Celebrating 50 years!

The University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita

Written by Julie Underwood Burton

The mission at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita has remained much the same after 50 years: focusing primarily on educating future physicians to meet health care needs, and establishing community partnerships to improve the health of all Kansans. Over and over, partnerships have proved integral to the school’s success.

In 1971, plans for the medical school in Wichita became official when Wichita State University‘s branch of KU School of Medicine was approved by the Kansas Board of Regents. Within a year, Governor Robert Docking asked the Kansas Legislature for full funding for a medical school and called the project “a major step toward improving the quality of medical care and education in Kansas and the Midwestern United States.”

In those very early days, the school was called a “school without walls,” yet that changed thanks to a partnership with WSU. The school’s first administrative office was set up in 1972 inside a two-bedroom home on Wichita State’s campus, and then offices were relocated the following year to several dorm floors at WSU’s Fairmount Towers. Once KUSM-W Medical Practice Association was established and the Wichita campus received accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the first class of students began their clinical training.

Graduating with the second class of medical students in 1974 and on staff since 1980, Garold Minns, M.D., dean and current professor of internal medicine and associate dean for Academic & Student Affairs, certainly knows more than anyone possible about the school’s history. Minns particularly recalls early on how skeptics referred to the concept of starting a satellite campus here in Wichita as an “unconventional approach” since most medical schools were attached to academic medical centers. But KUSM-W’s adopted model, where medical students are trained in a community-based setting without a large academic hospital, has certainly stood the test of a 50-year time span.

The community-based medical school model has required partnerships and support across a multitude of parties including local city leaders, county leaders and WSU staff, plus University of Kansas administrators in both Lawrence and Kansas City. Once the Wichita campus officially became an extension of the University of Kansas Medical Center, many believed that decision to partner proved to be a positive decision and quite beneficial for the entire state.

Scott Moser, M.D., associate dean of curriculum, professor and vice chair for education with the Department of Family & Community Medicine, also recalls many milestone decisions and subsequent success stories. He applauds our county leaders, especially in their offer to provide space for the school within the E.B. Allen Hospital, a 100-bed county hospital located at Kansas and Ninth streets. Although the facility was in dire need of renovation and parts of the hospital space were to be shared, KUSM-W finally had walls of its own. In 1980, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a three-phase, $4.5 million renovation, which included a lobby, emergency room, a library, an amphitheater and courtyard, along with teaching classrooms.

It is Moser’s belief that “this expansion allowed KUSM-W to expand the medical school to a full, four-year campus and provided the opportunity for cooperative educational experiences for pharmacy and medical students, in addition to having an on-site standardized patient lab where we teach clinical skills, including our simulation lab.”

Time proven, the medical school has clearly established a long, important history in our community with a focused dedication to taking care of people’s health and continuing to produce doctors in the Wichita community. The school certainly strengthens our medical community as students learn right alongside practicing physicians within our own local hospitals. Often, those physicians are graduates who are willing to give back because they had such a positive learning experience. Half of all physicians practicing in Sedgwick County are graduates of the school’s medical or residency program.

When asked specifically about his experience in Wichita as a fourth-year medical student, Kakra Boye-Doe enthusiastically states, “When I speak with my colleagues elsewhere, their experiences sound like a completely different institution and experience. Here we get to spend much more time with patients, which helps me feel confident as a future physician. We really get immersed in the field. I am better able to see myself in the physician’s role because of the hands-on experience.”

Originally from Ghana, Africa, Boye-Doe, aside from his daily work with patients at the Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph campus, is leading a six-part, campus-wide education series on racism and its effects on health care. The workshop is specifically aimed at increasing focus and attention on addressing issues of cultural humility and understanding racial issues, particularly in the medical field.

“This group gives me a lot of hope because we are working to acknowledge and address the consequences of racism on health as we are seeing that racism can have a major role in health outcome,” states Boye-Doe. This is just one initiative. School committees are assessing the curriculum to address cultural bias and are already making policy changes.

Since 1975, over 4,700 medical students or residents have graduated from the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. With 374 staff and faculty, 489 students and residents and an impressive 1,021 volunteer physicians currently on the roster, whether you look back or look forward, there is much to celebrate. Cheers to the next 50 years!

For information about the school, including research and clinical trials, visit wichita.kumc.edu.

The University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita
1010 N. Kansas
Wichita, KS 67214

History timeline, 1971–2021

Kansas Board of Regents approves Wichita State University branch of KU School of Medicine.

First medical school administrative office opens in a house at 3720 E. 17th St.

The branch office moves to Fairmount Towers, a dorm adjacent to the WSU campus.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita Medical Practice Association is established.

The first class begins clinical training.

First class of 14 students graduates after 18 months of training.

The former E.B. Allen Hospital becomes the KUSM-W permanent home.

Third- and fourth-year class sizes increase to 50 students.

Doc for a Day lets high school students experience medical school training for a day.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita receives LCME accreditation for maximum term.

Total number of graduates from KUSM-W exceeds 1,500.

KU School of Pharmacy-Wichita welcomes first class of students.

KUSM-W Center for Clinical Research begins participation in COVID-19 trial.

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