School of Medicine adding four year program in Salina, expanding in Wichita

Moves will help educate doctors for rural Kansas

To address the critical shortage of rural physicians in the state, the School of Medicine will add a four-year program in Salina and expand its existing Wichita branch from a two-year clinical program to a full four-year program.

In addition to increasing the number of rural health physicians in Kansas, the Wichita expansion will contribute an estimated $30 million to the Wichita economy.

The Wichita and Salina sites will each welcome their first class of four-year medical students next fall.

Presently, students in KU’s 35-year-old Wichita program spend their first two years at the Kansas City, Kan., campus before going to Wichita for two years of clinical training. Students will now be able to spend all four years in Wichita.

An existing rural track program in Kansas City sent four students to Salina for clinical training. With the expanded program, students interested in rural health careers may now complete all four years of their training in Salina.

The university’s plans are officially moving forward after this week’s announcement of a favorable review by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education, the accrediting authority for medical education programs, which visited the Wichita campus and the proposed Salina site in July.

“The University of Kansas contributes to the success and vitality of our state by educating students who fill vital workforce needs, such as in health care,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “KU’s School of Medicine is the only medical school in the state, and the expansions in Wichita and Salina will enable us to educate more physicians who will go on to improve the lives and health of Kansans.”

“For the past hundred years we have been successful in fulfilling our mission of training excellent physicians to meet the needs of our state,” said KU Medical Center Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson. “Approximately half the physicians in Kansas received medical education at the KU School of Medicine. Still, there is a growing need for physicians in our state. These campus expansions will help us achieve our common goal: that many of our students will ultimately practice primary care in underserved areas of Kansas.”

State health care leaders agree.

“This is the most significant thing to happen to rural Kansas health care in a long while,” said Jerry Slaughter, executive director of the Kansas Medical Society.

Medical center leaders believe the Salina program could be a model for other areas of the country where there are critical shortages of rural physicians.

“We’re not the only state that has huge, sparsely populated geographic areas where people need medical care,” said William Cathcart-Rake, a Salina-based oncologist who will direct the School of Medicine-Salina. “The whole mission of the Salina campus is to train physicians in nonmetropolitan areas of the state and show these young medical students that life can be good and practice can be challenging outside of the big city.”

The School of Medicine-Salina will be housed primarily in space provided by the Salina Regional Health Center, where clinical faculty will facilitate small-group learning. Students will listen to lectures along with their peers in Kansas City and Wichita via interactive television and podcasts, while Web-based systems will support most of the curriculum’s laboratory components.

“With today’s technology, we can bring the best elements of a large academic health center to complement the strengths of a community like Salina and give students the best of both worlds,” said Heidi Chumley, senior associate dean for medical education at KU Medical Center.

Cathcart-Rake and Chumley both praise the medical community in Salina for its support of KU programs.

“It’s a great model of a partnership between a community and an academic health center,” Chumley said.

Sentiments are the same in Wichita. The School of Medicine there has already served as a model for other medical schools that have started community-based, branch campuses. In partnership with the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center, Via Christi Health and Wesley Medical Center, the Wichita campus has about 130 faculty members and more than 900 volunteer faculty physicians in a range of specialties. The school supports 13 residency programs, including a large number of residents in family medicine and other primary care programs.

“Thanks to our partners in the community, the support of KU and the KU Medical Center, and so many gracious donors, Wichita’s goal to have a full, four-year medical school campus will soon be a reality,” said H. David Wilson, dean of the School of Medicine-Wichita.

University leaders estimate that the annual economic impact of the Wichita campus will increase from $49.7 million to about $80 million with the growth of the medical school and the addition of the School of Pharmacy-Wichita.


Campus closeup
Kevin Liu, associate director, Confucius Institute

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