It would be hard to come up with a better statewide outreach effort for Kansas University than the proposed expansion of medical school programs in Wichita and Salina.
KU’s medical school has worked hard over the years to support doctors, hospitals and medical care across the state, but expanding its programs in Wichita and adding a new program in Salina will be a quantum leap in that effort. It’s only natural that doctors, particularly family physicians, trained in Wichita and Salina might be more connected to the central and western parts of the state and more likely to practice in some of the state’s rural and underserved areas.
The plan, according to Dr. Heidi Chumley, senior associate dean of medical education at KU, is to provide four-year doctor training programs at campuses in both Wichita and Salina, beginning in August 2011. On both campuses, KU will use interactive televideo and podcasts to deliver lecture classes, taught by faculty at the Kansas City campus, that make up the core curriculum for the first two years of medical school.
In Wichita, students then will move into the existing medical school program for third- and fourth-year students. The first four-year class in Wichita will be eight students, Chumley said, and KU hopes to expand that number to 28 within several years.
KU has a full-time program director in Salina and will partner with Kansas Wesleyan University for some hands-on instruction for the first two years. The last two years will be an expansion of the rural track program KU already has in Salina in partnership with local physicians. That program has two to four students each year now, Chumley said, and KU plans to admit eight students per year to the four-year program. With tuition income and financial support from Salina, she said, KU expects to be able to launch the program for only about $200,000 a year, which seems like a bargain for the state.
After the Wichita and Salina programs are operating fully, KU should be graduating dozens of additional physicians each year to help Kansas meet a growing need. The capacity of U.S. medical schools hasn’t kept up with current demands let alone the new demands being created by universal health care and an aging American population.
Because it operates the only medical school in the state, KU has a special opportunity and responsibility to train the doctors that serve the people of Kansas. The addition of doctor-training programs in the central part of the state is a promising effort to respond to the future health care needs of Kansas communities, large and small, rural and urban.