A conversation with Garold Minns

08/02/2013 5:22 PM

08/08/2014 10:18 AM

It seems appropriate that the dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita was a member of one of the campus’ first graduating classes.

After graduating from the campus in 1976 and then completing his residency in internal medicine, Garold Minns joined the faculty in Wichita in 1980.

“I guess they couldn’t get rid of me after that,” he jokes.

Minns, who became dean last August, was born in Newton and grew up in McPherson. While at McPherson College, he was encouraged by professors and mentors to pursue a career in medicine.

“You don’t really know it until you’re in it. … I think most jobs are that way,” Minns said. “But based on what I could learn, I thought it would be a good direction to go.”

He sees patients as part of the Medical Practice Association affiliated with the KU Wichita Internal Medicine Midtown Clinic.

When he’s not busy with work, he enjoys woodworking, since fishing and golf take too much time. He has also dabbled in photography.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as dean?

The major role of the dean is to help identify and maintain ample resources in order to carry out our educational mission. I think everyone knows health care is changing, and also I think our state government, like a lot of states, is reconsidering the role of government in higher ed. So I’d say right now one of the biggest challenges is identifying and maintaining the resources we need to do our job well and maintain our high quality, be more efficient, use our dollars to better use and make sure anything that isn’t vitally necessary to carry out our mission is diminished.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little recently announced that KU is seeking to expand the Wichita campus. What’s your reaction?

I think we do an excellent job of educating students who go on to residencies and actually stay in Kansas and practice, and we have a good track record of them practicing in rural Kansas. I think it’s vital for this state that we continue here and, if possible, expand the number of students we have here.

The national studies have shown that medical schools across the country aren’t producing enough doctors to meet the needs of our growing population and increased medical services. Kansas, like many states, has decided we need to train more physicians to meet that need, and I think this campus is integral in meeting the needs of this state. We’re hopeful the state can see its way through to help us achieve that goal.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

As dean, I don’t get to do as much teaching as I used to, but I still find that is the most rewarding aspect … working with young students who bring fresh ideas and always challenging me to think outside the box when they ask questions. It’s always good to see their enthusiasm and desire for new knowledge.

You mentioned earlier that medicine is changing. What are some of the skills that medical students today need to be successful doctors?

I think most of us would say we haven’t emphasized the communication skills, the interpersonal skills, the teamwork skills and how to analyze and improve our systems of care and our delivery of care. Those are skills we need to spend more attention on in training. It probably wasn’t emphasized very much 30 years ago. I certainly don’t recall a lot of emphasis on communication and teamwork in my schooling, but it’s a big issue nowadays.

What are some of your personal goals for this campus?

At its inception, this campus was just a third- and fourth-year school. But still, the majority of our students in the third and fourth year have done their (earlier) training in Kansas City and come here at the end of their second year.

One of my long-term goals is to have all or most of our students start here as freshmen, not because the training in Kansas City is a problem, but I think it’s difficult for students in one city to pick up and move to another city in the middle of their education. It’s easier for them and gives them more continuity.

Another thing that has changed is a lot of our students are in dual-career families where their spouses are working, and that makes it more difficult to move when one has to leave for education. I think it would be better on the families if they can just be here for the entirety.

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