November 01, 2013
Last week, many months of hard work culminated in a site visit by a survey team representing the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the accrediting body for medical schools in the United States and Canada. The survey team spent four days in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina in an effort to see firsthand whether the M.D. program at the School of Medicine meets the high standards that our graduates will need to become licensed in their fields.
KU is an excellent place to learn the art and practice of medicine. The accreditation process is an opportunity to state that case to our peers in the field of medical education. When the site team left on Thursday afternoon, I felt confident that we had been successful in telling our story.
As you may know, preparations for the site visit began 18 months ago. The LCME asks medical education programs to undertake a rigorous process of self-examination before the survey team arrives. Led by Glen Cox, the senior associate dean for medical education, faculty, staff and students put in hundreds of hours compiling and analyzing information. The materials included a self-study, an exhaustive database and an independent student analysis.
Anne Walling, associate dean for faculty development in Wichita, was the primary writer and editor of the information we provided to the survey team. This detailed, honest appraisal of the medical education program set us on a course for a successful site visit. I also want to recognize Jenni Mandela, executive assistant in the School of Medicine dean's office, for coordinating this huge project.
Planning and executing the site visit itself was another large challenge. The survey team frequently broke into two groups in order to take the full measure of the M.D. program. Many of you met with survey team members at one point in the week, whether it was to discuss a course module, explain the school's finances or describe a scholarship opportunity.
Students from all three campuses contributed greatly to the effort. On the first full day of the site visit, first- and second-year students led a tour of the classrooms, labs and other areas of the Kansas City campus before sitting down for lunch with the survey team. I later learned that the students - without prompting - had met a week earlier to do a dry run of the campus tour and consider topics for the lunch discussion. What leadership!
On the third full day, the survey team split up and took separate flights to Wichita and Salina. It's amazing when you stop to consider that in 2005, the year of the last full accreditation visit, Wichita was a two-year campus, and the Salina campus did not exist. Today, students are able to receive all four years of their medical education at these sites. The survey team members seemed highly impressed by what they saw in Wichita and Salina. I thank Garold Minns, dean of the School of Medicine-Wichita, and William Cathcart-Rake, director of the School of Medicine-Salina, as well as the faculty, staff and students, for their work in building and sustaining these innovative educational models.
I also want to thank Giulia Bonaminio, associate dean for medical education, and other members of the School of Medicine leadership team. Their diligence allowed Dr. Cox to keep his eyes focused on the big picture. Finally, I am grateful for the knowledge, cool head and optimism Dr. Cox brought to the process.
Of course, no medical school is perfect. During the self-study, we identified several areas where we need to continue to improve. We know, for instance, that the School of Medicine faculty is not as diverse as it should be. Steps are being taken to address this. Last year, Karen Miller, the senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at KU Medical Center and dean of the Schools of Nursing and Health Professions, convened a task force of more than 80 faculty and staff from various areas of the medical center. The task force has presented us with recommendations for strengthening diversity, cultural competency and professionalism on our campuses, and we are now considering how best to implement those recommendations.
I have spoken in the past about our hopes to expand the size of our first-year M.D. classes in Kansas City and Wichita. Larger class sizes would allow us to build on a strength: the education and training of primary case physicians. In fact, the School of Medicine ranked No. 2 in a recent study of medical school graduates who go into family medicine. But new students cannot be accommodated without additional investments. We continue to talk to policymakers and other stakeholders about the need for a new health education building in Kansas City and additional funding for undergraduate and graduate medical education programs in Wichita.
We will not receive the final determinations from the LCME until after the first of the year. I do not need this report to tell me how proud I am of everyone who contributes to the outstanding educational programs in the School of Medicine. Thanks to each of you who served on a committee or performed some other function vital to the accreditation process. It was a great team effort!