Location: Hays, Kansas
Outreach Dept: Outreach Aircraft
Program: KUMC Outreach Clinic
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 more than 2,500 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 have utilized Dr. Barnard’s services for more than 10 years. 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,” said Smith.
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,” said Smith. “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,” said Smith.
“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,” said Smith. “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 feels it helped her family save time and money.
“Medical expenses are so high anyhow,” said Smith.
“We only had to drive one hour from our home town to Hays versus a five and a half-hour drive to Kansas City and having to take time off from work was another issue.”
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,” said Smith.
“I can’t begin to think of a price to put on what she has done for many families.”
Gary Doolittle, MD, associate professor, medicine clinical oncology, KU School of Medicine, is another physician who has made trips to Hays and back using the KU Outreach aircraft for the past 11 years, logging 142,560 miles and making approximately 5,280 consultations. He makes the trip twice a month to assist with services at an oncology clinic.
Lori Montgomery, scheduling officer for the aircraft, says KUMC had a total of 288 flights for FY07.
Donna Sweet, MD, professor, internal medicine, KU School of Medicine – Wichita, uses the aircraft on a regular basis for outreach clinics to Pittsburg and Garden City. Montgomery receives requests from the AHECs in Pittsburg, Hays and Garden City for their continuing education programs as well and the KU Cancer Institute has begun using the aircraft frequently for their missions.
“We can only see that usage becoming more regular and steady,” said Montgomery.
Dr. Doolittle wrote in a recent letter to the editor for the Lawrence Journal saying that about two-thirds of all university flights are used for medical center outreach allowing specialists to visit patients in their home settings.
“For the past 24 years, medical center oncologists like me have traveled to parts of Kansas that lay outside reasonable driving distance to supplement the excellent work of local doctors,” said Dr Doolittle.
“I learn as much from them as I hope they learn from me and our journey perpetuates the symbiotic relationship between pioneering research and crucial treatment.”
Doctors remain dedicated to the core mission, which is improving the health and lives of Kansans. He adds that the fundamental goal continues to be the use of any and all available means to improve the health of our most important audience--Kansans.
* Name has been changed by request of the subject and to protect their privacy.