Second-year students eager to share School of Medicine–Salina with new crop

August 10, 2012

By David Martin

Salina class of 2016
The KU School of Medicine-Salina's class of 2016 (from left to right) JuliAnne Rathbun, Scott Rempel, Jeff Horinek, Bill Pruett, John Long, Mercedes Hoffman, Christopher Smith and Erin Morley.

Enrollment at the University of Kanas School of Medicine in Salina recently doubled. There are now 16 students on campus: eight who have just begun their medical education and eight who are in their second year.

The first-year students arrived for orientation on July 20. Though their classes did not begin until August 6, five second-year students made it a point to attend some of the orientation activities. The M-2s, as they're known, had made a decision to be advocates and sources of information for the first-year students upon their arrival in Salina.

"We've all talked about how we want to give them as much as advice as we can and make ourselves available," second-year student Erik Dill says. "When they get stressed or get concerned about something, we can reassure them that that's normal."

The School of Medicine opened the Salina campus in 2011 in an effort to train more doctors for rural Kansas. School officials believe that students educated in a smaller community will be more likely to build practices in one.

An existing campus in Wichita, where third- and fourth-year KU medical students have gone to train since the 1970s, is also now a four-year site. With the expansions, the Class of 2016 has 211 students, a more than 20 percent increase from the group that began its education in 2010.

Beginning medical school is a difficult transition. The initial "Salina Eight" faced the added challenge of being the only students on campus. Dill says the faculty and staff in Salina worked to make the student experience as comfortable and fulfilling as possible. But at times, they felt like astronauts in a new space program. "To some degree, we were kind of alone and got intimidated," he says.

Now wiser and more confident, Dill and his classmates Jill Corpstein, Claire Hinrichsen, Kayla Johnson and Sara Ritterling shared their experiences with the M-1 students during the first-year orientation. Information on everything from note taking to babysitters was exchanged.

Dill emphasized one piece of advice: Be where you are. A husband and a father, Dill says he occasionally struggled to segment the responsibilities of schoolwork and home life. When he was trying to study, he would often dwell on the time he wasn't spending with his family. When he was at home, schoolwork would occupy his thoughts.

Dill says the advice to be present is simple but not always easy to follow. "I wanted to relay that, because it's a cycle that sneaks up on you, and it's not very easy to get out of it," he says.

The first-year students appreciated the second-year students' efforts to welcome and guide them. One night during orientation, the M-1s ate barbecue with second-year students and University of Kansas residents who are training in Salina. "They're really willing to take us in," JuliAnne Rathburn, a first-year student, says.

First-year student Erin Morley says she doesn't know how the Salina M-2s managed without upperclassmen. "That must have been really difficult," he says. "It was nice to have them show us the ropes."

Seven of the first-year students in Salina are from Kansas, earned their undergraduate degree in Kansas or a combination of the two. The eighth, John Long, is from Pawhuska, Okla., a town of 3,589 less than 30 miles from the Kansas border. Long decided that he wanted to attend University of Kansas School of Medicine–Salina after visiting the campus. "I just really liked how it was a family setting," he says.

In fact, all eight new students say they listed Salina as their campus of first choice when they applied to KU. "As soon as I heard it was opening, I said, 'This is for me,'" Rathburn says. "I love the small class size. I'd rather be in more one-on-one situations than in a big lecture hall."

Though not large in number, the additional students necessitated some changes to the building where the campus is primarily housed. Workers built a second classroom in the Braddick Building, which is located on the campus of Salina Regional Health Center. Interactive televideo connects the Salina students to classrooms in Kansas City and Wichita.

Other improvements were made. The library has a new smart board. Bathrooms that once seemed small enough to fit on an airplane have been remodeled.

Enrollment will spike again next summer, when members of the Class of 2017 begin their medical education. Lucy Kollhoff, the medical education administrative officer at the Salina campus, says planning for their arrival is under way. "We're already thinking out," she says.

Last modified: Apr 28, 2014