Message from the Dean

This summer has been an exhilarating one for all of us at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. In this first issue of KU Medicine magazine, I would like to provide you with a ‘dean’s-eye” view of recent events.

photo of Robert Simari, dean of the KU School of Medicine

Graduation: On May 13, we hooded 201 graduates in the class of 2017. For the first time, the ceremony was held in the historic Music Hall in Kansas City, Missouri. The following day, I walked down the hill in Lawrence, Kansas, with School of Medicine flag bearer Emily O’Donnell and stood with her as KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little led commencement ceremonies. As always, our School of Medicine class partook in their traditional celebratory champagne salute!

Transitions: On July 1, Chancellor Gray-Little stepped down from her role after seven years. Her support of the School of Medicine has been a critical part of our trajectory and success, and she will be greatly missed.

On May 25th, KU Medical Center’s executive vice chancellor, Dr. Doug Girod was named the 18th chancellor of the University of Kansas. Dr. Girod follows in the footsteps of Drs. Murphy and Wescoe, who also went from the medical center campus to Mount Oread to lead the university. We are very proud to have Dr. Girod as our leader and look forward to working with him. In June, he appointed me to serve as interim executive vice chancellor during this transition. I am honored to lead the medical center at such a pivotal time in our history.

“Building” our future: On July 20, we welcomed over 800 people to the corner of 39th and Rainbow on our Kansas City, Kansas campus for the grand opening of our new Health Education Building (HEB). Dr. Darrell Kirch, the CEO of the AAMC, joined leaders from our community and state for the celebration. I don’t think it’s overstating it to say the HEB is the finest building of its kind in the world. The structure is 175,000 square-feet and was built to support active and interprofessional modes of education for KU’s Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions. As a dean, I would say that the building is SPECTACULAR! The design is clean, open and welcoming. I am never happier than when I get the opportunity to show others around the building for the first time. Please stop by if you’re in Kansas City.

Exciting things are also happening at our other two School of Medicine campuses in Salina and Wichita.

The Salina school’s new health education building in downtown Salina will be completed in July 2018. The building is designed to complement many of the same features in our new facility in Kansas City. When completed, the building will also house our colleagues and students in the KU School of Nursing, which opened a Salina campus this past summer, making it a true hub for interprofessional education. Along with the campus expansion in Wichita in 2010, our three campuses are providing modern educational spaces for all of our students.

The beginning of ACE: This summer, after four years of intense planning, we implemented the School of Medicine’s ACE (Active, Competency-based, Excellence-directed) curriculum with our new M1s. The curriculum is the result of the combined efforts of over 300 faculty, staff and students to transform the way we teach medicine. As dean, I have never been more thrilled and proud of this community of educators. As an instructor, I have had the pleasure of leading a small group through a CBCL (Case-based Collaborative Learning) experience and have presented the first Big Case in our new learning studio. Like many others, I needed the support of our faculty development workshops, supported by the Medical Alumni Board, to prepare to teach in these new environments.

Wellness: At the grand opening of our Health Education Building, Dr. David Zamierowski gave a stirring call for new educational models to support physician health and wellness. Our faculty council has been engaged in addressing faculty wellness, including conducting a comprehensive survey and holding a faculty retreat. At the School of Medicine, we are committed to the welfare of our faculty, staff and students and are working to tackle these local and national concerns.

Research: On August 2, the director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, Dr. Roy Jensen, announced the renewal of the KU Cancer Center grant from the NCI. This renewal included a new consortium partner, Children’s Mercy Hospital, as well as an 11 percent increase in funding. While NCI comprehensive status remained just out of our reach, we will redouble our efforts for the future.

It has been a truly remarkable year, and it’s far from over. I invite you to stop by any of our campuses to feel the excitement at the KU School of Medicine.

Robert Simari's signature

Robert D. Simari, M.D.
Executive Dean, KU School of Medicine
Interim Executive Vice Chancellor, KU Medical Center