As part of a plan for future expansion of the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, the KU Endowment has purchased two properties north of the school.
“We did this in support of the KU School of Medicine’s long-term needs for expanded educational spaces in Wichita,” Rosita McCoy, senior vice president of communications and marketing for the KU Endowment, wrote in an e-mail.
“The school plays a significant role in the neighborhood, and in providing physicians for underserved areas of the state, and our role is to provide resources for the school’s needs. We have played the same role whenever properties become available near our campuses in Lawrence and Kansas City.”
The Wichita campus is surrounded by Interstate 135, the Sedgwick County Health Department, a residential area and Murdock Park. The two recently purchased properties are at 1128 N. Hydraulic and 1120 N. Hydraulic. The KU Endowment plans to demolish houses on the lots soon. It has owned vacant lots at 10th and Kansas since 2001.
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Although officials hope to eventually expand the campus so all students can attend all four years of medical school there, that likely won’t happen soon, said Garold Minns, dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
“I think we all feel like at some point there’s got to be some enhancement of the state funds. ... Right now, we’re not optimistic about the state budget problems that there’s going to be any new money in the short term,” Minns said.
“It’s just really difficult right now to predict when there might be a capability of the state to allocate more money for this educational program here. So I don’t think any of us feel comfortable putting a time on it right now. There are too many unknowns. We’ve got to get through this next fiscal year.”
The current state and local economic situations also affect the ability of people to donate toward projects like an expanded medical school, he said.
“I think we’re being very circumspect and realistic, and while we do have long-term plans, we really don’t expect any short-term developments, because we know the fiscal environment is too uncertain.”
After opening in 1971 to provide clinical training for third- and fourth-year medical students, the school expanded in 2011 to a full four-year campus to help with the physician shortage.
After the first year with “the eight” – the name bestowed on the first freshman class – 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.
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.