All posts by Greg Hack

Association gives students crucial support, leadership opportunities

Eryn Wanyonyi, Amaka Ofodu and Taylor Carter became fast friends through the Student National Medical Association and now hold local, national and regional leadership positions in the organization.

Taylor Carter, Amaka Ofodu and Eryn Wanyonyi all expected medical school to be tough, and they didn’t expect to have many African-American classmates. When the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) reached out to them, even before school started, they appreciated the support.

Now, with the help of SNMA and each other, each has become a leader in the UMKC School of Medicine and in the association.

“SNMA contacted me before orientation,” Ofodu said. “I always recognized that being a minority can make things more challenging, so when I learned there was an organization founded to support underrepresented students academically and mentally, I said, ‘Let me sign up!’ ”

Carter said her first year of medical school was a struggle academically, socially and mentally. But through the association she met “three of my absolute best friends, including Eryn and Amaka.” They helped each other through that first year, and now they all are on track to graduate in May.

“That is the beauty of SNMA,” Carter said. “It gives you a support system, mentors, friends. We all have each others’ backs.”

Wanyonyi agreed: “SNMA means so much to me. It provides a place to serve the underrepresented communities we come from, a place to network, and so much more.”

Part of that “so much more” is offering leadership training and opportunities, often through fellowships in the association’s Future Leadership Project. Wanyonyi and Carter had fellowships to learn about the national association’s workings, and Ofodu attended regional training.

Now, Wanyonyi and Carter hold national SNMA posts and are co-presidents of its UMKC chapter. Ofodu is chapter vice president and assistant director for the association’s upper Midwest region.

As SNMA vice chairperson for health policy and legislative affairs, Wanyonyi helps advance association efforts to affect medical education, national health care policies and minority and women’s health. Besides all her work with SNMA, she has done research in obstetrics and gynecology, the specialty she wants to pursue. And as a Paul Ambrose Scholar, she is working on a sexual health curriculum for a Kansas City high school.

Carter is the association’s national co-chair for academic affairs. She helps develop and maintain resources to help members, such as information on internships, scholarships, fellowships and research opportunities. As a Future Leadership Project fellow, she said, “I developed leadership skills, received mentorship from SNMA leaders and engaged in personal growth through monthly conference calls, leadership projects and national officer engagement.”

Carter is interested in general surgery and is back in Kansas City after a summer rotation in Atlanta. She’s working on a diversity and inclusion research project with Miranda Huffman, M.D.; was recently inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society; and is student representative on the Honor Council and Council on Selection.

Ofodu is an associate director for the association’s 10-state Region II, which encompasses Missouri, Kansas and much of the upper Midwest.

“This year I wanted our focus to be on increasing consistency and cohesiveness among the region with regionwide events. Our first event is ‘SNMA at the YMCA,’ which will require all the chapter in the region to volunteer at a local community center.”

Ofodu, who is interested in internal medicine and pediatrics, is a member of the Gold Humanism Honor Society and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She also is a Diversity Council student representative.

Producing such leaders helps fulfill another part of the Student National Medical Association mission, “addressing the needs of underserved communities and increasing the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.”

Part of their leadership is passing their confidence and experience on to the first- through fifth-year students coming up behind them.

“I try to help my fellow SNMA members feel like they are not alone,” Ofodu said. “I want them to be aware of the stress and struggles but that they can and will be successful if they use the right resources. I also let them know that it is OK to feel scared, sad or worried, but it is not OK to let those feelings stop you from continuing with the program or your studies.”

Carter added: “To see other students, residents and doctors that look like me, doing the same thing as me is so important. SNMA has given me a support system and allowed me the chance to really develop as a leader. SNMA is invaluable to me. SNMA is my family.”


First alumna dean making her presence felt

Dean Jackson greeted new students and their parents and siblings on move-in day.

A full schedule is nothing new for Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. ’78. Between seeing pediatric patients at Children’s Mercy, teaching at the UMKC School of Medicine and serving on national boards including the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Red Book Committee on Infectious Diseases and the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, Jackson has always set a fast pace.

Now, as the first graduate of the school to serve as its dean, she may seem even busier. She took over as interim dean July 1 and quickly became a familiar face to hundreds of students. New students were greeted by her on move-in day and again at their inDOCtrination ceremony, and she welcomed third-year students to the more-clinical phase of their education at their White Coat Ceremony. She also will be meeting regularly with various student groups throughout the year.

Dean Jackson showed UMKC’s new president, C. Mauli Agrawal, around the School of Medicine and the UMKC Health Sciences District.

Dean Jackson also showed C. Mauli Agrawal, UMKC’s new chancellor, the School of Medicine and its surroundings when he toured the UMKC Health Sciences District. And she has held town hall style meetings to get to know faculty and staff and hear their concerns.

She also is making a point of reaching out to her fellow alumni. She gathered with alumni in the St. Louis area in August and has a Sept. 25 visit to Chicago scheduled. Events in Kansas City and Springfield also are in the works. If you live in another area and would like her to visit, please get in touch with Fred Schlichting at

First-year School of Medicine students share excitement of move-in day

Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., who earned her medical degree at UMKC, greeted the first wave of students and their parents.

The Oak Street Residence Hall was abuzz Thursday morning, move-in day for dozens of first-year students in the UMKC School of Medicine.

“I’ve known for a long time that I want to be a physician, and there’s not really another program like this,” said Bianca Ituarte, referring to UMKC’s accelerated program in which students can earn a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree in just six years. “I’m also excited because of all the diversity among the students.”

Bianca Ituarte checked in at Oak Street Residence Hall.

Ituarte, who is from St. Louis, said her parents are lawyers, and she would be the first physician in her family. “I heard about UMKC from a dentist we know who went through an accelerated dental program at Northwestern. He said the students in the UMKC program are the whiz kids of medicine.”

Another new arrival, Mauli Patel, said she also was drawn by UMKC’s six-year program.

Mauli Patel had her hands full but got plenty of help moving in.

“I have been interested in medicine at least since my sophomore year in high school,” said Patel, who is from a Chicago suburb. “That’s also when I visited UMKC.”

Like many students accepted by the School of Medicine, Ituarte and Patel went beyond their high school classes to distinguish themselves. Ituarte had an internship at the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University, one of just three U.S. gene sequencing centers financed by the National Institutes of Health. And Patel was active in HOSA-Future Health Professionals and its Competitive Events Program, which offers a series of competitions designed to enhance learning about health care.

The new students said they knew that the UMKC program would be rigorous, but that they already felt welcomed and supported.

Each first-year student has a second-year medical student mentor, someone they can be in touch with even before they move to the campus, and who will help them throughout their first year.

“I met my second-year in June at orientation,” Patel said. “And my class has a chat room, using the GroupMe app, so we can ask questions and get to know each other.”

Her father, Mehul Patel, a software engineer, said the School of Medicine’s system and the age of smartphones made his daughter’s entry into college much different from his.

“She already knew her mentor and her roommate,” he said. “When I first showed up at college, I didn’t know anyone.”

Several School of Medicine staff members were on hand to greet and help the students, along with a big group from UMKC’s Residential Life staff. The School of Medicine’s interim dean, Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, who earned her M.D. at UMKC, greeted the first wave of students and met their parents.

Second-year student Jordan Grimmett helped several new students move in.

Many of the second-year mentors also showed up, providing moral and muscle support – and getting a chance to remember their own first-year butterflies.

Jordan Grimmett, from St. Louis, said he was grateful for the help he received a year ago and wanted to do the same for the new students.

“It was difficult adjusting but fun,” he said, “and I had a good first year, finished strong.”

Another second-year student from St. Louis, Erin Galakotos, said, “We’ve gone through orientation with them, and now move-in day, and we’ll all be together and play some games tonight.”

All the attention and support wasn’t lost on Ituerte.

“This is a real community,” she said. “People look out for each other.”


White Coat Ceremony marks stepped-up clinical education for 110 UMKC School of Medicine students

Third-year medical students at the UMKC School of Medicine entering the more intensive clinical phase of their medical school training marked that passage Aug. 5th with their White Coat Ceremony.

The ceremony united 110 students who spent the majority of their first two years studying on the Volker Campus with their new docent units at Hospital Hill and Saint Luke’s Hospital. The 2018 White Coat Ceremony was held at White Recital Hall with Jill Moormeier, M.D., chair of internal medicine at Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill, presiding.

See more photos from the 2018 White Coat Ceremony

The third-year students also heard from Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. ’78, the school’s interim dean. And they saw Jared Keeler, M.D. ’94, win this year’s award for the outstanding year 1 and 2 docent.

Sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the White Coat Ceremony emphasizes the importance of compassionate care for patients and proficiency in both the art and the science of medicine. It has been a tradition at the UMKC School of Medicine since 2003.

Then came the highlight of the event: students learning new docent team assignments and being cloaked in their new white coats. Raymond Cattaneo, M.D. ’03, assistant dean for years 1 and 2, presented the white coats.


Volunteer work gives sixth-year student great satisfaction and earns him the first Amit J. Patel Extra Mile Scholarship

Amit J. Patel, M.D.’05, congratulates sixth-year medical student Luke He, the first recipient of a scholarship Patel financed to recognize students committed to helping others through volunteering.

Luke He, heading into his sixth year at the UMKC School of Medicine, says he does volunteer work “because I’m motivated by the impact it has made, not for my own recognition.”

But now He has been recognized for that work, and in a big way, as the first recipient of the Amit J. Patel Extra Mile Scholarship.

Patel, a 2005 School of Medicine graduate and docent for the Green 8 unit, started a scholarship aimed at students who volunteer for many reasons: because he knows of the great commitment students make; because “serving others, particularly those in need, is our greatest duty”; and because “it’s important for the students to know that alumni are proud of them and want them to succeed.”

For He, service to others has always been a top value in his family. He has lived that by volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Gold Key International Honour Society, Camp Cardiac and Harvesters.

“Before I was born, my parents immigrated here from China seeking better opportunities for their future kids,” said He, whose brother, James He, is also a UMKC School of Medicine student. “My parents are highly educated and had great jobs in China, yet they chose to leave all of their friends and family for their own future family. They’ve made huge sacrifices in their lives so I could have the opportunity to get a great education and a productive career.”

He is co-president of the School of Medicine’s Class of 2019 and previously received a Missouri State Medical Association Scholarship, which has helped him get on his way to a great career. And he said the Extra Mile Scholarship will be a great help, too.

“This is a significant amount of money and has a huge impact on my financial situation,” said He, whose wife, Breanna, is a recent UMKC School of Education graduate just starting to teach second grade. “I have held a part-time job every year in medical school, and I plan to continue working the same amount of hours. But the scholarship means I will be able to take out less in loans this year, though I am anticipating more expenses with residency applications and traveling for interviews.”

He also plans to keep up his volunteer work with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“It’s an organization in which you are matched with an elementary or high school student who may qualify based on the family’s financial situation, or a variety of other challenges that they may face,” He said. “Together, my ‘little’ and I cook, fish, hike, go to sporting events and much more.”

Rather than a burden, He said, volunteering should be something one enjoys – and he definitely enjoys hanging out with his “little brother.”

“I usually try to assist him in school and recently helped him get a job. We are doing more and more career planning as he gets through high school,” He said. “My biggest goal is to have him explore different career fields and start taking the right steps toward his future.”

He, who is interested in emergency medicine, also said he was inspired by his benefactor and impressed that Patel, in mid-career, “is so passionate about investing in students that he is awarding this huge scholarship.”

For his part, Patel said He was “more than deserving.”

“I truly believe that being a physician is an honorable profession if approached with a selfless attitude,” Patel said. “I wanted to give back to my school, but moreso the students directly because I was a student here not too long ago. I feel really happy to see our students succeed.”

School of Medicine tops in Hospital Hill Run participation

From left, Kelly Rasor, WorkPlace Foot Race coordinator; Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. ’78; Jordann Dhuse, medical student and avid runner; Hospital Hill Run Director Beth Salinger; and Director of Advancement Fred Schlichting.

The Hospital Hill Run this year added the WorkPlace Foot Race by Blue KC, designed to increase community fitness and participation in the nationally known race weekend. The contest was open to schools, businesses, non-profits and health care organizations across the area, and the UMKC School of Medicine took first place.

The contest awarded 5 points for each half marathon participant, 4 points for each 7.7-mile race participant and 3 points for each 5K participant and volunteer. The points then were divided by the number of employees for each business or organization, so that participation rate rather than sheer numbers won the day. The School of Medicine had 111 participants.

This also was the first year for the UMKC Health Sciences District to be the presenting sponsor for the race weekend. The race was started by Dr. E. Grey Dimond, the founder of the UMKC School of Medicine. For several years the school sponsored the Friday evening 5K portion of the Hospital Hill Run, and UMKC medical students routinely volunteer to help with the race, including as staff for the medical tent during the races.

Longtime race director Beth Salinger and Kelly Rasor, who is in charge of the WorkPlace Foot Race, presented a traveling trophy on July 19 to the School of Medicine. Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. ’78; Director of Advancement Fred Schlichting; and Jordann Dhuse, a 2017 Hospital Hill Run winner and UMKC medical student active in the Health Science District’s Run/Walk Club, were on hand to accept the trophy.

Besides sponsorship from Blue KC, the WorkPlace Foot Race has support from the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City and expects participation to grow next year as more organizations use it to promote their fitness and team-building.








UMKC students in finals of AMA Global Health Competition

Shannon Demehri and Hunter Faris, two UMKC School of Medicine sixth-year students , are finalists in this year’s AMA Global Health Competition. If they win, they get to go on a medical mission to Ecuador, Guatemala or the Dominican Republic.

In the next stage of the competition, they need people to watch their video, “Lasting Difference,” and vote for it by clicking on the “thumbs up” above it. People can vote once a day through July 30. The five teams with the most votes will advance to a final round of judging.

Demehri said their video was about the importance of empathy and about “what we would learn from interacting with patients on a global health trip that will make us better health care providers.” In it, Demehri tells her experience treating a young immigrant mother who had fled abuse in her home country and now suffered persistent headaches and insomnia. The key to being able to help her, Demehri said, was learning the woman’s story, empathizing with her and earning her trust. Faris tells of working at a summer camp for children coping with cancer and of bonding with one 11-year-old boy — but only after figuring out how to understand and appreciate his situation and the extraordinary challenges he had already faced.  

Besides sharing a commitment to advancing global health equity, Demehri and Faris both plan residencies with the U.S. Navy, she in anesthesia and he in general surgery. They also were on a team of UMKC students that went on a medical mission to Nicaragua in 2015.

The medical missions are run by Timmy Global Health, an organization based in Indianapolis and founded in 1997 by Dr. Charles Dietzen, a pediatric physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist. He worked internationally in many countries, including with Mother Teresa, before starting the organization to pass his commitment to global health equity on to medical students. Dietzen named the organization after his brother, Timmy, who died in infancy.

Timmy Global Health sends medical service teams to support the work of international partner organizations and channels financial, medical, and human resources to community based health and development projects. So far it has treated more than 84,000 patients and distributed more than $1 million in aid to partner organizations.

Going to the mat: Free yoga class Thursday

To celebrate International Yoga Day, the UMKC Health Sciences District will be offering a free class from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 21. The class will be taught by a certified instructor and is open to all UMKC students, faculty and staff.

Come enjoy a gentle but effective hour of exercise. The class will be at the northeast corner of Holmes and 25th, in the green space south of the nursing and pharmacy schools.

The district asks that you sign up here or email The first 25 yogis to sign up receive free yoga mats. You’ll also be able to register to win an exciting gift basket.

UMKC’s Gold Humanism chapter recognized nationally

Graduating chapter members and adviser Carol Stanford, M.D. ’79, proudly displayed their award banner at graduation.

The School of Medicine’s chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society was one of three nationwide to win this year’s Distinguished Chapter Award.

The med school chapters at Vanderbilt and Georgetown also were recognized. The awards recognize advancement in patient-centered care, sustaining a humanistic learning environment and demonstrating leadership.

The UMKC chapter has been led for several years by Dr. Carol Stanford, who earned her M.D. at UMKC.

The School of Medicine’s 15-year-old chapter has been a leader in the national society, particularly advancing ideas for National Patient Solidarity Week. The week, in February each year, is filled with activities that encourage stronger bonds between patients and their physicians, nurses and other care givers. Those activities include making Valentine’s Day cards for patients at Truman Medical Center and distributing them along with roses, and Tell Me More, a program that encourages learning more about patients so they are known as individuals beyond their medical conditions.

Sojourner Clinic honors volunteers

The awards banquet was well attended.

Hundreds of student volunteers were recognized May 8 at the annual Sojourner Clinic Banquet, which was held at the Diastole Scholars’ Center. Students put in more than 1,500 volunteer hours each year treating more than 300 patients in more than 800 patient visits at the clinic, which offers free care to the homeless in downtown Kansas City.

This year’s award winners:

Top Year 1 Volunteer – Harshita Degala
Top Year 2 Volunteers – Madhavi Murali & Alaya Bodepudi
Top Year 3 Volunteer – Koral Shah
Top Year 4 Volunteer – Komal Kumar
Top Year 5 Volunteer – Jessica Wise
Top Year 6 Volunteer – Rahul Maheshwari
Top PA Student Volunteer – Emma Windham
Top Pharmacy Student Volunteer – Katie Tuck
Brook Nelson Award for Leadership – Michele Yang
Ellen Beck Award for Dedication – Imaima Casubhoy
Angela Barnett Award for Humanism – Koral Shah
Dan Purdom Award for Commitment – Eshwar Kishore

The clinic also has a new board for 2018-2019:

Executive Directors: Danielle Terrill and Adithi Reddy
Laboratory Director: Michele Yang
Patient Assistance Program Director: Priyesha Bijlani
Lead Clinic Manager: Elle Glaser
Financial Chair: Rose Puthumana
Clinic Managers: Seenu Abraham, Jessica Wise, Vishnu Harikumar, Antonio Petralia, Tony Cheng, Shipra Singh, Elizabeth Theng, Raga Kilaru, Vijay Letchuman
Main Operations Director: Kavelin Rumalla
Lab Managers: Alaya Bodepudi, Madhavi Murali, Imaima Casubhoy
PA Reps: TBA
Webmasters: Eshwar Kishore, Mrudula Gandham
PR Reps: Sriram Paravastu, Adnan Islam
Secretary: Angela Nwankwo
Pharmacy Liaison: Riddhi M. Ishanpara
Junior Financial Chair: Shruti Kumar

More on the clinic and award winners is here.