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Around the KU School of Medicine

Highlights including faculty news from around the KU School of Medicine

photo of the KU School of Medicine sign outside the Murphy building.

Robert D. Simari, M.D., named executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center

The University of Kansas, in consultation with The University of Kansas Health System and The University of Kansas Physicians, announced that Robert D. Simari, M.D., the Franklin E. Murphy Professor in Cardiology, has been named executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center.

"Dr. Simari has served as interim executive vice chancellor since July 1, and he has provided tremendous leadership and stability to the medical center during a time of transition," said Douglas A. Girod, chancellor of the University of Kansas. "I am pleased KU Medical Center is in capable hands, and I look forward to working closely with Dr. Simari to advance the medical center's mission."

Simari will continue to serve as executive dean for the School of Medicine. 

The KU School of Medicine ranks among the nation’s leaders in educating primary care, rural care and family physicians

Serving the people of Kansas through the creation and promotion of model health care programs is a primary tenet in the mission of the University of Kansas Medical Center. While there is no perfect metric to judge how well a medical school is in meeting the needs of its constituency, the KU School of Medicine, which includes campuses in Kansas City, Salina and Wichita, fares among the nation's finest in the areas of primary care (95th percentile), producing doctors who are working in rural settings 10 to 15 years after graduation (96th percentile) and family medicine physicians (98th percentile) as determined by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). Producing primary care doctors has become a hallmark of KU's three medical school campuses. On average during the past 10 years, roughly 46 percent of the graduates have matched in primary care residencies.

The KU School of Medicine plays a key role in the FDA approval of the first treatment for polycystic kidney disease

A drug with a decades-long history of research and testing at the University of Kansas School of Medicine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration as the first treatment for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, the most common form of PKD. The two forms of PKD - autosomal dominant (ADPKD) and autosomal recessive (ARPKD) - affect 600,000 people in the United States and millions worldwide. In April 2018, the FDA approved the use of tolvaptan, a targeted treatment that has shown it can slow the growth of cysts on the kidney and the progression of the disease. While not a cure, it is a significant breakthrough in the treatment of PKD. Patients taking tolvaptan twice a day should experience an extended period before they need dialysis or a transplant, according to the Japanese drug manufacturer Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., which markets the drug under the name JYNARQUETM.

Match Day 2018

Match Day is the culmination of the four years of medical school when students are matched with the residency program they will begin after graduation. On March 16, 2018, students at the KU School of Medicine found out where they will be serving their residencies and fellowships. Students submit their preferences after interviewing with various residency programs, and the nonprofit National Resident Matching Program uses an algorithm to determine the pairings based on information submitted by both the applicants and the various residency programs. KU prides itself on being one of the nation's leaders in producing primary care doctors, and 2018 was no exception with 45 percent of the students matching in this specialty. And many of the students will be staying nearby for their residencies. Of the 208 total students matched on the three campuses, 61 (Kansas City 27, Salina 2 and Wichita 32) will be staying in Kansas for their residencies.

Robert Klein tapped for prestigious Icon of Education honor by Ingram’s magazine

Robert Klein, Ph.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs and Chancellors Club Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, has been selected as a 2018 Icon of Education by the editors of Ingram's magazine. Klein joins Barbara F. Atkinson, M.D., former executive vice chancellor, as the only other honoree from KU Medical Center in the 10-year history of the awards. Klein was honored by Ingram’s along with faculty colleague Moya Peterson, Ph.D., APRN, FNP-BC, who was named as one of the magazine's Heroes in Healthcare 2018.

KU announces nearly $25 million National Institutes of Health grant to accelerate clinical and translational research

The University of Kansas announced a five-year nearly $25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that will fund Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute (KU CTSI). This grant currently is the largest at the university, and the second-largest all time. Housed at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Frontiers: KU CTSI accelerates research by connecting scientists to resources; facilitating collaboration among researchers, communities and institutions; and offering training. The institute is part of a network of 57 such hubs nationwide that are funded with a grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health that work to improve the translational research process. Richard J. Barohn, M.D., vice chancellor for research at the University of Kansas Medical Center, is the principal investigator on the grant and the director of Frontiers.

Historic partnership grant advances immunotherapy research

Mary Markiewicz, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in the Department of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics and Immunology and a researcher with The KU Cancer Center, will receive a $200,000 grant, made possible by a unique partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs, ESPN, the V Foundation For Cancer Research and The University of Kansas Health System. Markiewicz is working to learn more about "natural killer" cells, which may one day change the way cancer is treated. The grant, the first of its kind, was funded with a $100,000 contribution from the V Foundation to Markiewicz's research, which matched the funds already raised by the Chiefs, the Hunt Family Foundation and the University of Kansas Endowment Association, which raised $50,000 to support the effort. The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by ESPN and legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano. It funds cancer research nationwide.

KU Medical Center signs extension of the Sino-US Advanced Healthcare Professional Exchange Program

Robert D. Simari, M.D., executive vice chancellor at KU Medical Center, led a team of officials from KU Medical Center that participated in the U.S.-China Health Cooperation Symposium last fall in Washington D.C. Highlighting the trip for the delegation was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding continuing the Sino-US Advanced Healthcare Professional Exchange Program. The goal of the program is to foster collaboration and understanding of the two countries' health care systems, while promoting the exchange of medical education between China and the United States. Since its inception, 41 Chinese physicians from 37 institutions throughout the country have traveled to KU Medical Center as part of the exchange. The continuation agreement was officially signed in the presence of Liu Yandong, vice premier of China, and Tom Price, who was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services at the time.

Heavy drinking in college can lead to obesity later in life

The amount of weight often gained by first-year college students might affect a person's life for years after college, according to a new study at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Research by Tera Fazzino, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the KU Medical Center, shows that heavy episodic drinking during early adulthood increases the risk of transitioning from a healthy weight to overweight or obesity five years later. KU researchers say this is the first study examining the effect of heavy episodic drinking—defined as five or more drinks in one episode for males, four or more for females—in young adulthood on weight over time.

Researcher at the KU School of Medicine has experiment launched to the International Space Station

Joseph S. Tash, Ph.D., emeritus professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology in the School of Medicine, has been researching the effects microgravity has on human reproduction, specifically what extended time spent in outer space will do to the functionality of sperm. In April 2018, Tash sent frozen samples of human and bull sperm aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station in hopes of finding out if humans will be able to reproduce in space, which could prove to be vital. In 1997, Tash sent two experiments involving sea urchin sperm on space shuttle missions just six months apart. Those experiments (SPERM-A and SPERM-B) proved invaluable both in terms of knowledge gained and scholarly publication. The findings suggested that in microgravity, motility activation happens much faster, while conversely, capacitation happens more slowly or not at all. As a result of delays or problems with sperm capacitation, fertilization in space may not be possible.

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