The lifecycle of education

September 27, 2013

Health care education is our business and our passion, and we know it doesn't begin and end in the classroom. It starts years before students step foot on our campuses and continues throughout health professionals' careers. This week, I want to spotlight some of our colleagues who help make up our life cycle of education.

In the next two weeks, our Rural Health Education and Services hosts its signature event, the annual Kansas Career Opportunities Fair, set for Oct. 3 on the Wichita campus and Oct. 10 in the Hixson Auditorium on the Kansas City campus. Medical residents, health care job seekers and students will have the opportunity to network with 22 health care employers from across Kansas. One of Rural Health Education and Services' missions is to educate students, graduates and residents on health career options in rural and underserved areas of Kansas.

Headquartered on the Wichita campus, the office runs several programs, including the Kansas Recruitment and Retention Center, a statewide program specializing in Kansas health care workforce development, retention and strategic planning. The center serves 90 rural Kansas health care organizations and has placed 158 health professionals in Kansas since 2004. Rural Health Education and Services also runs the Kansas Locum Tenens and Kansas Medical Resource programs, which allow Kansas physicians much-needed time off while keeping clinics open for patients. Last year, temporary physicians covered 243 shifts. The office also administers the Kansas Bridging Plan, a loan-forgiveness plan offered to primary care medical residents who agree to practice in rural Kansas.

While our Rural Health Education and Services does a fantastic job of placing and assisting health care providers in Kansas, our Area Health Education Center (AHEC) works to interest young Kansans in health care careers long before they enter college. One example of their great work is the AHEC's Mini Medical School, a high school program that exposes students to the health care field. Mini Medical School is a kit of modules and resources that give teachers everything they need to run the program - for free. Focusing on several health topics, including orthopedics and sports medicine, brain function, and influenza, the modules are all created by Seth Nutt and Michael Pommier in the AHEC's office in Pittsburg, Kan. With the help of Masters in Public Health students Olga Shakhnovich and Daniel Nwachokor, Seth and Michael just completed work on two new modules: disaster response and tobacco cessation, which includes a video featuring Won Choi, a professor of preventive medicine and public health. The kit, currently used in 17 Kansas high schools, is one of several AHEC programs designed to encourage students to consider health care careers.

AHEC doesn't just focus on high school students, however. With offices in various parts of the state, it is also one of several collaborators with our continuing medical education program, which has recently been renamed Continuing Education and Professional Development (CE/PD) to more accurately reflect the range of its services. Dale Grube, Associate Dean of KU Continuing Education and director of Continuing Medical Education, says CE/PD is about "designing and delivering education that makes a positive difference in practice and patient outcomes."

Our CE/PD program focuses on the whole health care team. Sue Pingleton, Associate Dean of CE/PD at KUMC, and her colleagues have been working to enhance, grow and support interprofessional education through collaborations with partners such as The University of Kansas Hospital, various Kansas health agencies and the School of Nursing continuing education program. A multi-disciplinary approach to education not only reflects the health care workforce, it can ensure programming remains relevant and directly related to the top practice concerns of health care providers.

In fact, CE/PD is currently developing a statewide, multi-agency, multi-year program focusing on chronic pain management and preventing patient substance abuse. Creating quality improvement programming and developing online learning tools are also in the works.

I also want to mention the significant changes in how CE/PD is funded. Today, 80 percent of the program's funding comes from participant fees because, like several other medical schools nationwide, KU Medical Center is relying less on industry funding for our programs. Funding from pharmaceutical and device companies threatens the integrity of continuing medical education, and it is vital for us to dispel any risks or appearances of conflict of interest.

The funding, programming and name changes are all part of CE/PD's demonstrated commitment to improving educational and professional development opportunities for health care professionals. With such a strong commitment to education that makes a difference, it's no surprise that our program stands out as one of the best in the nation. In 2012, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education gave our CE/PD program a rare, six-year accreditation renewal with commendation. This mark of excellence is the highest level such a program can receive - only 21 percent of programs nationwide achieve this commendation.

Like these great programs, we are all part of KU Medical Center's life cycle of education, and I truly appreciate everyone's passion for and dedication to educating future health care leaders and improving health care for all.

Last modified: Sep 27, 2013