School of Medicine celebrates graduating class of 2019

More than 130 UMKC School of Medicine celebrated receiving their doctor of medicine and graduate degrees at the 2019 commencement ceremony on May 20 at Kansas City’ Kauffman Center for the Preforming Arts.

This year’s class included 95 doctor of medicine graduates and 41 students who earned their master’s degrees in the anesthesia assistant, bioinformatics, health professions education and physician assistant programs.

Photo Album

Reminded that they have become part of a rich legacy and long-standing tradition of outstanding alumni of the School of Medicine, the graduates heard from two of those alumni.

Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., a 1978 graduate, told the graduates to view what they do in patient care as both an honor and a privilege.

“Be passionate and persistent,” she said. “And work for the greater good of your patients.”

Arif Kamal, M.D., ’05, MBA, MHS, winner of the 2019 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award, encouraged the graduates that more than care providers they will also be clinicians, healers and compassionate.

The quality and outcomes officer for the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina, Kamal gave the graduates one final charge.

“Stop asking people what’s the matter with them,” Kamal said. “And start asking what matters to them.”

2019 Senior Awards

Master of Science in Anesthesia
Kayla Hickey – Student Ambassador Award
Hector Sierra Escobedo – Student Ambassador Award

Master of Science Bioinformatics
Frances Grimstad, M.D. – Dean of Students Honor Recipient Award

Doctor of Medicine
Naman Agrawal – Friends of UMKC School of Medicine Basic Science Award
Joseph Bennett – UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Award Association Outstanding Senior Partner
Deven Bhatia – Richardson K. Noback Founders’ Award for Clinical Excellence; Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Award
Lauren Bulgarelli – Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation
Taylor Carter – Dean of Students Honor Recipient Award
Ahmed Elbermawy – Merck Manual for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Education
Ella Glaser – Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation; Malhotra Family Scholarship for Academic and Clinical Excellence
Jonah Graves – Missouri State Medical Association Honors Graduate
Luke He – Missouri State Medical Association Honors Graduate; Richardson K. Noback Founders’ Award for Clinical Excellence
Cindy Jiang – Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation
Christian Lamb – Merck Manual for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Education
Megan Lilley – James F. Stanford, M.D. Patient Advocate Scholarship
John Logan – Malhotra Family Scholarship for Academic and Clinical Excellence
Haley Mayenkar – Missouri State Medical Association Honors Graduate
Niraj Madhani – Bette Hamilton, M.D. Memorial Award for Excellence in Immunology; Thomas R. Hamilton, M.D. Award for Excellence in Pathology
Raksha Madhavan – Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation
Rebecca Maltsev – J. Michael de Ungria, M.D. Humanitarian Award
Imran Nizamuddin – Lee Langley Award; Thomas R. Hamilton, M.D. Award for Excellence in Microbiology; ACP Senior Student Book Award; Dean of Students Honor Recipient Award
Carlee Oakley – Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation; UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Medical Education; Friends of UMKC School of Medicine Award for Research
Sarah Pourakbar – Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation
Grace Rector – Friends of UMKC Harry S. Jonas, M.D. Award; Laura L. Backus, M.D. Award for Excellence in Pediatrics
Mitchell Solano – Pat. D. Do, M.D., Matching Scholarship in Orthopaedics

Physician quality and outcomes expert Arif Kamal receives 2019 Take Wing Award

Dr. Arif Kamal, a 2005 graduate, received the 2019 UMKC School of Medicine E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award.
Arif Kamal, M.D., ’05

For Arif Kamal, M.D., ’05, physician quality and outcomes officer for the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina, research is as much about solving a problem as it is discovery.

“Sometimes we face a problem and have no idea how to solve it,” said Kamal, winner of the 2019 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award. “We have to discover the solution, and that may require performing foundational basic science research, or conducting a big clinical drug trial. Or we may discover that we have a solution, but it hasn’t been implemented because of cost or other barriers, so we have to innovate and collaborate to make the solution accessible and affordable.”

Kamal received the School of Medicine’s prestigious alumni award on May 20 at the annual Take Wing lectureship and award ceremony. The honor is given to a graduate who has demonstrated excellence in his or her chosen field and exceeded the expectations of peers in the practice of medicine, academic medicine or research.

After giving the noon lecture and accepting the award, he also spoke to faculty, students and their families at the 2019 graduation ceremony at the Kauffman Center.

Kamal describes his approach on conducting health services research as being “agnostic at the outset toward what’s needed to solve any particular problem.”

Kamal’s desire to broaden his skills and the ways he can approach a problem led him to earn a master’s in health science in clinical research in 2015 and a master’s in business administration in 2016. Besides his Cancer Center post at Duke, Kamal is an associate professor of medicine, business administration and population health science.

Kamal distinguished himself in palliative care, developing innovative ways to find out and provide what’s really important to patients at the end of their life. His desire to research and improve palliative care stemmed from his own mother’s battle with breast cancer, when he saw very personally how her care could have been better.

He started Duke’s outpatient palliative care program for cancer patients seven years ago, and the Cancer Center’s “total pain approach” has helped develop and administer therapies for long-term relief of distress that affects patients with a serious illness. The focus is on identifying and addressing physical and emotional drivers of distress well before the end of life, when people historically have thought of palliative care.

Now, Kamal’s team is working on smartphone apps to engage patients with serious illnesses and their caregivers in their own care, day to day. One such app would monitor opioid use.

“We fundamentally believe that patients don’t want to be addicted, that they want to responsibly use opioids and that clinicians want to responsibly prescribe them,” Kamal said. “But there’s not actually a way, for example, to monitor what people are doing at home. So, we’re creating an app to record how and what they’re using and how that corresponds with pain scores, to make sure they’re getting the right amount, and not too much or too little.”

And to put that app into people’s hands takes a team.

“We’re working with some commercial payers and several parts of the university, from data science to graphics and programming, to our addiction and pain management experts, to palliative care and patients and caregivers, to identify what the right characteristics for the app will be.”

Kamal, originally from Warrensburg, Missouri, said his appreciation for teamwork was fostered by the UMKC School of Medicine’s docent system and frequent clinical exposure to the many types of medical practice.

“And I got my start in research there,” he said. “My first published paper was with Dr. Agostino Molteni,” in Nutrition Research in 2004.

Kamal and his wife, Jennifer Maguire, M.D. ’07, have two small children, and Kamal said they enjoy returning to the Kansas City area frequently. That included a return to receive the Take Wing Award.

While the award recognizes career excellence, individual achievement and public service, in Kamal’s case, it also honors a vision for future innovations to reduce suffering and bring healing.

“I think what we’re fundamentally seeing is a reimagination of what it means to be a researcher in medicine,” he said. “Certainly that’s the path I’ve taken.”

 

Former School of Medicine resident recognizes TMC mentor on Missouri House floor

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.

 

Revered UMKC professor, clinician honored by family

A recent contribution to the UMKC Foundation from the family of former School of Medicine faculty member Larry Pibenga, M.D., will support a research study on corneal calcification, led by Peter Koulen, Ph.D., endowed chair and co-director of vision research.

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. Pibenga

“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.”

School of Medicine attracted sisters in Legacy Award winning family

Lange
Hembree

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.

Night

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.

Patel lands speaking spot, promotes social media mentoring at radiology convention

Amy Patel, M.D. ’11, addressed the radiologists’ convention in Chicago.

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.

 

Dean Jackson helps address reappearance of polio-like disease

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, Mary Anne
Mary Anne Jackson, M.D.

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.”

Michael Weaver’s health equity efforts, school’s diversity achievements recognized

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.

Dr. Michael Weaver

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.