Guest Commentary

What Kansans are looking for in the next generation of physicians

Downtown buildings may become a school

(FILE VIDEO -- FEBRUARY 8, 2018) Sudha Tokala, the pharmacist who has been on something of a downtown building buying spree, has purchased another property and is now sharing a small glimpse into her plans for four buildings.
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(FILE VIDEO -- FEBRUARY 8, 2018) Sudha Tokala, the pharmacist who has been on something of a downtown building buying spree, has purchased another property and is now sharing a small glimpse into her plans for four buildings.

Over the past few months, Tiffany Masson, the president of the Kansas Health Science Center, and I have traveled throughout Kansas to meet with physicians, nurses, educators, health care administrators, various other health care provider, future patients, politicians and stakeholders to discuss the skills and traits that the physician of the future for Kansas needs to have. Here are the top 10 things that we hear Kansans want the first proposed osteopathic medical school in the state to focus on:

1. Emerging Health Care Delivery Systems

With many rural areas having fewer resources yet tremendous need, health care organizations and patients are turning to telehealth and other emerging health care delivery systems to get many of their primary care and specialty needs met without needing to drive or be transported far away to more urban areas where physicians are located.

2. Inclusiveness and Cultural Sensitivity

Many communities have expressed that we need a more diverse physician workforce trained in cultural sensitivity.

3. Interpersonal Skills

We hear how we need to train future physicians with excellent interpersonal skills. This includes great listening and communication skills as well as other “soft” skills that will be conducive to excellent and collaborative patient-physician relationships.

4. Simulation and Innovations to Ensure a Safe Physician

Kansans are very interested in having medical students trained using simulation and other emerging technologies to ensure the physician of the future is a safe and caring one.

5. Leadership Skills

Another theme that we have heard from physicians and non-physicians alike is that medical schools need to incorporate more leadership training of physicians.

6. Team-based and Interprofessional Skills

Many stakeholders feel that the physician of the future needs to be an expert at working and leading the entire health care team with skills for positive and professional interactions with team members.

7. Resilience

Physician resilience and prevention of health care provider burnout is a major issue. In fact, it has been reported that as many as 400 physicians are committing suicide each year.

8. Employability/Low Student Loan Debt

Another common theme that we hear is the need to keep graduating physicians’ debt to a minimum. With the average indebtedness near $250,000, we need to help reduce this. While going into medical school is still a good financial decision with annual overall physician salaries near $300,000, the high debt adds to the stressors and practice decisions of emerging physicians.

9. Community Focused on Rural and Underserved Populations

We also hear that Kansas needs more physicians who either have roots in the community or can develop them and are focused on rural and underserved populations.

10. Empathy & Caring

In an era where technology is playing an ever-increasing role in health care, we are impressed with how much Kansans want future physicians to be focused on caring for the patients they serve.

While we are in the early stages of developing the Kansas Health Science Center Proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine, we will continue to listen closely to Kansans and incorporate your feedback into our planning so that we can make a difference for generations to come.

Robert Hasty is founding dean and chief academic officer for the Kansas Health Science Center
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