At the University of Kansas Medical Center, the most important thing we do is educate the next generation of health care providers. This work is an honor and a privilege, and it comes with enormous responsibilities. That’s why accrediting bodies regularly visit our campus to make sure our educational programs meet the high standards that our graduates will need to become licensed in their fields. This fall, from Oct. 20–24, visitors from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) will come to Kansas City, Wichita and Salina to determine whether the KU School of Medicine deserves the right to grant medical degrees.
We know we provide our students with a superior medical education, and we are ready to prove it to our LCME visitors. We have spent nearly 18 months looking at every area of the medical school. This long, hard look in the mirror has provided insights about what we’re doing well and how we could do some things better.
The School of Medicine’s last full reaccreditation visit in 2005 was a success. The M.D. program received accreditation for the full eight-year cycle, with the LCME noting only a single area of “partial or substantial noncompliance” and two “areas of transition” (in the first case, the LCME determined we had collected measurable data for some — but not all — of the educational outcomes to define whether objectives were met; the transitional areas concerned the introduction of the new curriculum and an increase in student debt).
Today, the School of Medicine is a different institution. Since the last accreditation visit, the school added 36 students to each class, expanding to a four-year program in Wichita and opening our Salina campus. We have seen dramatic growth in our clinical and research enterprises, increasing the faculty size and adding significant new resources for education. We have earned National Cancer Institute designation, Alzheimer’s Disease Center designation and a Clinical and Translational Science Award, presenting more research opportunities for students and residents.
Meanwhile, accreditation standards have grown more rigorous and the LCME process has become significantly more demanding. Today, the average medical school receives between six and eight citations from the LCME accreditation process, and several schools are on probation due to serious problems in accreditation.
We began preparing for this site visit in February 2012. In an effort led by Glen Cox, senior associate dean for medical education, hundreds of people at every level throughout the school have served on accreditation-related committees, reviewing our curriculum and analyzing how well we are meeting the standards. Anne Walling, associate dean for faculty development in Wichita, was tasked with editing the five databases and the 35-page self-study summary report. Jenni Mandala, executive assistant in the School of Medicine dean's office, has been the nerve center, coordinating the massive project.
Through this process we have learned much about our programs. For example, we know the site visitors will have many questions about our extended period of leadership transition. By the time site visitors arrive, I’ll have been executive vice chancellor for just over 10 months (though it sometimes feels like much longer!). And the School of Medicine is in the final stages of recruiting a new executive dean. The positions of executive dean and executive vice chancellor have been combined since 2005, so we will be going forward with a markedly different administrative structure. This provides us with many exciting opportunities, but also raises questions that we can’t fully answer until our new executive dean is in place (which isn’t likely until after the first of next year).
We also know we need to improve our system of faculty governance, to recruit and retain a more diverse faculty, to devote more resources to student-centered active learning methods, to improve our facilities, to lessen the financial burden on students, and to deal with issues of financial uncertainty in difficult economic times. Efforts have long been underway to address all of these challenges.
At the same time, we’ve earned quite a few bragging rights. As the only medical school in Kansas, our educational programs benefit from a large, varied and high-quality clinical network, including two community campuses, many affiliates and extensive partnerships throughout the state. We have a large faculty with expertise across the spectrum of basic, applied and clinical sciences. Our educational support infrastructure provides technology that enhances communication, data analysis and collaboration across all campuses. Our student body is diverse and successful.
In the next few weeks, Dr. Cox, Dean Minns, Dr. Cathcart-Rake and their teams will be doing one last round of preparation, but I’m confident we are ready. And as we await our October visit from the LCME, I’d like to thank everyone who has served on LCME-related committees and contributed to the preparation. KU is an excellent place to learn the art and practice of medicine, and soon our visitors from around the country will be seeing all of the reasons why.