After visiting with physicians’ groups and philanthropists in the Wichita area, Kansas University Medical Center has raised more than half of the $5 million it needs to expand to a four-year campus in Wichita.
David Wilson, dean of KUMC’s Wichita campus, said he was pleased with the $2.7 million raised so far.
“I’m a person that doesn’t have a problem asking for money for a good cause,” Wilson said. “And this is a great cause.”
The Kansas Health Foundation provided the lead gift of $800,000 to support the Wichita campus’ ongoing effort to address the shortage of Kansas physicians, particularly in rural areas.
“This has been an ongoing problem for years in Kansas, and the Wichita campus does a great job of retaining students in the state of Kansas,” said Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation.
Coen said the gift was part of the $51 million in support the foundation had given to KUMC’s Kansas City and Wichita campuses since the foundation began in 1985.
Already, KU’s medical school in Wichita trains 75 third-year and 75 fourth-year medical students who receive their initial training in Kansas City.
Next fall, KU will admit its first class of eight first-year students. And Wilson said he hopes to get that number eventually up around 50 first-year and 50 second-year students.
Currently, however, the school is only accredited to accept 28 such students in the first and second years of medical training.
Wilson said that while he was pleased with the support the school has received so far from the philanthropic and health care communities in Wichita, the school cannot exist forever on private donations.
“In four years, there’s no question we’re going to have to have some state support,” Wilson said. “I think it’s going to be a good investment for the state of Kansas, and I don’t think it’s going to break the bank.”
Wilson said he has already hired a new associate dean to begin lining up faculty members to handle the new students. Dennis Valenzeno is serving in the role as KUMC-Wichita’s associate dean for basic science education. He taught at KUMC in Kansas City until leaving for a position at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.
Classrooms and offices in Wichita will be housed in a 30,000-square-foot addition that also includes space for the KU School of Pharmacy expansion in Wichita.