continue what he called a “very successful” run for the Duluth branch.

“I think we’ve had a huge impact on the medical community in Duluth and the region,” Johns said. “I won’t change anything that would affect that.”