Anyone who is even casually following the news surely knows that our state faces significant funding challenges. In light of the past few years of tight budgets and little growth, it would be understandable if the KU School of Medicine-Wichita had embarked on few changes or improvements.
But that’s not the case.
Last year was a landmark year for our campus. Our “original eight” – the first group of students to spend all four years of their medical education on our campus – graduated.
These students should be very proud of their achievement, and I know they are.
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The faculty and staff of the medical school deserve much of the credit for this milestone, and I know they’re proud, too. Every person on our campus played a part in making our expansion to a four-year medical school a success.
When we made that bold move in 2011, there were no guarantees that we would succeed. The teachers, administrators and staff, with existing resources, made it happen through commitment and sheer determination.
I thank them for that. I know the 2015 graduating class, and those who will follow them, thank them too.
This is not the only landmark for the Wichita campus. In the 40 years we’ve been in existence, we’ve risen to become one of the nation’s leaders in producing the primary care physicians our state and nation need so desperately. We’re in the top 10 in the nation for the percentage of our students who become primary care physicians.
KU School of Medicine-Wichita is in the top 10 in the nation for the percentage of students who become primary care physicians.
I find that impressive and gratifying.
And despite this challenging financial environment, we have plans to further expand our campus, so that all our students can begin and end their education in Wichita. Currently, after students complete the second year of their training, our Wichita class of 28 students is joined by approximately 50 more students who transfer from our Kansas City campus.
As you might imagine, this transfer at the midpoint of students’ schooling is extremely disruptive. It requires families to sell homes and buy new ones, relocate kids from their schools, and spouses have to find new jobs. All of this occurs at a time when students are already under enormous stress with their medical training.
Our goal is to be able to expand our campus’ capacity, so that we can increase our class size and end the transfers. I know our students would welcome that change.
This expansion comes in response to our state’s critical shortage of primary care physicians. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s 2014 data shows that 92 of Kansas’ 105 counties are designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas.
In the next 15 years, Kansas will need an additional 250 primary care physicians.
There’s no indication that condition will improve any time soon. Nearly 60 percent of the primary care doctors in Kansas are over age 45 and a third of those are over age 50. The aging of our physicians comes at the same time that our state’s entire population is aging and in need of increasing medical care.
It’s estimated that in the next 15 years, Kansas will need an additional 250 primary care physicians. We’re committed to addressing that need, although there’s a limit to how much more we can do without a significant increase in resources.
We’re proud to be a vital part of the solution to the challenges our state faces. When I consider the KU School of Medicine-Wichita’s landmark accomplishments, I’m reminded of why I’ve dedicated my life’s work to this place and these students.
I know everyone who works on our campus feels the same gratification from their varied contributions. And that’s good, because the landmarks we plan to reach in the future depend on it.
Garold Minns, M.D., is dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.