Editorial: Med school need

Kansas needs more doctors, and state legislators need to help Kansas University fill that need.

February 13, 2014


It’s clear that some members of the Kansas Legislature aren’t happy with Kansas University, but they shouldn’t allow their concerns to color their judgment on a funding decision that will have a big impact on the state of Kansas and its residents.

Kansas — especially the rural parts of the state — are facing a shortage of doctors. The KU School of Medicine is a vital source of those doctors. In order to increase enrollments and maintain the quality of its programs, KU needs a new medical education building at its Kansas City, Kan., campus. Legislators need to step up and help KU finance this building.

Lawmakers have given KU authority to issue $75 million in bonds to finance the building but have approved no funding to help repay those bonds. KU officials are asking lawmakers to consider returning to KU the $25 million the university paid in Social Security contributions for its medical school residents. When it was determined those contributions weren’t necessary, the money was returned to the state, and KU would like to put that money toward the new building. KU also is seeking about $1 million a year for the next 15 years to help cover the costs of the new building. The remaining $35 million for the building would come from university funds and private donations, according to KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

The building is needed, Gray-Little said, so that KU can add about 50 students to its medical school class and update equipment to keep up with new training standards. Without the building, KU’s ability to attract top students and maintain its accreditation may be in danger.

Gray-Little was prepared to make KU’s case Tuesday to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on State Building Construction, but that meeting was canceled because of an extended debate in the House chamber. When she returned to Topeka Wednesday to speak to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, she was greeted by the kind of negative attitude toward KU that might derail funding for the medical school building. One member of the committee renewed his criticisms of last summer’s Twitter post by a KU professor, as well as pointing to tuition increases and comparatively low graduation rates at KU.

The Twitter post was regrettable, but it shouldn’t influence decisions about KU funding. Also, KU is not alone in the tuition and graduation rate situations. Other state universities in Kansas also are raising tuition in response to reduced state funding — and the number of freshmen who graduate within six years actually is substantially higher at KU than at other Kansas Board of Regents universities.

Whatever concerns state legislators have about such matters shouldn’t keep them from providing funds for KU’s new medical education building. According to the latest statistics on the medical school website, almost half of the active physicians in Kansas were trained at KU. Those doctors practice in 91 of the state’s 105 counties. Training doctors is one of KU’s most vital and tangible benefits to the state. For the good of Kansas, legislators need to support that mission.


Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 4 months ago

Money should not be put into the KU building in the Kansas City area. Instead, it should be used to develop doctor training at the new school in Salina, with outposts throughout Western Kansas.

That way, the people of these communities would be served with good doctors throughout Western Kansas while they are at the same time they are interning. Everyone would benefit, including the school in Salina and possible smaller schools in communities throughout Kansas.

Plus registered nurses can take a much stronger role throughout the state. Online consultations should be considered for smaller communities in which a registered nurse could communicate immediately with a member of the doctor's staff in Salina, Kansas City or other states if something comes up which needs immediate attention beyond what a registered nurse can give.

Pharmacies could also be part of the onliine network in all parts of the state.

This could give Kansas a new state-wide approach to medicine, so that every community could be included.

John Graham 4 years, 3 months ago

Your concept doesn't work. Salina can only train a limited number of med students due to need for multiple PhDs and MDs in multiple specialties to train med students. They simply are not able to handle more than the very limited number they have now, 8 students per class. KU Med in Wichita has less than 50 per class in the 4 yr program. KC has around 200 per class. I don't know what you mean about outposts throughout western KS, but other than following a local primary care for a month which students already do, there is no possibility of "outposts" throughout western KS for teaching med students.

Med students are not "interns" and can not act as doctors. Having med students would not directly increase availability of medical care to rural areas since med students must work directly with a physician. Thus even if a med student follows a primary care doctor around for a month somewhere in western KS it doesn't increase medical coverage in under served areas. Once graduated from medical school, an intern in a residency program still needs access to specialists from other fields of medicine to serve under during their internship/residency. So again there needs to be a fairly large sized medical community available to provide training so that rules out most communities in KS. Again an intern/resident must work directly under a physician thus they really don't increase availability to care in under served areas.

Nurses (except nurse practitioners) are not trained to evaluate and treat patients. Any consultation that a nurse practitioner may have with a supervising physician, must be with a physician licensed in KS not some other state.

I have no idea what you are talking about with an online pharmacy network. A pharmacist must be physically present when a pharmacy is open to dispense medications. They are not allowed to simply be present by an online network.

The medical school in KC is the most important piece in the puzzle to getting doctors and pharmacists to areas in the state that need them. The majority of doctors and pharmacists in the state come from KU med in KC. If they need money to update facilities to keep accreditation, then the state would be wise to find the money somewhere in the budget unless the state wants the doctor and pharmacist issue to worsen in under served areas. Salina and Wichita are fine programs but they are small pieces to the puzzle. KC is the main piece of the puzzle that must be taken care of above all others.

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