Anthony L. Kovac Jr
Honorary Health Professions Alumnus
Anthony L. Kovac Jr., MD’77, R’81
Kasumi Arakawa Professor of Anesthesiology
KU School of Medicine
University of Kansas Medical Center
Because of the extensive support that Anthony Kovac has provided to the University of Kansas School of Health Professions for diversity and international educational exchanges, he is being recognized with the 2022 Honorary Alumni Award.
Dr. Kovac earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1977 and completed his anesthesiology residency training in 1981. Dr. Kovac is a tenured professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Pain and Perioperative Medicine as well as an affiliate professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine, both in KU School of Medicine. He also has a graduate appointment in the Department of Nurse Anesthesia Education in KU School of Health Professions (SHP).
Dr. Kovac’s passion for international exchanges, where medical professionals of one country learn from medical professionals of another, grew from his own trip to Lima, Peru more than six years ago. He made friends with a fellow anesthesiologist who practiced in Peru. When Dr. Kovac returned to KU Medical Center, he enlisted the help of Kimberly Connelly, Director of the Office of International Programs, to create a program where Peruvian professionals could visit the medical center, share their culture and present on their areas of expertise.
“He wanted everyone to be included in the life-changing experience of international education and global health,” Connelly wrote in her recommendation letter. “The program has grown and grown. Due to Dr. Kovac’s efforts, we now have exchanges for residents, students and faculty at three different institutions in Peru and one in Ghana.”
The program not only connects KU Medical Center with these two countries on different continents but because the medical professionals meet in Kansas at the same time, personal and professional connections between Peru and Ghana blossomed as well.
Dr. Kovac and his late wife, Carolyn, contributed their personal money to KU Endowment to create an international educational fund that facilitates and guarantees these international academic endeavors that the KUMC Office of International Programs provides for students and faculty. The Kovac International Education Support Fund has grown so that residents from both Ghana and Peru are financially supported for an educational exchange at KU Medical Center. The fund also supports mutual collaborative efforts and exchange of key partners from these countries as well as supporting inter-professional mobility from KU Medical Center to Ghana and Peru.
Financial assistance from the Kovacs also has helped fund KU SHP Nurse Anesthesia students’ international education experiences (IEEs) to Peru and Ghana as well as IEEs in Ghana for students in the Department of Respiratory Care and Diagnostic Sciences visiting Ghana.
In 2020, Dr. Kovac initiated the Kovac Diversity Student Support Fund to financially bolster the training and educational opportunities for SHP students who “value diversity, interdisciplinary interactions and are interested in international exchange of education, research and teaching ideas,” according to Abiodun Akinwuntan, PhD, MPH, MBA, FASAHP, FACRM, dean of KU School of Health Professions.
“In light of the significant financial, moral, clinical and academic support that Dr. Kovac has continued to give to faculty, staff and students in the School of Health Professions, I without reservation nominate Dr. Anthony Kovac,” Akinwuntan said.