KU medical school in Wichita to be assessed for expansion plans

06/25/2014 5:51 PM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

In preparation for future expansion, the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita has brought in Helix Architecture and Design of Kansas City, Mo., to assess its facilities, said dean Garold Minns.

The report will allow school officials to develop more solid cost estimates before approaching the Kansas Legislature for additional funding, Minns said. He hopes to have the completed report by September.

“It’s premature for us to go to the Legislature with proposals when we don’t even have a good estimate of the cost or how much square footage we need. This will help us formulate that,” Minns said.

The expansion plans are part of a long-term goal to eventually have all 80 students start as freshmen at the Wichita campus and continue there for all four years of medical school.

After opening in 1971 to provide clinical training for third- and fourth-year medical students, the program expanded in 2011 to a full four-year campus to help address the state’s shortage of physicians.

After the first year with “the eight,” in 2011, the school now takes 28 students as freshmen who spend all four years in Wichita. It also takes in about 50 students each year who have completed the first half of their medical training in Kansas City.

“We’re really pretty much at capacity right now,” Minns said.

Helix is also performing facilities assessments for the medical school campus in Kansas City, Minns said. That campus recently received $25 million in state bonds for a new educational building – in addition to $25 million in donations from the Hall Family Foundation – to construct the $75 million building, the Kansas City Star reported.

The remaining costs will be picked up by KU and its endowment. The building is slated to open in fall 2017.

In 2013, KU requested $4.5 million from the state to double the class size at the Wichita campus and fund additional faculty. The school did not receive the funding.

The Wichita campus is surrounded by I-135, Sedgwick County Health Department, a residential area and Murdock Park.

Minns said school officials are considering turning the school’s surface parking into a parking garage and building up.

“The current site is very convenient to our hospitals, it’s a short distance to our hospitals, so it would be hard to find a site that is as geographically convenient as our current building,” Minns said.

But if a donor gave several acres of land to the school, they wouldn’t rule that out either, he said.

“We wouldn’t refuse to consider it. ... A lot of questions need resolved, and at this point, we want to leave all of our options open.”

This year’s incoming freshmen class of 28 will start in late July, Minns said.

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