More on the recent formal announcement about the National Cancer Institute designation awarded to Kansas University.
This writer erred in writing that the highly prized certification was awarded to the KU Medical Center and/or School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan., when, in fact, it was awarded to the university — the campus here in Lawrence as well as the medical school in Kansas City.
It is good this error was pointed out because, too often, the work of many on Mount Oread is overlooked or not appreciated by those at the medical center as well as alumni and friends living elsewhere. In the case of the National Cancer Institute effort, pharmaceutical chemistry and engineering faculty members and researchers played a significant, perhaps pivotal, role.
In addition to the pharmaceutical chemistry and engineering faculty in Lawrence, others in cancer biology, particularly in molecular biosciences, combined their efforts to give the KU application the added excellence to gain the recognition. This was critical in that it was KU’s first application for NCI status, and the odds of achieving admission to the NCI club on the first try are not favorable.
The contributions from the Lawrence campus cannot be overstated!
With the university’s $1.2 billion capital campaign under way, it is important to recognize and tout many areas of excellence at KU rather that emphasizing only a few.
Speaking of the capital campaign and the importance of adequate private fiscal support, this is doubly important with the KU Medical Center and its NCI designation. The medical school is a costly operation, and there are those at KUMC who are concerned about how KU and the medical center will be able to pay the bills associated with the NCI award. Many millions of dollars were committed during the multi-year effort, and sometime, probably in the next three to four years, many expensive bills will come due.
As one observer noted, KU entered the NCI effort working with a “credit card” philosophy, and three to four years from now, the bills will come due, just like a balloon payment. Will there be the money to meet these expenses and what will be the overall fiscal health of the medical school — not only the fiscal health, but the soundness of the school? Some suggest “decimated” might be the word to describe the current condition of the school after staff reductions, cutbacks and various shifting of programs and individuals.
With this fiscal situation, there is concern about how other programs and critical needs within the school will be funded over the next three to four years. Will there be further cuts in other areas to fund the very expensive “credit card” account the university has run up to achieve the NCI award?
Again the NCI award is great, a huge feather in the cap of those at the university and a huge benefit for thousands of patients. It’s a winner for KU Hospital (a totally separate entity) and medical school students and faculty. It is likely to encourage better students and faculty to consider KUMC for their education and research.
But what is going to happen to funding for new medical school projects in Wichita and Salina? Will there be adequate funds to keep these two programs operating? Will the state increase its funding, and will private money have to be raised to cover the cost of the two programs? What happens to the Wichita students if the school has to cut back?
KU Hospital provides substantial funding for the medical school. In recent years, this support has risen from between $30 million and $50 million a year to a total of more than $100 million this past year. Will the hospital be asked to give larger amounts to the medical school, and, if so, how will the hospital fund its own growing needs as it expands and is recognized as one of the nation’s finest teaching hospitals?
Also, it should be pointed out the cancer effort at KUMC is not over. School officials have said they will launch another major effort to seek the even more prestigious “comprehensive cancer center” designation. This will cost additional millions of dollars and additional “incredible incentive packages” to lure additional world-class researchers to the medical center.
Where will these additional millions of dollars come from to pay the current obligations, plus the cost of the Wichita and Salina operations, the ongoing and future needs of the rest of the medical center and the costs associated with seeking the comprehensive cancer center designation?
There is justification for some at the medical school, as well as leaders in Strong Hall and on the Kansas Board of Regents, to be concerned.