When Kansas University last year opened a School of Medicine campus in Salina, it raised some eyebrows and created national buzz.
Nowhere else in the nation would students be trained to become physicians in such a small setting.
Now that the first class of eight students has finished its first year, Dr. William Cathcart-Rake, director of the school, says the school has met expectations, which he said were set high.
“It has gone extremely well,” Cathcart-Rake said. “A lot of planning and preparation went into developing the campus. We had eight great students who have progressed well this year. They are ready to come back, and now we have eight new students on July 20,” he said.
The main goal of the school is to train physicians to practice in Kansas’ rural areas, which are facing a shortage of doctors.
The school is housed primarily at the Salina Regional Health Center, and the plans are to admit eight students per year.
The curriculum in Salina is identical to that at the School of Medicine campuses in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita.
During the first two years, much of the basic science instruction is conducted through interactive video from the Kansas City, Kan., campus. Labs are conducted in Salina and led by Salina faculty.
In the third and fourth years of medical school, students work with physicians in Salina.
KU officials say this model will provide physicians in rural areas.
“Certainly in the United States, what we are doing is novel,” Cathcart-Rake said. “Most medical schools are in metropolitan areas,” he said. The population of Salina is about 50,000.
The thinking behind the Salina campus is that if you get a group of students from rural backgrounds and train them in a smaller town, they will plan their careers in rural areas.
“People tend to stay where they are trained,” Cathcart-Rake said.
Jill Corpstein, a member of the first class at the Salina campus, grew up on a farm near Atchison and graduated from Kansas State University.
“I wanted to be a doctor in a rural area, so it made sense for me to go here,” Corpstein said. “There is definitely a need for more rural doctors,” she said.
She said her experience in medical school has been exciting and fun.
Of her classmates, she said, “We all genuinely like each other. We are all a little different.”
She said the Salina campus is offering the same medical education as the larger campuses, and in some areas, she said she believed the Salina students were getting more hands-on training and attention.
Cathcart-Rake said the school wants a certain kind of student.
“We want a student who doesn’t want to be anonymous. You cannot hide in Salina,” he said.
— Statehouse reporter Scott Rothschild can be reached at 785-423-0668.