Wichita Laptop computers for medical students and an innovative rural health care program for practicing residents are new offerings at the Wichita branch of the Kansas University School of Medicine.
"We're trying to give the students systems that will enable them to make the transition to electronic media from the paper trail," said Leland Parks, assistant professor of internal medicine at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
Parks outlined how third-year medical students will be able to use 58 laptop computers, which recently were purchased by the school for about $200,000.
With the computers, each student will be able to access the KU library system, as well as other libraries across the country, for medical journal information.
In addition, the computers will provide electronic mail and word-processing services for each third-year student.
ABOUT 50 additional computers for fourth-year students will be purchased when funding becomes available, Parks said.
Each year, about 50 third-year and 50 fourth-year medical students attend the Wichita school.
"People going into the field of medicine are going to have to be familiar with electronic media as in most other professions," Parks said.
"This system is user-friendly, and it allows students to practice secondary skills to the medical profession, skills in which thay may need additional practice, such as typing."
The computers also will provide students with medical profiles of patients at each of Wichita's four major hospitals and medical centers.
STUDENTS AT the school of medicine, under the supervision of staff physicians and residents, diagnose and treat patients in Wichita hospitals.
Another new program that started in January, called the "Primary Care Bridging Plan," seeks to recruit medical graduates to rural areas of the state.
Lorene Valentine, director of the school's rural health education and services office, said the program helps match new doctors to non-metropolitan areas in Kansas.
"I THINK its been a well-received program in the communities," she said, adding that such a program has been needed because of a steady decline in rural physicians.
The program was established with a $600,000 grant from the Wesley Foundation of Wichita, which in the past five years has donated more than $30 million for medical education, research and health care programs in Kansas.
Doctors eligible for the program must have completed at least one year of post-graduate medical school experience as a resident.
Residents can take part in the program one to two years.
They can receive up to $5,000 in grant money and $5,000 in community matching funds annually by participating in the program. They also earn an annual residency salary.
After completion of the residency program, the doctor agrees to maintain a practice in the community equal to the time in which he or she received assistance.
"This is meant to establish a long-term commitment," Valentine said.
Five doctors currently are participating in the program; one each in Oberlin, Clay Center, Fort Scott, Halstead and Beloit. Ten other post-graduate doctors currently are enrolled, she said.
The Wesley Foudation grant will allow more than 30 doctors to participate in the program in the next two years, she said.
VALENTINE SAID the school is seeking additional funding to continue the program.
The number of rural physicians has declined because many of their spouses can not find satisfactory employment in rural areas, and because of a high demand for services in more populated areas, she said.
"The bridging program hopefully can solve the high demand problem, as we get more physicians in the program," she said.