A trip to our Wichita and Salina campuses

April 16, 2014

Last week, Robert Simari and I traveled to Wichita and Salina for his first visit to those campuses as KU School of Medicine's new executive dean. It was a great introduction. 

In Wichita, we met with students and faculty in formal settings and at a reception late Tuesday afternoon. One of Dean Simari's happiest moments was reconnecting with former School of Medicine-Wichita Dean Joe Meek. I discovered that when Dr. Simari was just 14 he shadowed Dr. Meek, and that's when he decided he wanted to become a doctor.

We also met with some key clinical partners: Jeff Korsmo, president and chief executive officer of Via Christi Health, and Matt Leary, chief financial officer of Wesley Medical Center. And we had dinner with several members of our 4-Wichita board, a group of community leaders whose steadfast support was crucial in our expansion to a four-year campus. We are now talking about our next expansion. Currently, 28 students begin their first year of medical school in Wichita; in their third year, they are joined by about 50 students from Kansas City who transfer to Wichita for those third and fourth years of clinical training. That has worked - our Wichita graduates are excellent physicians, and many of them complete their residencies and establish practices in Kansas. But we'd like to stop asking these students to uproot their lives. Medical school is enough of a challenge, and our students don't need the added stress of moving to a new town and finding jobs for their spouses and schools for their kids during the summer before their third year of school. This means we'll need to accommodate about 78 students for all four years in Wichita. We're in the early stages of determining what that will require in terms of space and human resources, and our 4-Wichita supporters will be crucial as we move forward.

Our trip to Salina was equally rewarding. It's so great to see so much community support, particularly from Mike Terry, CEO, and Joel Phelps, CFO of Salina Regional Health Center and Tom Martin of the Salina Regional Health Foundation, whom we met with on Wednesday morning. While Dr. Simari had lunch with students and faculty, I had to leave for a Board of Regents meeting in Topeka. I regretted not spending more time in Salina that afternoon, but took consolation in the fact that I'd been able to enjoy the students' year-end awards dinner a couple of weeks earlier. Dr. Simari also got to spend time with Robert Freelove, director of the Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency Program. Our alliance with Smoky Hill is one of the reasons we were able to establish our Salina campus, which is truly turning into a national model. In fact, Salina campus director William Cathcart-Rake recently attended an Association of American Medical Colleges meeting to give a presentation on regional campuses. Nationally, only 12 medical schools have four-year regional campuses. Two of them are ours.

I know Dr. Simari is eager to return to Wichita and Salina as often as possible. Until then, our thanks to everyone for their warm welcome.

Last modified: Apr 22, 2014