Our students return

July 26, 2013

Like many of you, I noticed a definite feeling of excitement around our medical center this week. That's because on Monday, 211 first-year medical students began a busy week of orientation activities at our campuses in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina.

In addition to learning about the curriculum and receiving their first lecture in the foundations of medicine (there was even a quiz!), students have sessions on professionalism, campus life and maintaining relationships. On Tuesday afternoon, second-year students led the "M-1s" on tours of the Kansas City campus. The veterans doled out study tips and pointed out their favorite spots to eat and relax.

In surveys, students indicate that community service day is one of their favorite orientation-week activities. Traditionally held the day before the White Coat Ceremony, students arrive on campus at 7 a.m. dressed in comfortable clothes. They then spend the morning at various nonprofit agencies, weeding, painting or working with children. On Thursday of this week, the Kansas City students went to 14 different sites around Wyandotte County. Wichita students packed school supply kits at the downtown Salvation Army and tended to the grounds at a YMCA camp in nearby Viola. The Salina students, meantime, worked up a sweat on a challenge course. In all cases, the students learned the value of working together as a team, which will come in handy during their years of interprofessional training at KUMC.

The Class of 2017 is an accomplished group. Selected from a field of nearly 2,900 applicants, the students have higher grade point averages and medical college admission test scores than the students in previous classes. But it's not just the testing room where our future graduates distinguish themselves. Many of them enter medical school having worked or volunteered in a health care field. Jennifer Legino, an M-1 in Kansas City, paid for her studies at Kansas State University with a job as certified nursing assistant at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka, a job she had until just a few weeks ago. Legino worked in the neonatal intensive care unit, where her mother, Sue, works as a registered nurse. Legino says her mother's passion for her work is one of the main reasons why she wanted to pursue a health profession.

July is a month of transition for third-year medical students, as well. On July 1, third-year students began their clerkships, the four- and eight-week rotations that take them into clinics and hospitals to learn about family medicine, neurology and other specialties. What is remarkable this year is the larger-than-usual number of third-year students we have. Yes, it's been two years since the Salina campus opened and the Wichita campus expanded. I'm already looking forward to two years from now when we will watch the first classes of students who spent all four years at these campuses receive their degrees.

New residents and fellows also began their training at KU Medical Center on July 1. The graduate medical education program in Kansas City has 190 new residents and fellows. The Wichita Center for Graduate Medical Education is sponsoring 84 new residents and fellows.

Many of the new trainees earned their medical degrees at KU, of course. Two School of Medicine-Wichita graduates, for instance, are training in Salina at the Wichita-sponsored Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency program. Dereck Totten and Kysha Nichols-Totten met in medical school and married in 2011. They both grew up in smaller communities in Kansas - he is from Marysville, and she is from Winona - and were happy to learn on Match Day that they would complete their residencies in Salina. "My husband and I come from rural areas, and it has always been our passion to return," Nichols-Totten says. "Salina's focus on rural family medicine is ideal for the both of us. We fell in love with their faculty and residents during our interview process, as well."

With new residents starting their training and medical students beginning their education, the energy level on our campuses has picked up. The Kansas City campus will get another boost in late August, when the incoming nursing students, health professions students and medical graduate students arrive for orientation.

I'm looking forward to meeting many of our new students and residents in the coming months, and I hope you will join me in welcoming them to the KU Medical Center family.

Last modified: Jul 26, 2013