Travels around Kansas

March 08, 2013

Doug Girod
Douglas Girod, M.D. Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs

Happily, campus life returned to normal after the recent snowstorms. I was grateful for clear skies - and roads - because I was very much looking forward to my scheduled visits to our campuses outside of Kansas City.

My trip began in Salina on Tuesday. As you know, the KU School of Medicine-Salina opened in 2011, with its first class of eight students. The innovative medical education program is aimed at students who have a strong desire to practice in rural areas, where physicians and other health care workers are in such short supply. Our program is housed primarily in a building on the Salina Regional Health Center campus. A former nursing education building and dormitory, the three-story structure was on a path for demolition. Now it's a place where future doctors can receive all four years of their medical education.

This was my first visit to the campus - not just my first as Executive Vice Chancellor, but first ever - and I was impressed immediately by how complete a campus it is. In addition to classrooms connected to Kansas City and Wichita via interactive televideo, the building has clinical skills labs, study rooms, a cadaver lab and, when the students need a break, a Ping-Pong table, a pool table and exercise equipment.

Director William Cathcart-Rake, M.D., and the faculty and staff have created a terrific environment. In fact, you might say Salina looks like the future of medical education. Watching the second-year students in histopathology class drove home the idea that small groups are an ideal way for medical professionals to learn.

The Salina students I met are proud of their "pioneer" status. I was encouraged to learn that 10 of the 16 are participating in the Kansas Medical Student Loan program, which is available to students who agree to practice in rural Kansas communities following their residencies. With numbers like that, we will go a long way toward fulfilling our mission to expand the state's health care workforce.

After dinner with Dr. Cathcart-Rake on Tuesday evening, I drove to Wichita to get an early start on Wednesday. I spent a significant part of the day with Garold Minns, M.D., the dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita. Dr. Minns, the department chairs and other university leaders helped me understand the history of the campus and their future goals. I also met with the chief executive of Via Christi Health, one of our partner hospitals, and attended board meetings of the Wichita Council on Graduate Medical Education and the Medical Practice Association, the physicians' group. KU Pride, a monthly employee appreciation event, included information about an HIV program led by Dr. Donna Sweet and supported by the faculty, staff and students. 

Our medical students have been receiving clinical training in Wichita for more than 40 years. In 2011, the year the Salina campus opened, KU School of Medicine-Wichita expanded to a full, four-year campus. Operating a medical school across different sites presents a unique set of challenges, but it's also an opportunity to test and share different ideas. And everyone I spoke with in Wichita was receptive to the notion that there is a lot we can do for each other.

There's no time like the present to reaffirm the spirit of collaboration. This fall, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education will send a site team to our campuses to ensure that the School of Medicine is meeting all the standards for M.D. programs. Meanwhile, our graduate medical education programs are working to implement new accreditation standards. It's also a time of uncertain funding at the state and national level. I hope that by being a good listener, I can connect good ideas coming from all of our campuses and help all of our schools build on their assets. It's truly gratifying to get out on the road in Kansas, and I look forward to learning more about the many more communities where we have activities, alumni, supporters and missions to fulfill.

One final note: The statewide tornado drill occurred while I was in Salina. Yes, I headed for the basement of the Braddick Building when the alarms - and Rave alerts - sounded at 1:30 p.m. I understand from Kelly Morken, the medical center's emergency management coordinator, that folks on the Kansas City campus took the drill seriously as well. In addition to being good practice, these drills help Kelly and her team learn what systems need to be improved (look for an update in next week's KUMed Central) - and, Wichita colleagues, don't forget the April 2 drill on your campus! There are still a few piles of snow on the ground in Kansas City, but tornado season is basically here, so thanks to everyone for participating in the drill and helping us all to be better prepared.

Last modified: Mar 08, 2013