For more than a decade, underrepresented minority students in the Kansas City area eager for careers as physicians, have found encouragement at Critical Mass Gathering a free, day-long program to promote excellence and success in the field.
Underrepresented minority students at Kansas City’s three area medical schools, UMKC School of Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine and the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, and those in the greater Kansas City area interested in pursuing a career as a physician participated in the annual event on Oct. 13 at the UMKC Student Union.
This year’s program featured workshops such as strategies for medical students preparing to take medical licensing exams, scenarios of physicians in natural disaster and mass casualty events and one-on-one mentoring sessions with local physicians.
Following a dinner, students heard a panel discussion on financing tips, residency interview techniques, and preparing for boards. Stephen Odaibo, M.D., founder and CEO of RETINA-AI, a company using artificial intelligence to improve health care, gave an evening keynote address about the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of medicine.
“Critical Mass Gathering has been providing mentorship for 13 years, which is an essential component of successful matriculation,” said Nate Thomas, UMKC School of Medicine associate dean for diversity and inclusion.
When it comes to attending and completing a health professions degree program, students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds typically succeed at a far lower rate than students from strong schools with thriving communities.
The UMKC School of Medicine, in collaboration with the School of Dentistry and the School of Pharmacy, is working to change that with the aid of a recent five-year, $3.2-million grant from the United States Health Resources and Services Administration to support a partnership program designed to improve those numbers.
Students in Training, in Academia, Health and Research (STAHR) Partnership is a two-pronged initiative to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering health care programs and better prepare them for success. It will continue to build up and expand on the medical school’s already successful high school Summer Scholars program and the dental school’s Admissions Enhancement Program.
Undergraduate and graduate students admitted to UMKC health professions programs have the opportunity to participate in the STAHR Ambassador program, a research-based mentoring model that uses defined principles, known as the Thomas Principles, to retain and graduate students.
Alice Arredondo, UMKC admissions director, also serves as assistant dean of admissions at the School of Medicine. A co-investigator on the grant proposal, Arredondo said students from disadvantaged backgrounds historically experience greater challenges entering and succeeding in health care fields.
“This grant will allow us to support students in overcoming academic, economic and social barriers, while having an impact on the diversity in our educational environment and the success of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UMKC health sciences,” she said.
Nate Thomas, School of Medicine associate dean for diversity and inclusion and co-investigator, said he and Arredondo used research-based best practices for admissions, retention and graduation and work already being done at the schools of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy as a basis for their successful grant request. He added that the medical school’s quickly growing student research program played an important role.
Academic preparation and resources are lacking for many students in the Kansas City region who are interested in entering the health professions. The STAHR program is designed to address those needs and introduce students from underprivileged backgrounds to careers in health care that would otherwise seem out of reach.
“This partnership will allow us to help students develop academically, psychosocially, professionally and as leaders who can have a positive impact on the workforce and their communities,” Thomas said.
The Scholars Summer Program will offer different tracts for high school and current college students. The high school program will expand the medical school’s Summer Scholars program that began in 1980 for students to explore career opportunities in health care and prepare them to enter and succeed in college. The grant allows this program to extend from two to six weeks, and provides increased focus on recruiting and retaining students interested in health care fields. The undergraduate program will also be six-weeks and with increased experiences in a clinical setting, supplemental instruction in the sciences, research opportunities, and reinforced skill development to support student academic progression and retention.
The year-round Ambassador Program for undergraduate and professional students will focus on student development. A tiered cluster mentoring framework with faculty members, residents, practitioners and upper-class college students, provides leadership and career development to further prepare younger college and professional students for success in post-graduate residencies and the health professions workforce.
“By providing students early access to hands-on programming and mentoring, we are focused on preparing students to achieve success in college and, eventually, graduate or professional school and the workforce,” Arredondo said.
Patricia Marken, Pharm.D., F.C.C.P., associate dean for student affairs at the School of Pharmacy, said the grant supports programs that will help produce health care professionals that are in demand.
“This grant increases the chance for talented students to achieve a career that is personally fulfilling, positively impacts communities and provides financial security for their own family,” she said. “The School of Pharmacy is excited to be a part of this grant and partner with our colleagues in the UMKC Health Sciences District.”
HRSA highlighted the collaborative partnership between the schools as a strength.
“I am really excited about the inter-professional opportunities for our dental and dental hygiene students to build relationships with students pursuing other health care careers,” Melanie Simmer-Beck, professor and director of the School of Dentistry Admission Enhancement Program, said.
The School of Nursing and Health Studies, while not part of the funding proposal, did help in framing the initial steps of the grant, Thomas said. It does offer similar federal-grant funded programming for high school and college students, including KC HealthTracks, providing mentorship and programs for more than a dozen area high schools.
Thomas Odeny, M.P.H., Ph.D., an internal medicine resident at the UMKC School of Medicine, is also an international researcher focused on innovations to support HIV prevention efforts. He was invited to present his work on designing implementation strategies to prevent lapses in retention of HIV care at a national research symposium on Sept. 28 in San Francisco.
He gave an oral presentation on “Design of Implementation Strategies: Promising Strategies in Diverse Contexts.”
The research conference on “Closing the Gap between Rigor and Relevance: Methodological Opportunities for Implementation Science to Address the HIV Epidemic” took place at the University of California-San Francisco’s Center for AIDS Research.
Odeny has been a research scientist and principal investigator at the Kenya Medical Research Institute. He came to the United States and received his Ph.D. in epidemiology at the University of Washington and was an international scholar at school’s International AIDS Research and Training Program prior to beginning his medical residency at UMKC.
The School of Medicine recognized 36 faculty members who recently received promotions and tenure and presented six special awards for faculty and student achievements during a reception on Sept. 28 at Diastole.
This year’s list included 12 faculty promotions to the rank of professor and 24 to the rank of associate professor. Visit the School of Medicine web site for the complete list of faculty promotions.
Special Award Recognitions
Louise E Arnold Excellence in Medical Education Research Award George Thompson, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry, received the third-annual award that recognizes someone who has contributed to innovation and scholarship in medical education.
Thompson says his goal in medical education is to support students in fully integrating humanism, good communication, and professionalism into their practice of competent biological medicine. He has served as course director for the School of Medicine’s courses on fundamentals of medical practice and CUES to medical communication. A nomination letter recognized him for nurturing medical professionalism in his students.
Betty M. Drees, M.D., Awards for Excelling in Mentoring The fifth-annual awards were presented to faculty members for their excellence in mentoring, guiding, coaching and sponsoring students, trainees, staff and peer faculty.
Prakash Chandra, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, received the award presented each year to an assistant or associate professor. Chandra joined the School of Medicine faculty in 2013. In letters supporting his nomination, Chandra’s trainees wrote, “I cannot remember a single time where Dr. Chandra was not there for us. No matter how busy he is, he always put his mentees ahead. He is a great listener and eager to teach. In addition to being a guide, Dr. Chandra has pushed me to achieve more than I could imagine.”
Paul Cuddy, Pharm.D., vice dean of the School of Medicine, received the Lifetime Achieve in Mentoring Award that is given to a full professor. Letters of nomination noted Cuddy’s 37 years of service to the School of Medicine where he has also served as senior associate dean for academic affair and associate dean for the curriculum among many other roles. One wrote, “Paul is a careful listener, gives constructive feedback and criticism in a manner that leaves a feeling that something was accomplished. He is the soul of the SOM.”
Christopher Papasian Excellence in Teaching Award Theodore Cole, Ph.D, professor of biomedical sciences, received the second-annual award recognizing a faculty member who excels in medical student education through innovative contributors to the educational mission. Cole has served a member of the School of Medicine’s biomedical sciences faculty since 1999. His students commended his encouragement and support in their nomination letters for the award. “Never a more respectful or gracious man, and with such a calming, ‘it’s not so complicated’ voice, he teaches.”
Excellence in Diversity and Health Equity in Medicine Awards These awards recognize an individual or organization that has demonstrated sustained and impactful contribution to diversity, inclusion and cultural competency or health equity. The award is given to a student or student organization, and to faculty, staff, resident and/or organization/department.
Taylor Carter, a sixth-year medical student received the student award for his leadership and service with many school and national organizations. A member of Student National Medical Association, a national organization representing underrepresented minority medical students, since 2013, he currently serves as chair of the national academic affairs committee.
Carter has also served as a School of Medicine student representative to the diversity council as well as a student representative to the Children’s Mercy Diversity General Medical Education Sub-Committee. He works with School of Medicine partners on cultural competency curriculum reform to improve the student training in areas such as social determinants of health, personal biases and treating individuals from different backgrounds.
Two groups, the UMKC Student National Medical Association(SNMA) and the Children’s Mercy Hospital Faculty and Trainee Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (FTEDI) Committee, received diversity awards for organizations.
In the past year, the school’s SNMA chapter currently partnered with the Linwood YMCA to provide members who assist with its events, including the Launchpad after-school program, tutoring and mentoring middle and high school students. The chapter has also initiated new programming including a cultural competency workshop and a campus Living Culture event to celebrate diversity. For the past nine years, the organization has conducted a Black History Month Celebration that allows students to display their talents, while educating the audience about health issues that predominately affect the African American and Hispanic population.
The Children’s Mercy FTEDI Committee began as a grassroots effort led by physicians Bridgette Jones, Tamorah Lewis and Jaszianne Tolbert to improve diversity among the pediatrics residency class. The group has since implemented initiatives producing active national recruitment outreach to underrepresented minority trainees and faculty candidates, bias training for hospital leadership, a visiting professorship by national leaders and an elective for minority medical students.
Throughout her career as a physician and academic leader, Marjorie Sirridge, M.D., became a trailblazer, setting a standard of success for women that is seen today at the UMKC School of Medicine.
A group of the school’s leaders talked about following Sirridge’s path in presenting a tool kit for success on Thursday at the annual Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., Outstanding Women in Medicine Lectureship.
The panel included Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., interim dean, Rebecca Pauly, M.D., associate dean for faculty development, Brenda Rogers, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, Jill Moormeier, M.D., chair of internal medicine, and Scott Ellison, a local surgeon.
Stefanie Ellison, M.D., associate dean for learning initiatives, served as moderator and opened the discussion with her husband, Scott, discussing the need for a strong support system.
The other panelists followed with brief talks on wellbeing, making strategic choices in career advancement, defining success and self-advocacy.
Jackson drew on her experience as a medical student in Marjorie Sirridge’s docent unit as she spoke on self-advocacy. She shared her own list of lessons learned from Sirridge such as to think boldly, to follow one’s passion, stand with pride and be relevant, and to be a mentor.
“Remember that what you do for yourself as a self-advocate and for each other as other advocates will impact not just your own career but the careers of others as well for generations to come,” Jackson said.
Brian Carter, M.D., serves as the William T. and Marjorie Sirridge Professor in Medical Humanities. Carter began the lectureship by recounting the works the Sirridges accomplished and the high standards they set during their tenure at the School of Medicine.
The Women in Medicine lectureship was established in 1997 in recognition of Sirridge’s dedication, compassion and advancement of patient care and medical education. Sirridge was one of the School of Medicine’s founding docents and later served as dean. She and her husband, William, endowed the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities, now the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Bioethics, in 1992.
Professional health care is increasingly a team activity. The University of Missouri-Kansas City health sciences schools are making learning a team activity as well.
Each year, students from the schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy gather to participate in a series of learning events as part of UMKC Health Sciences Interprofessional Education Program. Nearly 450 students from the schools filled 49 classrooms and lecture halls across the campus on Sept. 7 to take part in small group discussions on health disparities, focusing on their particular roles in meeting patient needs.
“Developing a culture of interprofessional practice and collaboration is a goal of our health professions campus in order to provide safe and high-quality care for our patients in Kansas City,” said Stefanie Ellison, associate dean for learning initiatives at the School of Medicine and a co-coordinator of the IPE program.
In February, students met in Interprofessional Medical Patient Advocacy and Collaborative Teams, or IMPACTS, for the first time and completed a small group, case-based activity on roles and responsibilities. This September event is the second time they met in the same IMPACTs and they were assigned a project prior to the case-based activity. Each group was given a list of 10 areas of need such as transportation, housing, child care, job assistance or finances that can limit the ability of the lower-income and underserved populations to obtain needed health care. The groups were to research five different areas of need and come back with a list of resources to help meet those needs in material they could present to their own patients.
“It is our goal to improve their learning and utilization of resources to address the health disparities or social determinates of health in Kansas City,” Ellison said.
Hunter Faris, a third-year medical student who participated in the IPE program last year, served as one of the small group facilitators this year.
“We’re talking about the social determinants of health and how our particular fields can tackle those issues,” Faris said. “This is more about what can we really provide a patient in an effective manner where we’re not being redundant. This is helping us learn to better work as a team.”
The health sciences IPE program consists of other events including a Poverty Simulation that will take place in September and October and an annual IPE competition in the spring in which small groups of students from the different schools work together to address case-based patient scenarios and in front of a panel of judges.
“These IPE events are beneficial because we understand what the other health professionals can provide and how we’re able to work together to provide care for our patients,” Faris said.
Interprofessional education is implemented as part of the required curriculum across the UMKC health professions programs to meet their program accreditation requirements.
Medical school can present unique personal challenges. A new student assistance program is available to all UMKC School of Medicine students to help work through such issues.
Through a partnership between the School of Medicine and WellConnect by Student Resource Services, students now have 24-hour access to help with mental health, legal and financial issues.
The WellConnect program links students with licensed counselors for up to six, confidential in-person or telephone counseling sessions, or three sessions with a financial consultant or attorney. The services are free for students enrolled in any School of Medicine program and their household families, said Niloofar Shahmohammadi, School of Medicine wellness coordinator.
Access codes for students and faculty/staff can be found on posters and card in the School of Medicine Student Wellness Wing and throughout the building.
Two years ago, Shahmohammadi began conducting brief, 10-minute wellness checkups with the school’s first- and second-year medical students.
“Through those meetings, I was seeing a high number of students who needed more counseling,” she said. “Seeing that, we wanted to find something to meet those needs.
The WellConnect program supplements the services provided by the UMKC Counseling Center by providing a one-stop shop for addressing student issues. Students can contact WellConnect by phone or online. They do not need a referral to use the service, Shahmohammadi said.
“There are a lot of perks to this program that meet the needs of professional students,” Shahmohammadi said. “A recurring theme for our students has been that they often need after hours help. Especially during their clinical years, they’re basically in a 9-to-5 job. This remedies that issue because they have hours more conducive to our students’ schedules.”
Because WellConnect is a nation-wide network, it also benefits students in out-of-town rotations or research programs. Those students can contact the service and get needed assistance at any time while they’re away from the School of Medicine and Kansas City.
The service also offers an around-the-clock help line for faculty and support staff who have concerns about a student. The Faculty/Administrative Support Team (FAST) line provides high-level sessions with senior clinical consultants to discuss help for students struggling inside or outside the classroom.
Access codes are required for students or faculty/staff to contact WellConnect. The codes can be found on posters and cards in the Student Wellness Wing and throughout the building.
WellConnect was first launched at the School of Medicine in June and students are already utilizing the program.
“I’ve already heard from students that are happy with the service,” she said.
School of Medicine Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., has appointed Mark Nichols, Ph.D., interim chair of the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics effective August 1, 2018. In this role, he will work closely with faculty, staff and students to help position the department as a catalyst for innovation and creativity.
Dr. Nichols received his Ph.D. from Yale University in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry. He then undertook postdoctoral training in molecular biology at the German Cancer Research Center, and the European Molecular Biology Lab, both in Heidelberg.
In 1998, Dr. Nichols returned to the United States as an assistant professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine.
From 2010-2016, he served as a Scientist Administrator for Research Development in the Senior Vice Chancellor’s Office of Research at the University of Pittsburgh. In that capacity, he served all six health science schools at the University of Pittsburgh with the specific objective of assisting other investigators in their quest to obtain extramural research funding. His work resulted in 77 grants funded for more than $121 million.
In 2016, Dr. Nichols was recruited to UMKC as Associate Dean for Research at the School of Nursing and Health Studies and as Associate Research Professor in the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics at the School of Medicine.
His expertise includes molecular mechanisms of drug and enzyme action, molecular biology, mutagenesis, cloning, signal transduction, genomic regulation, cell cycle, and steroid hormones, with peer-reviewed publications in 20 biomedical journals, an siRNA biotechnology patent, and funding from NIH (NIDDK, NCI), DOD CDRMP, and American Cancer Society.
Throughout the UMKC Student Union auditorium, parents stood with cellphones and tablets to capture the moment a group of 109 students marched in to kick off the UMKC School of Medicine’s InDOCtrination Ceremony on Friday, Aug. 17.
The event is a confirmation of the students’ entry to the UMKC School of Medicine, said Brenda Rogers, associate dean for student affairs. She welcomed the Class of 2024 to what she called the challenging and exciting world of medicine.
“It’s a world that will demand a lot from you but will reward you greatly,” Rogers said.
Each student was introduced as members of their new Year 1 docent unit and then listed to a reading of the Oath of Physicians. It is the same oath the class will recite upon graduation.
Second-year medical student Gabriel Calderon received the Richard T. Garcia Memorial Award. The annual award recognizes a second-year student for outstanding leadership skills, compassion toward fellow classmates and outstanding academic performance throughout Year 1.
Calderon told the new medical students that test taking will become a way of life.
“This program is going to test you in so many ways,” he said. “Your brain will be tested. Your heart will be tested. And your motivation will be tested.”
Those tests, he said, will be important because of the payoff.
“The ultimate goal of graduating from this program is to land that dream job,” Calderon said. “If you handle business now, work hard at being the best medical student you can be, a great residency will be right at your fingertips.”
School of Medicine Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson described her own career path that started with med school at UMKC. She encouraged members of the class to embrace their role as students. Everyone will make contributions in life, and each person’s contributions will be a little bit different, she said.
“You’ve chosen a truly amazing profession,” she said. “Embrace it fully. Good luck to each of you as you start your journey. I know first-hand how remarkable it will be.”
The new first-year class includes students from 14 states ranging from New Jersey to Washington and from Wisconsin to Florida. Of those selected from the nearly 1,500 applicants for this year’s class, women far outnumbered the men, 74 to 35. The Association of American Medical Colleges reported in 2017 that for the first time ever, slightly more women than men entered medical schools across the United States.