Community Engagement Dept: Outreach Aircraft
Program: KU Medical Center Outreach Clinics
Kansans in rural areas are receiving better care due to KU’s outreach programs and aircraft. The aircraft allows physicians, faculty and other medical center personnel the chance to collaborate on projects across the state to better serve Kansans. Medical professionals are able to fly out to rural areas to care for patients who might not otherwise be served.
The KU Outreach Aircraft enables physicians and other providers to offer advanced levels of health care to people in rural communities and underserved areas. It decreases travel time tremendously for patients, because it brings health care providers to them. The aircraft allowed doctors of the University of Kansas School of Medicine to personally see nearly 800 rural patients last year.
Martye Barnard, Ph.D., associate professor, pediatrics, KU School of Medicine who specializes in Behavioral Pediatrics, travels between Kansas City and western Kansas, mostly Salina and Hays, to care for her patients. Karen Smith* and her family utilized Dr. Barnard’s services for more nearly two decades. Smith first came in contact with Dr. Barnard in 1996 when her 15-year-old son was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Before being diagnosed, Smith said her son had a difficult time.
“He would have unpredictable blackout spells which was very embarrassing for him and scary to others around him,” she said.
When her son began having continuing blackouts, he was transferred to the care of physicians at the KU Medical Center.
“During that time period my son’s coping skills were not healthy,” Smith said. “He attempted suicide twice.”
It was after the first attempt in which Smith and her son met Dr. Barnard.
“She followed us through a very difficult time,” Smith said. “I really feel her services helped save his life.”
Smith’s son had several hospitalizations at KU Medical Center and then would follow-up at the KU Outreach Clinic in Hays with Dr. Barnard. Her son continued to see Dr. Barnard for almost four years. He eventually had a vagal nerve stimulator implanted to help prevent the seizures and he has been seizure free for almost eight years. He is now married with three boys of his own.
In 2003, Smith’s life took another turn when her husband was killed in a car accident two days before her daughter’s 17th birthday. It was another difficult time for the family and Smith knew she and her daughter needed counseling services. She then sought Dr. Barnard, who saw Smith and her daughter at the Hays KU Outreach Clinic for a year.
“Dr. Barnard is absolutely the best there is in regards to a counselor,” Smith said. “She has helped our family get through some of the most traumatic times in our life. “I will never forget what she did for us.”
Smith believes the Outreach Aircraft brings in an additional opportunity for western Kansans to receive high-quality services. She also said it helped her family save a great deal of time and money.
“Medical expenses are so high anyhow,” Smith said. “We only had to drive one hour from our home town to Hays versus a five and a half-hour drive to Kansas City. Having to take time off from work was another issue.”
When patients can stay in or near their hometowns, it also keeps money in rural communities - whether it's costs associated with lab work and prescriptions, or follow-up care at local clinics.
Dr. Barnard saw the family once a month and encouraged them to seek other counseling around Hays as well. She also scheduled telemedicine sessions if she felt it would be beneficial before her return.
“Having Dr. Barnard’s services available to the people of western Kansas has been such an asset,” Smith said.
“I can’t begin to think of a price to put on what she has done for many families.”
* Name has been changed by request of the subject and to protect their privacy.