Inside the School of Medicine

KU School of Medicine student develops app to help JayDoc Clinic volunteers

April 10, 2015

Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening, a few blocks from KU Medical Center, first and second-year University of Kansas School of Medicine students provide free medical care to low and no-income patients in Wyandotte County. Now in its 12th year, the JayDoc Free Clinic serves over 2,000 patients a year. It's an all-volunteer effort, from the Spanish-language interpreters to the attending physicians who coach the students in examining and treating patients.

Although it's a valuable experience, working at the clinic can be overwhelming for new medical students. That's why Madeline Crawford, a second-year student at the KU School of Medicine, has developed the JayDoc mobile phone application to provide valuable knowledge and assistance to the students who volunteer at the JayDoc Free Clinic. Read more 

Medical students celebrate residency assignments on Match Day

March 20, 2015

Every year during the third week of March, graduating medical students across the country observe a rite of passage. On Match Day, they learn their residency assignments. The University of Kansas School Medicine held Match Day ceremonies on all three of its campuses on Friday, March 20 - including the first Match Day on the KU School of Medicine-Salina campus, which welcomed its first class of medical students four years ago.

The KU School of Medicine built on its reputation as one of the nation's leaders in training primary care physicians, with 42 percent of the school's 2015 graduates accepting residencies to become primary care physicians. In all, 77 of the 190 KU students who matched selected primary care.  read more >>

More than 1,000 students take part in interprofessional training

January 28, 2015

More than 1,000 University of Kansas Medical Center students in 13 programs across three campuses took part on Jan. 23 in the first Level 1 interprofessional training, which is designed to help students learn about and from each other to promote collaboration and improve patient care. The exercise involved students and faculty from the KU School of Medicine, School of Nursing and School of Health Professions, as well as students and faculty from the KU School of Pharmacy, Wichita State University, Kansas State University and Kansas Wesleyan University.

The interprofessional curriculum being used by KU Medical Center is TeamSTEPPS (Team Strategies & Tools to Enhance Performance & Patient Safety), a system designed by Department of Defense's Patient Safety Program and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Read more

School of Medicine surges in U.S. News rankings of research, primary care

March 12, 2014

The University of Kansas School of Medicine jumped 15 spots overall in both primary care and research in the 2015 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s "Best Graduate Schools."

"Our mission as Kansas' flagship university is to educate the leaders and professionals the state needs to grow and prosper. Raising the quality and stature of our graduate programs is key to that mission, and is also central to achieving the university's bold aspirations," Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a news release.

"Of course, rankings are just one measure, and our ultimate success will be judged by how well we serve the people of Kansas. These rankings show that we're on the right track, especially in disciplines vital to the future of the state," she continued.

In the latest rankings, KU has 10 programs ranked in the top 10 among public universities and 43 ranked among the top 50.

M.D./Ph.D. student wins KU Medical Center Research Award

March 11, 2014

Bliss O'Bryhim
Bliss O'Bryhim

A research project involving a leading cause of blindness in children was recognized at the recent Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka.

Now in its 11th year, the summit provides an opportunity for graduate students at the University of Kansas Medical Center and other Kansas universities to share their research with state leaders. The students were selected based on their research's potential to benefit and impact the lives of Kansans.

Students from KU Medical Center, the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas State University and Wichita State University presented posters on the second floor rotunda in the Capitol on Feb. 13. Judges from academia and industry identified two students from each school to win $500 prizes from BioKansas and from their school.

Bliss O'Bryhim, Ph.D., won the KU Medical Center Award for a poster describing research into retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disease that affects babies born prematurely.

O'Bryhim is in the School of Medicine's M.D./Ph.D. program. She successfully defended her Ph.D. in molecular and integrative physiology last year and will complete her doctor of medicine in May 2015.

In her doctoral work, O'Bryhim built on a previous study suggesting that babies who receive dopamine therapy are at a greater risk of developing severe retinopathy of prematurity. Dopamine is sometimes used in the NICU in infants who have very low blood pressure that is not responding to other therapies. Previous research was unable to determine if dopamine therapy causes retinopathy of prematurity to progress or if it is merely associated with it. Working with mice, O'Bryhim identified a gene related to severity of retinopathy of prematurity and showed that this gene produces dopamine, which exacerbates disease development.

"My work suggests that dopamine directly contributes to disease progression and that babies who receive dopamine therapy should receive more intensive ophthalmic monitoring," she says.

O'Bryhim worked in the lab of Andrew Symons, M.D., Ph.D., former assistant professor of ophthalmology who is now head of ophthalmology at Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia. She became interested in ophthalmology during a shadowing opportunity. She was in a neonatal intensive care unit when she saw a baby receive the laser therapy that is used to prevent complications from retinopathy of prematurity.

"At that point, I started looking into ophthalmology and became fascinated by both the clinical and research aspects of this field," she says.

Charles Christopher Jehle Jr., a medical student, and Kristin Watt, a Ph.D. candidate, also represented the School of Medicine at the Capitol Research Summit.

Greta Stamper, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Hearing and Speech in the School of Health Professions, earned the BioKansas Award for a poster describing her investigation of the relationship between noise exposure and auditory responses in humans with normal hearing.

Lowell Tilzer, M.D., to retire; search for new pathology chair begins

March 11, 2014

Lowell Tilzer
Lowell Tilzer

Lowell Tilzer, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has announced his plans to begin a well-earned retirement, Doulgas Girod, M.D., executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center and interim executive dean of the School of Medicine, said today in a message to the campus. 

Girod's message continued:

A lifelong Jayhawk, Dr. Tilzer earned his undergraduate degree, his M.D. and his Ph.D. at KU. By the time he completed his residency here in 1979, he had already joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology. Dr. Tilzer ventured out from KU for a decade beginning in the mid-1990s, when he served as medical director for the Community Blood Centers in Springfield and Kansas City, and then in leadership positions with the American Red Cross. As chief executive officer of the American Red Cross’s Southwest Region in the early 2000s, he was responsible for the safety, purity and potency of blood donations throughout Texas and Oklahoma. He returned in 2004 to serve as medical director of our clinical laboratories, and was named chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in 2009. The next year, he was named the Russel Jay Eilers Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Under Dr. Tilzer’s leadership, the Department of Pathology enjoys a spirit of camaraderie, built over decades of growth and stability. The department shows an enthusiastic commitment to teaching, with dedicated instructors who are popular among medical students, graduate students, residents, and fellows; it has recently expanded its continuing education efforts to enhance physician education throughout Kansas. Research activity is at an all-time high, with faculty and support staff in the research division having grown from three people seven years ago to more than one hundred today; young researchers are flourishing and faculty is widely published in top-notch scientific journals. Ever-increasing efficiency in the clinical laboratory has improved the department’s finances and, more important, patient care. In addition to the extremely productive faculty, Dr. Tilzer credits the department’s stellar administrative staff for these successes.

We have now begun a national search for a successor to Dr. Tilzer. Radiology chair Phil Johnson, M.D., is chairing the search committee, whose members are listed here. After his successor has been named, Dr. Tilzer will remain on the faculty full-time for a year, then move into a half-time position. Dr. Tilzer reports that the most rewarding aspect of his career has been witnessing the success of his department, KU Medical Center and The University of Kansas Hospital, and that he is proud to have been part of that success. That success would certainly not have been possible without his contributions, for which we are most grateful.

Douglas Girod, M.D.
Executive Vice Chancellor, University of Kansas Medical Center
Interim Executive Dean, University of Kansas School of Medicine

More information about the position is available at the Leadership Searches webpage.

Medical fraternity recognizes KU chapter as a Chapter of Excellence

March 7, 2014

The international medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon has named the Beta Gamma chapter at the University of Kansas School of Medicine a 2013 Chapter of Excellence.

The Award of Excellence was started in 2007 to recognize chapters which excel in all areas of fraternity life and which promote positive change within their university and chapter. Chapters must meet all Phi Delta Epsilon expectations: host a values-based recruitment, retain 95 percent of all members after graduation, raise a minimum of $1,000 for their local children’s hospital, host regular meetings, social and educational events, as well as participate in community service projects. Chapters must also exceed expectations by developing their chapter and raising their member and chapter expectations to the highest level.

In announcing the chapter of excellence recognition, Phi Delta Epsilon noted the Beta Gamma chapter's participation in many philanthropic events, including Miracle Jeans Day and KU Dance Marathon, events which benefit KU Pediatrics. "Beta Gamma was creative with events to ensure students have opportunities that fit the needs of practicum and service mandates as well as ensuring their members receive a balanced week of study support and stress relief," the news release said. "They did this while increasing recruitment numbers and almost doubling the size of their chapter."

The Beta Gamma chapter holds recruitment events during orientation week, offering all medical students the opportunity to join the "commitment to supporting a new generation of health care professionals and addressing the complex agendas of today’s men and women seeking careers in medicine.” The chapter's brochure (PDF) describes the mentoring, networking, philanthropy and service, and social opportunities.

The Beta Gamma chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon was originally chartered at KU in 1926. The chapter was inactive before being revived in 2012 by five students, some of whom were involved in the Kansas Alpha chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon at KU–Lawrence. Josh Mark, Robbie Harriford, Mary Thibault, Michael Tetwiler and Marc Roth led the rechartered chapter in its first year. Current officers Ross Miller, Michelle Sommer, Micah Levine and Tequilla Manning accepted the Chapter of Excellence award at the Phi Delta Epsilon convention in Las Vegas on Feb. 22.

Kidney Institute to present inaugural Jared J. Grantham Symposium on PKD research

March 2, 2014

Jared Grantham

The Kidney Institute will present the inaugural Jared J. Grantham Symposium on future directions of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) research May 7–9, 2014.

The symposium's name recognizes the contributions of Jared Grantham, M.D., University Distinguished Professor Emeritus and an internationally recognized expert in kidney research. The symposium will feature 12 former recipients of the Lillian Jean Kaplan International Prize for Advancement in the Understanding of Polycystic Kidney Disease, including Grantham and James Calvet, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and the deputy director of the Kidney Institute.

In the United States, about 600,000 people have PKD, a genetic disorder characterized by cysts that form and enlarge in the kidneys. About one-half of people with the most common type of PKD progress to kidney failure.

The symposium will be held at the InterContinental Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. Information about the format and registration is available at

Medical student writes of experience working at women's clinic in Syrian refugee camp

February 11, 2014

A University of Kansas School of Medicine student spent the break between her first and second years of medical school working at a women's clinic inside a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. She wrote a powerful account of her experience, and it was published recently in The Atlantic online.

The student, Hannah Myrick Anderson, traveled to Mafraq, a city in Jordan at the center of the refugee crisis, last June. Most days, she hailed a taxi or traveled with aid workers to Zaatari, a refugee camp near the Syrian border. She worked alongside a midwife at a reproductive health clinic much of the time.

The Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine provided a fellowship that enabled Anderson to travel to Jordan. The Clendening Summer Fellowship is open to first-year medical students. Many fellowship recipients use the $2,500 award to pursue international projects.

For Anderson, the six weeks she spent in Jordan was a sort of homecoming. read more >>

Researchers establish benefits of high-dose vitamin C for ovarian cancer patients

February 6, 2014

Scientists at the University of Kansas Medical Center have determined that high doses of vitamin C, administered intravenously with traditional chemotherapy, helped kill cancer cells while reducing the toxic effects of chemotherapy for some cancer patients.

By evaluating the therapy in cells, animals, and humans, the researchers found that a combination of infused vitamin C and the conventional chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel stopped ovarian cancer in the laboratory, and reduced chemotherapy-associated toxicity in patients with ovarian cancer. The results of their study have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"In the 1970s, ascorbate, or vitamin C, was an unorthodox therapy for cancer. It was safe, and there were anecdotal reports of its clinical effectiveness when given intravenously. But after oral doses proved ineffective in two cancer clinical trials, conventional oncologists abandoned the idea. Physicians practicing complementary and alternative medicine continued to use it, so we felt further study was in order," explains the study's senior author, Qi Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics and the Department of Integrative Medicine. "What we've discovered is that, because of its pharmacokinetic differences, intravenous vitamin C, as opposed to oral vitamin C, kills some cancer cells without harming normal tissues."

The researchers' clinical trial involved 27 patients with newly diagnosed Stage 3 or Stage 4 ovarian cancer. All of the participants received conventional therapy with paclitaxel or carboplatin, while some were also treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C. Researchers monitored the participants for five years. Those patients who received vitamin C tended to experience fewer toxic effects from the chemotherapy drugs. In laboratory rodents, the scientists observed that vitamin C was able to kill cancer cells at the concentrations achievable only by intravenous infusion, with no observable toxicity or pathological changes in the liver, kidney or spleen. read more >>

Time-lapse movies enable researchers to track early cardiovascular development

January 31, 2014

Cinema pioneer Georges Méliès used time-lapse photography to send a rocket to the moon in a film released in 1902. More than 110 years later, University of Kansas School of Medicine scientists are using time-lapse movies to unlock the mysteries of early cardiovascular development.

Developmental biologists Charles Little, Ph.D., and Brenda Rongish, Ph.D., are working with biological physicist András Czirók, Ph.D., to produce the movies. Dynamic imaging has enabled the team to study how the heart and vessels form in quail embryos. Quail heart development looks similar to heart development in humans.

Time-lapse imaging is helping the team make observations that elude researchers working with simpler tools. "As a developmental biologist, taking static pictures of embryos viewed under a microscope at multiple time points is time-consuming," says Rongish, an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology.

In addition, a lot happens in the life of an early embryo. The time-lapse movies paint a more detailed picture in three-dimensional space and are less labor intensive.

"If you just have a starting point and an end point, you don't know what happened in between," Rongish says. "We now actually know what happens in between, because we have many more data collection points." read more >>

Steven Stites, M.D., named vice chancellor for clinical affairs

January 24, 2014

Steven Stites, M.D., will begin serving a dual role as vice chancellor for clinical affairs for KU Medical Center and senior vice president for clinical affairs for The University of Kansas Hospital Authority. The announcement was made today by Douglas Girod, M.D., executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center and interim executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and Bob Page, president and chief executive officer The University of Kansas Hospital.

In a broadcast message, Girod and Page said the appointment "marks a milestone in our ongoing efforts to become a more fully integrated academic and clinical enterprise, on which teams of faculty and staff from all three entities have been working diligently since the effort was announced over a year ago."

The message continued:

As Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs, Dr. Stites will report to the university’s Executive Vice Chancellor, working to fully integrate our clinical departments into a wider-reaching health system and ensuring we have a strong strategic plan for educating future physicians and growing the academic strength of our clinical programs. As Senior Vice President for Clinical Affairs, Dr. Stites will report to The University of Kansas Hospital Authority’s Chief Executive Officer and have responsibilities especially in the area of clinical programs and practice development, as well as strategic planning and education. He will work closely with other members of the hospital’s executive team, and with The University of Kansas Physicians, to implement the next phase of our clinical enterprise, which includes the creation of a wider health system.

As we announced last January, our clinical enterprise effort is intended to more closely align the hospital and physicians, allowing us to develop a more streamlined model for healthcare delivery that will further enhance quality of care and the overall patient experience. This clinical structure will also allow us to grow our academic enterprise through new investments and more efficient funding of medical education. It will lead to more opportunities for health education, patient care and research for the benefit of patients and communities as we continue to distinguish ourselves as one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to work more closely with hospital leadership and continue to improve clinical performance around quality and cost, and to begin looking at how we can build a health system which is, not only a local leader, but throughout the region,” says Dr. Stites says. “It is incredibly exciting, because we can really do great things for the state.” Dr. Stites will stay active in his clinical practice, especially with his cystic fibrosis patients.

Amy O’Brien-Ladner will become acting chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. We would like to express our ongoing gratitude to the many people who continue to work toward our full clinical enterprise. We congratulate Dr. Stites for inaugurating this important new role as together, we work to shape the future of health care.

Douglas Girod, M.D.
Executive Vice Chancellor, University of Kansas Medical Center
Interim Executive Dean, University of Kansas School of Medicine

Bob Page
President and Chief Executive Officer, The University of Kansas Hospital

Article on Prader-Willi syndrome makes pediatric journal’s top 100

January 17, 2014

Merlin Butler
Merlin Butler

A University of Kansas School of Medicine physician-scientist contributed to one of the 100 most cited pediatric articles since 1945.

Merlin G. Butler, M.D., Ph.D., a professor and clinical geneticist who holds appointments in the departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics, co-authored a 1993 manuscript establishing the diagnostic criteria for Prader-Willi syndrome.

Prader-Willi syndrome is a rare non-inherited genetic disorder of chromosome 15 which causes children to have a constant sense of hunger and slower metabolic rates leading to obesity in early childhood which can be life threatening; learning disabilities, speech issues; and weak muscle tone. The syndrome occurs in approximately one out of every 12,000 to 15,000 births.

Butler worked with other clinicians experienced with the syndrome to develop the criteria. Their 1993 paper ranked No. 53 on the list of most cited pediatric publications. The number of citations, 618, is striking number given how rare Prader-Willi syndrome is.

The authors of the top 100 most cited list said there were 497,240 articles published in 191 pediatric journals between 1945 and 2010.

Butler continues to conduct extramurally funded genetics and clinical research on Prader-Willi syndrome, Angelman syndrome, fragile X syndrome, autism and obesity.

Faculty receive more than $10 million to pursue translational research projects

January 17, 2014

Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center will use more than $10 million from the new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to conduct three projects that will help deliver new cures and therapies to patients faster. PCORI is an independent organization authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2010 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"These three projects are all outstanding examples of how translational research can benefit patients and health care providers by coming up with new and innovative ways to address some of our society's most important health issues," said Richard J. Barohn, M.D., chair of KU Medical Center's Department of Neurology and director of Frontiers: The Heartland Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, a KU Medical Center-based institute that will support each project.

Projects approved for funding include:

$7 million for a project that will establish a new network of nine medical centers in seven states committed to building a data set from electronic medical records that will be used to contribute to new research in the fields of breast cancer, obesity and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease);

$1.5 million for a new clinical trial that will evaluate four different drugs for the treatment of pain associated with neuropathy — a disabling condition in which a patient complains of pain, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs;

$1.5 million for a trial that will examine the effectiveness of long-term nicotine replacement therapy for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) read more >>

George Farha, M.D., surgeon and former hospital authority chair, dies at 86

January 10, 2014

George Farha
George Farha

George J. Farha, M.D., a founder of the School of Medicine–Wichita and former chair of The University of Kansas Hospital Authority Board, died Jan. 7. He was 86.

Farha was first chair of the surgical residency program at the School of Medicine–Wichita. The George J. Farha Medical Library at the School of Medicine–Wichita is named in his honor for excellence in teaching and his substantial contribution to the medical community. Among his many teaching awards, Farha was the first recipient of the Thor M. Jager Award for excellence in clinical teaching in 1976.

Farha chaired The University of Kansas Hospital Authority Board from 1999 to 2008, and continued to serve as a member of the board. The hospital honored him by creating the George J. Farha Patients First Fund to address the needs of patient care.

"George Farha deserves a lot of credit for the dramatic turnaround of The University of Kansas Hospital over the 10 years' history of the authority," Bob Honse, current chair of the hospital authority, said at the time he succeeded Farha. "He was a powerful voice that the hospital's focus should be on the patient, even in those early days of financial challenges."

Services to be held at St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral as follows: Trisagion 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10. Funeral 10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 11. Burial will follow at Kensington Gardens. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established at St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral, 7515 E. 13th St, Wichita, Kansas, 67206.

Robert Simari, M.D., named executive dean of the School of Medicine

January 7, 2014

Robert Simari
Robert Simari

Robert D. Simari, M.D., a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, has been named executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center Executive Vice Chancellor Douglas Girod, M.D., announced today.

“Robert Simari is an accomplished clinician and researcher who has served in several leadership roles at the Mayo Clinic,” Girod said. “He brings a diverse set of skills and a record of innovation to his new position. He is also an alumnus of the KU School of Medicine with a deep commitment to improving the state of health in Kansas.”

Simari received his medical degree from the University of Kansas in 1986.

Simari said the School of Medicine he remembers “no longer exists.” He noted the role the school has played in The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s National Cancer Institute designation, the Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health and the reputation of The University of Kansas Hospital.

“Kansas University Medical Center has undergone one of the most impressive trajectories in academic medicine,” he said.

Simari will transition March 24, 2014.

Michael Artman, M.D., appointed chair of the Department of Pediatrics

January 6, 2014

Michael Artman
Michael Artman

Children's Mercy, The University of Kansas Hospital and the University of Kansas Medical Center announced today Michael Artman, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Children's Mercy and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, also will serve as chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

In addition, the institutions announced Children's Mercy is now designated a Principal Pediatric Teaching Hospital for the University of Kansas Medical Center. The designation is a recognition of the institutions' growing collaborations in pediatric medical education, and signifies their joint commitment to further enhance the quality and scale of pediatric medical education in the Kansas City area.

The announcement marks completion of the initial phase of plans, announced in December 2012, to develop a single, integrated pediatric program.

"This announcement shows the hospital is absolutely committed to this collaboration with Children's Mercy. It also clearly demonstrates The University of Kansas Hospital will continue to provide pediatric medical services, in both primary and advanced care. We expect to serve more children than ever before," said Bob Page, president and chief executive officer of The University of Kansas Hospital. read more >>

Researchers study the role exosomes play in the metastasis of gastrointestinal stromal tumors

January 6, 2014

Andy Godwin
Andrew Godwin

Cells have their own miniaturized postal service in the shape of vesicles, or tiny bubbles through which molecules crucial for biological processes like communication and food intake are sorted, packaged and delivered. Aside from the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine going to the discoverers of this highly organized transport system, scientific interest in a particular group of vesicles called exosomes has accelerated over the last several years. Andrew K. Godwin, Ph.D., professor and director of molecular oncology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, is among the researchers studying the potential clinical applications of these specialized structures.

Exosomes are found in blood, urine and many other biological fluids, with contents that, while varied according to the cells from which they bud off, generally comprise proteins, DNA and assorted RNA molecules. The latter include messenger RNA, or transcripts dictating protein production; and microRNAs, short strings of bases that help regulate gene expression. Typically no more than 100 nanometers in size, these vesicles may be minute — about one-thousandth of a human hair's average width — but they pack a punch. read more >>

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Last modified: Apr 16, 2015
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