'4-Wichita' board formed to guide transition to four-year school

A cross-section of civic leaders, business executives, university officials and medical professionals have joined together to promote the expansion of the School of Medicine-Wichita to a full, four-year campus by forming a new board, named 4-Wichita.

Wichita attorney and KU alumnus Jeff Kennedy, who is the board’s chair, said the dual purpose of the name, 4-Wichita, reflects the board’s focus on expanding from a two-year to a four-year campus in Wichita as well as promoting the benefits of educating more medical doctors.

The school expansion represents the School of Medicine’s plan to address the state’s shortage of physicians. As a result of the expansion, more physicians will be educated, many of whom will practice medicine in Kansas and improve health care access for Kansans.

• Of the more than 1,600 medical students who have graduated from the Wichita school, almost half have gone on to practice in Kansas compared to a national average of 29 percent of doctors who graduate from medical school and remain in that state to practice, said H. David Wilson, dean of the KU School of Medicine–Wichita.

• Having a full, four-year school in Wichita will improve the quality of all practicing doctors, Wilson said

• The expansion will add the first and second years of coursework to the School of Medicine–Wichita, which was established in 1974 to provide hands-on, clinical training for third- and fourth-year medical students.

With patient-centered care as their guiding principle, the first class of Wichita’s four-year medical students will begin their studies in fall 2011. During the succeeding four years, the school’s number of medical students will gradually increase to as many as 250, up from 110.

• The economic impact of essentially doubling the size of the School of Medicine-Wichita will be felt in all areas of Wichita, Kennedy said, noting that, in 2009, the School of Medicine–Wichita’s economic impact on the metropolitan area reached $49.7 million. A recent study revealed the medical school expansion and the addition of the School of Pharmacy–Wichita may have an economic impact as high as $80 million.

The expansion of the school will provide additional careers for faculty and staff, as will the new school of pharmacy, said Kennedy. The School of Pharmacy will open its Wichita campus in fall 2011, with a new class of eight students and plans to have up to 80 pharmacy students by 2015.

Private philanthropy is critical to expanding the program. Already, area supporters have contributed more than $2.7 million toward the $5 million fundraising goal.

Campus closeup
Susan Mercer, associate director, Institute for Policy and Social Research
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