With approval from its accrediting agency, Kansas University Medical Center is moving forward on a four-year medical education program in Salina and an expansion to a four-year program in Wichita.
After a site visit in July, the Liaison Committee for Medical Education announced a favorable review of both programs this week.
“This is the official confirmation of what we expected all along,” said William Cathcart-Rake, a Salina-based oncologist who will direct KUMC’s Salina campus.
The expansions will help address the ongoing need for more primary care physicians in rural areas of the state.
“The need for more physicians and the need for more physicians practicing in rural Kansas is acute,” Cathcart-Rake said. “We want to address those needs starting now.”
Both campuses expect to start enrolling their first group of students next fall.
The KU School of Medicine-Salina will be housed primarily in a three-story building provided by Salina Regional Health Center. Students will be connected with their peers in Kansas City and Wichita by using interactive television and podcasts.
Cathcart-Rake said the accreditation team looks at five major areas to determine if a medical school campus is ready to accept students — infrastructure, faculty, ability to implement a curriculum, student services and finances.
Even though the school hasn’t secured all the funds it needs to become fully operational, Cathcart-Rake said he’s had commitments from KUMC that the program will be fully funded.
“By hook or by crook, this is going to get done,” Cathcart-Rake said. “And not to the detriment of any other program from the state of Kansas.”
Private donations and grants have propped up the program so far, and Cathcart-Rake said the program will essentially be self-supporting once it has four years of tuition-paying students enrolled. It will begin next year with eight new students, and will eventually build to an enrollment of 32.
Of the Salina program’s anticipated $1 million annual budget, Cathcart-Rake estimated they still needed to find $200,000 to $300,000 per year in support until the school is up and running with a full complement of students.
And in Wichita, students will see an expansion that will allow all four years of medical training to occur there. Today, students spend their first two years at KUMC’s main campus in Kansas City, Kan., before receiving two years of clinical training in Wichita.
Eight freshmen are expected to join the Wichita campus next fall, and 28 each year thereafter, said H. David Wilson, dean of KU’s School of Medicine-Wichita.
The Wichita campus features 13 residency programs, with a large number of residents in family medicine and other specialties, as well. And about half of the physicians trained in Wichita stay in the state to practice, Wilson said.
“Rural America needs surgeons and anesthesiologists and a whole variety of specialists, too. Not as much, probably, as family doctors, but there’s still a need,” Wilson said. “We’re prepared to send those people out into the state.”
Wilson, too, is raising money for his campus — he said he’s raised about half of the expected $5 million needed to operate the campus for its first four years. He said the campus has committed not to ask for any state funding during its first four years of operation.
“I fully expect to have all $5 million raised by next summer,” he said.
The Wichita expansion joins an already-planned School of Pharmacy campus on the site, which will open this fall with 20 students.