Wichita — The dean of the Wichita branch of Kansas University's medical school says an expanded curriculum addressing ethical issues and more clinical research are primary goals for the school.
Dr. Joseph Meek, dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, says he also wants to continue to stress the primary health care programs that this spring helped give KU's School of Medicine a high ranking in a national survey.
"I think there's an excitement at the medical school here in Wichita . . . and the excitement is because it's a community-based medical school," Meek said during a recent interview in his office.
"There isn't the isolationism that often times exists in traditional medical schools and the community," he said.
"Competition in patients, competition in health care delivery that doesn't exist here because our university hospitals are the community hospitals."
About 50 third-year and 50 fourth-year medical students attend the school annually.
STUDENTS, under the supervision of faculty and residents, receive hands-on experience by diagnosing and treating patients at Wichita's four major hospitals and medical centers.
Most students come to the Wichita school after completing their first two years of medical school at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Both facilities are part of KU's School of Medicine, which was ranked sixth-best in the country by a U.S. News and World Report rating of U.S. medical schools that have a main mission of primary care.
Primary care is generally made up of pediatrics, psychiatry, internal medicine and family practice.
Meek, who was named dean of the school in January after serving five years as chair of internal medicine at the Wichita school, said Wichita's hands-on approach helped get the school its high ranking.
"Whatever a doctor is going to see in their medical practice . . . our students are going to see it in Wichita," he said.
However, Meek joked, "If we hadn't been ranked, we would have said it was a biased sampling."
A SURGE in medical technology and recent court cases have added new significance to ethical issues, he said.
Those issues, which Meek says students need to think about on a continuing basis, include the "right to die" and the need for AIDS testing for health care professionals.
"Those issues have always been there . . . but now the issues are occurring with more frequency," he said.
"The students are concerned with the needs and rights of the patients, and that is what is important," Meek said.
"I think we the faculty are a little behind in terms of not organizing some of the ethical conferences in a better way," he said.
Meek said he is recommending that faculty develop curriculum with a stronger emphasis on ethics.
HE ALSO hopes to see more clinical research conducted at the school.
Through private grants, he said, "We think that there is going to be an opportunity to get a research base established here at the medical school that doesn't currently exist."
"I think there is a place for a clinical campus to be involved in research," he said.
"The university has some obligation that in the practice of medicine, there's some ability to get trends, ideas, new treatments, evaluation of ongoing therapy all of that done,'' Meek said. ``What else is the role of a university if it isn't for that?"
The Wichita medical school branch was established by the Kansas Board of Regents in 1971, and the first students arrived in 1974.
Since then, 643 students in 16 classes have graduated from the school. About half the graduates are practicing medicine in Kansas.
Meek, 60, is the immediate past president of the Kansas Medical Society. He graduated from KU's School of Medicine in 1957 and completed his residency at KUMC in 1960.