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Archive for Friday, August 26, 2011

Kansas University Medical Center hopes to increase its research grant funding to improve teaching, expand outreach efforts in the state

August 26, 2011

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A strategic planning effort at Kansas University Medical Center will seek to increase its research grant funding, improve its teaching of students and expand its outreach efforts in the state.

Barbara Atkinson, KUMC’s executive vice chancellor, said several elements of the plan are already underway.

New simulation centers will have students working with actors trained to simulate a specific illness and robots that can mimic a patient’s symptoms and reactions to different drugs.

Students training to be doctors, nurses and other health professionals will use the simulation centers together, Atkinson said.

The plan features some parts that are easier (and cheaper) to implement, such as the formation of an academy of medical educators.

That academy would bring together professors who are serving as the medical school’s major educators and teachers and have them work together and mentor junior faculty.

Atkinson said the plan also calls for increased financial transparency on faculty salaries because she wants each faculty member to know the portion of his or her salary that comes from the state.

She said she believed those funds should be to compensate faculty members for teaching. Those with lighter teaching loads should supplement their income with clinical or grant revenue, she said.

Then, there’s the matter of securing enough funding to implement the more expensive ideas, which can be a challenge, Atkinson said.

This is particularly true for a planned effort to boost research grants. Traditionally, she said, that can require new faculty recruitments or new building space, both of which aren’t cheap.

KUMC will be engaging the Huron Consulting Group that has worked with KU and KUMC to identify system-wide efficiencies in a separate project designed to look for new research opportunities. Costs for that project haven’t yet been determined, she said.

Atkinson said the consultants would help KUMC identify its areas of strength and align its efforts with those that match the efforts of the federal agencies that fund scientific research.

She said the university would also be approaching potential donors to assist with its strategic plan’s goals.

“If you’re very clear about what your goal is, you can ask for money from alumni groups and donors,” she said.

KUMC is also attempting to form a School of Public Health, which would play a role in its new strategic plan.

Though many of the degree programs are already in place, a search for a new dean has been delayed from its original timetable, said Glen Cox, the director of the Institute of Community and Public Health.

The institute is the home of the programs that will eventually become the new school.

Before a dean can be recruited, the school must raise between $3 million and $5 million, Cox said.

“Even though we’re slowing down a little bit, we’re still on the fast track,” to form the new school, he said.

David Cook, associate vice chancellor for outreach at KUMC, said his office would be reorganizing its many outreach efforts — both clinical opportunities and ways for students to interact with different communities — under one organizational structure. That would allow them to better highlight the office’s efforts to different constituents.

“We’re good Kansans, and we’re good Midwesterners,” he said. “We don’t brag about what we’re doing.”

The office would also include more coordination among outreach, and the addition of an external advisory board to advise the school.

His particular efforts are being undertaken without any new funds, he said.

“Dr. Atkinson isn’t writing me a check for any of this,” he said.

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