The first four-year students will begin attending the University of Kansas Medical Center-Wichita next year, and a fundraising effort to expand the campus has reached more than half of its $5 million goal.
Donors have contributed $2.7 million to expand the campus, with the Kansas Health Foundation giving $800,000.
Dean H. David Wilson said Thursday that the donation has made for a "very nice Christmas" present.
The medical school in Wichita now serves only students in their third and fourth years. About 170 students are in the freshman class at the Kansas City campus, and expanding there isn't feasible, Wilson said.
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"We can deliver the first two years of medical education in Wichita, and we can do it in a very cost-effective manner," Wilson said.
"We have the curriculum covered. We have enthusiastic support from the physicians in Wichita to help us. I think it's a great day for this campus."
Wilson said eight first-year students will start in August. The following year, there will be 28 freshmen.
No new buildings are planned. Classrooms and offices will be housed in a new 30,000-square-foot addition that includes space for the new KU pharmacy program in Wichita.
The hope is that more students will stay in Kansas once they become doctors. A news release from KU Endowment on Thursday said that of the 105 counties in Kansas, 90 are considered medically underserved. The physician shortage is expected to worsen in the next decade as doctors begin to retire.
"If students come to Wichita for all four years, there's a good chance they'll want to do their post-graduate training here,'' Wilson said. "If they stay here and do their post-graduate training here, there's a good chance they'll practice in Kansas and that's the goal."
Wilson said he initially approached the Kansas Health Foundation about a gift spread over four years but the group chose to give all at once.
"God bless them," Wilson said.
Steve Coen, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a news release that the campus expansion "contributes greatly to the foundation's mission to improve the health of all Kansans."