State Rep. Jon Patterson, M.D., recognized Charles Van Way, M.D., on the floor of the Missouri House.
State Rep. Jon Patterson, who completed his general surgery program in 2011 at the UMKC School of Medicine and Truman Medical Center, on Wednesday recognized the former chairman of the TMC surgery department, Dr. Charles Van Way, on the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives.
Van Way travelled from his home in Kansas City to serve as the physician of the day at the Missouri State Capitol. Before the start of session, Patterson recognized Van Way’s contributions to medicine and the United States.
“Dr. Van Way was a leading surgeon in his field and chair of surgery at Truman Medical Center. I also thank him for his service to our country as he served in the U.S. Army Reserves and is a colonel in the Medical Corps.,” said Patterson, a Lee’s Summit Republican.
Colleagues who knew Larry Piebenga, MD, speak of him with true regard as both a mentor and role model for medical research, education and patient care. A legendary ophthalmologist and teacher at UMKC, Piebenga was a pioneer for developing cornea and cataract therapies.
“Many of the ophthalmology techniques used today were first developed and implemented in clinics by Dr. Piebenga,” says Peter Koulen, PhD, UMKC professor and the Felix and Carmen Sabates Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research. “Our faculty members still try to emulate him.”
“Dr. Piebenga was my mentor during my residency at UMKC,” says Timothy Walline, MD, assistant professor in UMKC’s Department of Ophthalmology. “His calm, caring manner inspired me then, and not a week goes by that I don’t fondly recall something he taught me. His sincere approach to each and every patient has been my guidepost in 25 years of practice and academic endeavors.”
“He always did the right thing no matter what the work involved was and cared for every patient no matter who they were,” says Abraham Poulose MD, FACS, associate professor in UMKC’s Department of Ophthalmology. “I have aspired to live my life, both personally and professionally, to the example that he set.”
In memory of Piebenga, his family has made a contribution to the UMKC Foundation to support a research study on corneal calcification, led by Koulen. The basic science study hopes to find ways of more precisely assessing corneal calcification and determining how changes that occur from the condition affect the ability to accurately diagnose eye diseases.
“This is potentially a high-impact study that affects the outcome of many patients,” says Koulen. “By properly diagnosing their condition, we can work to develop new therapies for eye diseases that affect patients’ vision.”
Koulen said he is excited that Piebenga’s family is making this gift to honor his legacy and hopes it inspires others to honor their loved ones with similar tributes.
“Dr. Piebenga was a true advocate of research funding and he put that commitment into action,” says Koulen. “As an avid philanthropist, he supported vision research at the UMKC Foundation, and the family’s gift showcases the mindset of Dr. Piebenga – that research is essential to our mission.”
He says their contribution also fills a critical gap for research funding as public funds are very competitive and are dwindling. “Donor gifts for small, initial studies such as this can lead to major funding for larger studies down the road,” he says.
“Research hinges on new discoveries, and philanthropy is a critical key in this process.”
Two sisters who eventually became ophthalmologists were drawn to UMKC by its innovative School of Medicine. Now, the 2019 UMKC Legacy Family Alumni Award recognizes their decades of service to their communities, and their distinguished second-generation graduate.
School of Medicine alumni Mary Pat (Strickland) Lange, M.D. ’85, and Kathryn Ann (Strickland) Hembree, M.D. ’86, anchor the Strickland-Hembree family. The second generation member is Hembree’s daughter, Kathryn Hembree Night, who received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and philosophy in 2009 and is a graduate of the UMKC Honors College. She works in finance in New York.
Lange has served the Lawrence, Kansas, community for more than 25 years and is a senior partner at Lawrence Eye Care Associates. Hembree founded Northland Eye Specialists in the Kansas City area, focused on providing comprehensive family eye care.
“I was aware from a young age that I wanted to be a physician,” Lange said. “My oldest brother was in his orthopedic residency when I was in high school. The six-year program offered by UMKC appealed to me as the most direct way to pursue this career path.”
The six-year program allows someone right out of high school to earn B.A. and M.D. degrees, and it matches each younger student with an older “senior partner.” Lange said her senior partner’s keen interest in ophthalmology got her interested in that specialty, and when she saw a patient’s vision dramatically improve after laser surgery, she was hooked.
In the meantime, her older sister, Hembree, already had a degree in chemistry and biology, along with a job as a medical technologist. But she, too, had always wanted to be a physician. Spurred by Lange’s great experience at UMKC, Hembree followed her and entered the School of Medicine’s four-year track for students who already had a bachelor’s degree.
Hembree also “caught” her sister’s interest in ophthalmology, saying she was drawn by “being able to see all ages of patients, assist in medical diagnosis of many systemic diseases and, most wonderful of all, helping restore vision!”
Both sisters credited the school’s extensive clinical experience with fully preparing them to practice and pursue their careers in ophthalmology.
Night, Hembree’s daughter, said she started at UMKC interested in medicine but then found philosophy, law and other pursuits interesting. She credited the Honors College with helping her follow her interests and, along with summer internships and hard work, eventually land a job in finance in New York.
Social media can play a crucial role in mentoring and sponsoring young radiologists, Amy Patel, M.D. ’11, recently told the 2018 convention of the Radiological Society of North America.
Patel was one of only five radiologists worldwide chosen to make a 5-minute “Fast 5 Session” presentation at the radiologists’ Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting in Chicago. The convention, billed as the largest meeting of radiologists in the world, this year drew 60,000 people.
Patel is medical director of women’s imaging at Liberty Hospital and a clinical assistant professor at the UMKC School of Medicine. She told the gathering that Twitter and other social media made it possible to connect medical students, residents and fellows to practicing physicians. The hashtags #RADxx (for female radiologists) and #RADxy (for male radiologists) make it easier to connect on Twitter, she said, and as a result she is now mentoring or sponsoring many radiology trainees across the country who have sought her out.
“Social media has the opportunity to become the great equalizer,” Patel said.
The Fast 5 Session presented five radiologists each addressing a non-clinical topic. Competition for the speaking spots was heavy, and Patel said it was an honor to be chosen.
The full 2018 Fast 5 Session can be viewed here. Patel is the last of the five speakers and is introduced at the 22:50 mark. Her presentation begins at 23:45.
Cases of acute flaccid myelitis, which mainly affects children and can cause lasting paralysis, continue to be reported this fall across the U.S. When two possible cases of the polio-like disease were reported in Kansas City, people looking for answers turned to Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. ’78, an expert in pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City.
Jackson, of course, is also the interim dean of the UMKC School of Medicine, so she didn’t need a recurrence of the disease to keep her busy. But she took the news in stride, offering parents reassurance and colleagues expert advice.
The disease is extremely rare, Jackson said, with one-in-a-million odds of contracting it. So parents shouldn’t be alarmed, she said, even though reports of the disease, often referred to as AFM, have been occurring in two-year cycles since 2014.
Jackson said AFM, which appears to develop after a viral illness, could have several possible causes. Enterovirus D68 has been getting attention as a possibility, because respiratory problems from EV-D68 were widespread in 2014 when 120 cases of AFM were reported. But that virus didn’t spike in fall 2016 or this year, and other possible causes are being studied, too.
The number of AFM cases dropped to 22 in 2015 and spiked again, to 149, in 2016. The pattern continued with just 38 cases in 2017 but 90 confirmed so far this year by the Centers for Disease Control, and more than 160 other cases still being investigated.
Jackson said symptoms are easy to recognize because AFM attacks regions of the spinal cord known as grey matter. “If your child develops profound weakness, especially involving limbs, make sure to see your physician,” she said.
Jackson also recently prepared an update on the disease for physicians. Besides acute limb weakness, Jackson said, a review of AFM reports also found signs of cranial nerve involvement, such as facial weakness, in more than one-fourth of cases. She said that examining cerebrospinal fluid and doing an MRI of the brain and spine were key to diagnosing AFM, and that all cases should be reported to the CDC.
As for prevention, she said, nothing has been identified beyond the usual emphasis on hand washing and covering coughs to disrupt any viral illness that could be related. Though most AFM patients survive, weakness and paralysis can persist. Jackson said nerve transfer surgery – at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Washington University in St. Louis and Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia – showed some promise in cases of isolated limb disease. One Wash U patient, an 8-year-old boy whose legs were paralyzed in 2016, recently started walking again after the nerve transfer surgery.
Besides keeping good track of cases the rest of this fall, Jackson said, “We will have to stay tuned to see how effective new research is in uncovering the etiology of this disease.”
Dr. Michael Weaver, M.D. ’77, has been recognized by the Black Health Care Coalition of Kansas City for his efforts to narrow the equity gap in health care for African Americans.
At Saint Luke’s Health System, Weaver is vice president for clinical diversity and chairman of the Healthcare Equity Council. At the UMKC School of Medicine, he is a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine, chair of the Minority Faculty Recruitment and Retention Committee and a longtime member of the school’s Diversity Council.
“There’s a mantra among leaders in health care equity and diversity: To have quality, you must have equity,” Weaver said. “That means looking at factors such as mortality, morbidity and readmission rates across patient populations, and striving for consistent outcomes.”
He said it was gratifying that Saint Luke’s for several years has had a Healthcare Equity Council to promote top-quality patient care regardless of demographics such as race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, language or socioeconomic status. The council also addresses issues related to population health, social health determinants, health literacy and LGBTQ issues.
Weaver’s equity work includes a grant he secured from the Healthcare Foundation of Kansas City to provide training at the School of Medicine and Truman Medical Centers and throughout the Saint Luke’s system to recognize unconscious bias.
“I think everyone needs to recognize and speak up about how unconscious bias and the social determinants of health can influence the creation of health care and health disparities,” he said.
The Black Health Care Coalition strives to eliminate health disparities through advocacy, access to care and health promotion activities. Its award to Weaver, a School of Medicine alumnus and faculty member, was one of several recent recognitions for the school regarding diversity and inclusion:
— The national magazine INSIGHT Into Diversity recently announced that it was honoring the school with a 2018 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.
— The School of Medicine, along with the School of Pharmacy and the School of Dentistry, received a five-year, $3.2 million federal grant for efforts to recruit students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds and improve their academic success rates in health care fields.
— The school’s associate dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Nate Thomas, was among the administrators praised in Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal’s first State of the University address for helping bring true excellence to UMKC. Thomas plays a critical role in implementing programs to support students and help them stay in school, overcome obstacles and succeed.
— Three leaders of the UMKC chapter of the Student National Medical Association also have taken national or regional leadership positions in the association, which supports medical students from underserved populations.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
William E. “Wes” Stricker, M.D. ’79, founded and manages Allergy & Asthma Consultants, which has been treating patients in central Missouri for more than 35 years. Additionally, he is the sole shareholder of Ozark Allergy Laboratory and Clinical Research of the Ozarks.
Stricker’s other passion is aviation. He owns Ozark Management, an aviation management company he has used to support academic and athletic departments at Mizzou, charitable missions for Veterans’ Airlift Command and the Special Olympics.
Stricker’s strong allegiance for the U.S. military comes from having served on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Harry S. Truman Commissioning Committee and with the Greenland Expedition Society, an organization dedicated to the discovery and recovery of a flight of WWII fighters lost on the Greenland cap. An active member of the community, Stricker serves on the board of trustees for The Julliard School; as a board member for “The MASTERS,” an emergency relief fund for families of fallen Missouri State Troopers; and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Because of his contribution to health care and serving Missourians, the UMKC Alumni Association will present Stricker with the 2018 School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award.
Stricker recently discussed his career and community service with UMKC:
Where does your passion for medicine come from?
The passion came from watching my father’s caring approach to his patients and observing the respect he earned from an entire community for his efforts. Our parents instilled the desire to succeed academically in all four of their sons, each of whom earned an M.D. including two from UMKC. Mom was valedictorian of her high school class at age 16, earning a college degree from Washington University before the age of 20 at a time when very few women obtained higher educations.
Have you always wanted to be a doctor? What attracted you to UMKC’s six-year med-school program?
I was always torn between becoming a physician, pilot or musician, but determined early in life the best option to remain engaged in all three was to pursue a career in medicine. I played keyboards for the Mizzou studio jazz band while an undergrad along with some gigs as a paid performer in jazz clubs around the city, and also enjoyed part time jobs flying aircraft on weekends during medical school.
I joined the six-year med program at the Year-2 level after spending two years in undergraduate study at Mizzou. The energetic leadership of Dean Richardson Noback and Provost for the Health Sciences, E. Grey Dimond, the hands-on approach with early integration of clinical rotations and the new facilities on Hospital Hill collectively attracted me to the program and away from the traditional—and longer—4 + 4 year programs.
You’ve been treating patients in rural Missouri for more than 35 years. Why are you dedicated to bringing care to rural communities? And why are you an allergist?
I grew up in a rural community (St. James, Missouri), and UMKC’s original mission was to accept students from rural communities in the hope they would return to practice. So I accepted their challenge to return home, as it never made sense to practice in a large city with an allergist on every corner when one could be the only allergist within a hundred miles in every direction.
I suffered from an allergic disease as a child, so becoming an allergist was the best way to “get even” and ease the suffering of my allergic patients. My mentor was T. Reed Maxson, an allergist in rural (at the time) Warrensburg, where I took one of my first clinical electives from UMKC.
Mid-Missouri ranks among the top 10 states in the USA for the highest levels of pollen and mold, exposure which contributes to the development and progression of allergic disease. Farmland, pasture and the “100-acre woods” produce a lot more pollen and mold than the concrete and buildings found in urban areas.