A class of 109 first-year students marched into the UMKC Student Union for the UMKC School of Medicine’s annual InDOCtrination ceremony on Friday, Aug. 16, taking the first step in a six-year journey toward earning their medical degrees.
Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., interim dean of the School of Medicine and a 1978 graduate, shared her experience as new medical student.
“I was excited to start this new journey and just slightly overwhelmed to think this was my first step toward becoming a physician,” she said.
She told the class that the next six years would be some of the most challenging, but also most memorable and most life-changing of their lives.
“Each and every day, you will make a difference in people’s lives,” Jackson said. “Embrace that.”
This year’s incoming class is comprised of 76 women and 33 men from 15 states spread from California to Massachusetts.
Corrine Workman, a second-year student, received the school’s Richard T. Garcia Memorial Award. It is given annually to a second-year student for outstanding leadership skills, compassion toward fellow students, and outstanding academic performance throughout Year 1.
“I remember meeting people that I now consider my closest friends,” Workman said. “I also learned about taking caring of myself and people around me.”
She encouraged members of the new Year 1 class to be patient with themselves when they face challenges and to be a help to others.
Each of the students was then introduced to family and friends with their Year 1 docent units and then listed to a reading of the Oath of Physicians. It is the same oath the class will recite in six year upon graduation.
Excitement filled the air Thursday morning at the Oak Street Hall, and it was easy to see why. It was move-in day for the dozens of members of the UMKC School of Medicine Class of 2025, who all were taking on the challenge of earning a bachelor’s degree and their medical degree in just six years.
The program calls for extraordinary students, and they and their supportive families filled the halls and elevators.
There was Liv Lyon, from Ozark, Missouri, saying, “I love a challenge and always push myself to do what’s hardest.” In high school she did not one but two capstone projects, both involving health care improvements. One helped a hospital’s SICU set up a system to accurately track the weight of each patient every day.
And when med school’s obstacles come along, Lyon just might vault over them — even if they’re 12 feet high. She was the Missouri Class 5A pole vault champion last year, with a winning vault of 11’3″ and a personal best of 12’6″.
“I love sports, track and field especially,” she said. “Pole vaulting is my favorite.”
She credited her parents, too, for encouraging her to do her best and learn as much as possible. Her mother, a schoolteacher who stopped teaching to raise her children, is “the best mom in the world,” Lyon said. And her father, a D.O. who practices emergency medicine and is certified in family practice, made it easy to get and stay interested in pursuing medicine.
UMKC’s six-year program “is just an incredible opportunity,” Lyon said.
Lyon’s roommate, Megan Costello, comes from the St. Louis area and also had plenty of move-in support. Her maternal grandparents were along for the day, as were her banker father and scientist mother.
“I know it will be a challenge, but I really love science,” she said. “The only class that sounded interesting my first year of high school was Principles of Biomedicine. And it was really interesting.”
After that, she said, she took all the science classes she could and thrived in them. A special program her senior year at Holt High School in Wentzville let her work half days at a hospital.
Costello couldn’t remember how she first heard about the UMKC program, but the more she learned, the more she was drawn to what it offered.
“I like that this program will give us clinical experience for six years instead of just two,” she said. “And I like that I’ll be able to finish medical school faster.”
The challenge of becoming a physician, and on a fast track, also attracted classmate Victor Arellano.
“I’ve been interested in this program since I heard about it my sophomore year in high school,” said Arellano, from the lake community of Stockton, Missouri. “I started job shadowing, and that just increased my interest.”
His parents, Luis and Christie Arellano, obviously were proud of how hard their son had worked to excel in school and to get into medical school. But the family is no stranger to hard work, having run Enrique’s Mexican Grill for 15 years.
“We’ve done well for several years,” Luis Arellano said, “and that’s something for a restaurant in a town of only 1,900.”
Like Arellano, his roommate, Ryan Dirksen from Springfield, had been interested in medicine for years, “since I was in grade school,” he said. That’s not surprising because as his father, now retired, was a podiatrist, and his uncle is a pediatrician.
“This is a chance to make a longtime dream a reality,” Dirksen said.
But he didn’t follow in the family footsteps without making sure that was the right path for him. He joined Medical Explorers, a shadowing program that Dirksen explore further.
Another exceptional part of move-in day was being greeted by the school’s interim dean, Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. ’78. She made a point of meeting and connecting with as many students and families as she could — and found a few she already knew.
That was the case with Dirksen’s family. His aunt and pediatrician uncle, Dr. Michael S. Hanks, were along to help with the move-in, and big smiles and hugs were exchanged when they realized who was greeting them.
“I’ve been attending Dr. Jackson’s pediatric lectures for years,” Hanks said.
For the physicians who wear it, the white coat is a recognized symbol that carries respect. It also signifies a growing set of responsibilities for 117 students at the UMKC School of Medicine.
The class of third-year students and two oral surgery students, was reminded of that as their Years 3-6 docents presented each with his or her white coat during the school’s annual White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 10 at the White Recital Hall on the UMKC Volker Campus.
Jill Moormeier, M.D., chair of internal medicine, presided over the ceremony that included a message to students from Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D.
The ceremony marks a transition in their training from an emphasis on classwork to more intensive clinical training. It also serves as an introduction to the students’ new docent units on the UMKC Health Sciences District campus on Hospital Hill and at Saint Luke’s Hospital for their next four years of medical school.
Gabriel Calderon, recipient of the 2018 Garcia Award for outstanding leadership and academic performance, represented the class in reading the Class of 2023 Philosophy of Medicine that is a compilation of their thoughts about the profession of medicine.
The class also recognized Stefanie Ellison, M.D., professor of emergency medicine, as the 2019 Outstanding Year 1 and 2 Docent. Third-year student Daniel Oh, a new member of the Gold 6 docent unit, introduced Ellison as this year’s award recipient.
Ellison served as a docent for first and second-year students in the ambulatory care program from 2002 through 2015 and returned to that role in 2017. She also serves as associate dean for learning initiatives and as co-chair of the UMKC health sciences schools’ interprofessional education program.
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.
A diagnostic process used in routine eye exams could hold a key to early stage detection and long-term monitoring of subclinical and clinical traumatic brain injury.
The Leonard Wood Institute awarded a $383,837 grant to the UMKC School of Medicine to explore the use of microperimetry to detect changes in visual function that are the result of traumatic brain injury. The project’s principal investigator is Peter Koulen, Ph.D., director of basic research at the UMKC School of Medicine’s Vision Research Center in the Department of Ophthalmology.
Microperimetry measures the light sensitivity of the central retina. It is currently used in ophthalmology to identify damage to the retina and vision loss due to eye diseases.
“We’re not looking for treatments for traumatic brain injury. We’re looking for a quantitative method to detect the disease that tells the patient, your disease severity is a 9 out of 10 or a 2 out of 10,” Koulen said. “Being able to quantify the disease will help physicians to better evaluate their patients. And then, when there is a treatment, it will help evaluate the treatment as well.”
Interventions to prevent or stop traumatic brain injuries are most effective early in the disease, but are not possible without reliable and easily repeatable early stage identification and diagnosis.
Current tests to conclusively show subclinical, or non-recognizable, forms of traumatic brain injury and the degree of acute and long-term damage are typically costly and often imprecise without accurate baseline data.
Using the microperimetry technology, Koulen’s research will sample mild to moderately concussed patients, subclinical traumatic brain injury and non-concussed patients to achieve a baseline. That data will then be used to create a defined number of quantitative parameters and produce a specific fingerprint of functional changes in vision that allow the researcher to optimally perform early stage detection, grading and long-term monitoring of subclinical and clinical traumatic brain injury.
Koulen said the UMKC School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and its Vision Research Center are uniquely positioned to conduct research on the new diagnostic technique because their faculty includes nationally recognized experts in the retina and neuro-ophthalmology sub-specialties.
If successful, the technology will ultimately enable diagnosis without invasive or subjective measures and will likely also enable an assessment of the severity and long-term impairment resulting from traumatic brain injury.
“Our technology will address this urgent clinical need,” Koulen said.
Two years ago, Karlin Byrd was a Kansas City high school student exploring her options in the health care professions through the UMKC School of Medicine’s Summer Scholars program. Now, getting ready for her second year of college, Byrd is back for more as part of the inaugural class of the school’s new Summer Scholars program for college students.
“My first time in the program, I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician,” said Byrd, who attended Lincoln Prep High School. “I did the clinical rotations in Summer Scholars and realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
After spending her freshman year at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, where she is now studying to become a pharmacist, Byrd has recently joined other college students from Kansas City in the new STAHR Summer Scholars program.
Much like the high school version of Summer Scholars, it provides experiences in clinical settings, supplemental instruction in the sciences, research opportunities, and reinforced skill development to support student academic progression and retention. This six-week program goes even further. It provides college students insights into the professions of pharmacy and dentistry as well as medicine and more.
“Our objective is to increase the diversity of applicants to each of the schools and of those who are going into each of the health care professions,” said Allan Davis, program coordinator. “We want to open up the options to undergrads so they can explore the programs, find what fits for them and what they’re interested in. We’re providing an experience to prepare students to come into these professional programs.”
Last October, the School of Medicine, in collaboration with the UMKC schools of Pharmacy and Dentistry, received a $3.2-million STAHR Partnership grant to help students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds enter and succeed in health profession degree programs. Part of that grant is supporting the new college Summer Scholars program.
Ten Kansas City residents attending college at UMKC, Johnson County Community College, Kansas State, Rockhurst, Metropolitan Community College, Haskell Indian Nations University, Donnelly College and Hampton University are participating in the STAHR Summer Scholars. Another group of 12 college students from across the country who are nearing completion of their undergraduate degree with plans to enter dental school are participating in a School of Dentistry program that includes a one-and-a-half-week component of Summer Scholars and its own eight-week online program.
Students spent the first week in a series of personal development workshops focused on things from how to write a resume and prepare for professional program entry exams to learning basic research skills.
As the program continues, the students will get an overview of the medicine and pharmacy professions through shadowing experiences at Truman Medical Center and the medical, pharmacy and dental schools, and hands-on experiences and spend time learning medical terminology.
They are also exposed to the School of Medicine’s graduate programs for physician assistants and anesthesiologist assistants.
“These students get an intense look at a day in the life of a health care provider as well as some clinical experiences,” Davis said.
For Byrd, it’s been an eye-opening experience.
“Hampton has a six-year pharmacy program and I discovered I could still see patients but it would be a different experience than being a physician,” she said. “I came back to ask more questions about the health care professions. Now, I’m learning about all the opportunities. I still want to continue in pharmacy, but going through this program is really opening my eyes to all the other professions like physician assistant and the anesthesiologist assistants.”
A few years ago, Kansas City received the federal CHOICE grant to revitalize one of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods. Now, an effort by UMKC School of Medicine researcher Kim Smolderen, Ph.D., will support residents of the Paseo Gateway and surrounding neighborhoods to build on existing efforts to flourish in their communities.
With the backing of a new two-year, $300,000 Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant, Smolderen, is leading a project to raise community awareness of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and the cardiovascular risks associated with it.
More than 8.5 million Americans live with PAD, a narrowing of the peripheral arteries that occurs most commonly in the legs and often causes pain while walking. African Americans particularly are at risk of late diagnosis and related leg amputations in part because of a low awareness of the disease.
The project focuses on the Gateway Plaza area, specifically the Pendleton Heights, Paseo West and Independence Plaza neighborhoods that have some of the lowest life expectancy rates in Kansas City and Jackson County with their widely diverse communities including a growing immigrant population.
“These are the areas where people have to grapple with financial hardship,” said Smolderen, an assistant professor of Biomedical and Health Informatics. “Violence is a factor, poor housing conditions. These are typically overlooked areas that are dealing with a lot of challenges at the same time.”
Previous data from the American Heart Association also shows that knowledge and resources to improve vascular health are not widely accessible in inner-city neighborhoods characterized by these challenges, further predisposing them to PAD complications such as amputations.
The plan is to increase the awareness of PAD by presenting information to the community through a multi-faceted dissemination campaign including seminars and artwork by neighborhood artists promoting vascular health. Symposiums with community members will also serve to determine what issues impacting vascular disease are most concerning to those in their neighborhoods. Project and neighborhood leaders will then work together to create a list of available community resources that address the identified barriers. Common issues include insufficient resources to stop smoking, which is the leading risk factor for the disease, and needed exercise programs and facilities.
“We’re going to work with the community, not telling them what to do, but sharing with them what we have found and then let them tell us how we can help make connections in the community to implement that knowledge and do something with it that serves their needs,” Smolderen said.
The project will begin this summer with a workshop bringing together a steering committee that includes an array of collaborators from UMKC, Saint Luke’s Hospital, the UMKC Health Sciences District, Storytellers, Inc., the Paseo Gateway Initiative, the local American Heart Association, and PAD experts.
Students interested in community outreach activities are also being invited to contact Smolderen about potential research internships regarding the program.
She said the project will work in lockstep with the city as it continues to implement resources from the stimulus grant it received in 2015 to transform the neighborhood.
In addition to creating awareness and promoting cardiovascular health, Smolderen said the program could also become a template for those in other cities and neighborhoods to engage their city stakeholders and public health officials to focus on health problems facing their communities.
“If you enforce things on people, you only create resistance,” she said. “This is really to help people discover their own autonomy, creativity, and to find needed resources in their own community.”
More than 3,500 runners converged on Kansas City’s Crown Center to compete in the 46th annual Hospital Hill Run on June 1. The UMKC Health Sciences District served as one the sponsors for this year’s event that included a half marathon, 10K and 5K races.
UMKC faculty, staff, students and alumni served in volunteer roles including manning the event’s medical tent.
The Hospital Hill Run was started by in 1974 by School of Medicine founder E. Grey Dimond, M.D., as a single 6.8-mile race that drew fewer than 100 runners to the inaugural event. Today, the race weekend usually draws top runners from around the country, plus many local participants, often from fitness groups.
More than 170,000 athletes of all levels from across the world have completed in the event since its inception. The Hospital Hill Run served as host to the first USATF National Championship half marathon in 2002. In 2013, it was recognized by Runner’s World Magazine as the 11th best half marathon in the United States.
Click here to see the 2019 Hospital Hill Run race results.
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.
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
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.”
Physicians carry the responsibility of serving as a patient advocate as well as a care giver, Sam Page, M.D., FASA, told students and faculty at the UMKC School of Medicine during the 2019 Vijay Babu Rayudu Quality Patient Safety Day.
“Being an advocate is part of your duty, it’s an obligation of being a doctor,” said Page, a 1992 med school graduate and former state legislator. “You have to advocate for the patient in front of you. And you’re obligated to advocate for patients at the population level.”
The former Missouri state representative was elected to the St. Louis County Council in 2014. An anesthesiologist at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, he currently serves as St. Louis County Executive.
Page was the keynote speaker for the sixth-annual event. He spoke on professionalism through advocacy for patient safety, encouraging students to become involved in by engaging their elected officials and working with their state and national medical organizations.
“Everyone here who graduates from medical school, you have an obligation to engage your elected officials and communicate with them,” Page said. “If you are really interested in changing the world around you, there are things you can do.”
The day included student and resident/fellow poster presentations and oral presentations on research conducted in quality and patient safety. A series of morning faculty development workshops and discussions looked at topics surrounding transitions of patient care.
“We have seen some projects that have made an impact in the quality of care,” said Betty M. Drees, M.D., dean emerita, one of the Patient Safety Day organizers. “We feel we’re not only preparing physicians for the future, but these projects are making a direct impact during the time the students, residents and fellows are doing them.”
A record number of 47 abstracts were submitted. The top two student and top two resident/fellow abstracts were selected for oral presentations. The remaining submissions were included in poster presentations from which two students and two residents/fellows were selected as winners.
Taylor Carter, a sixth-year medical student, and Colin Phillips, a physician assistant student, were chosen to give oral presentations. Carter presented on “Cultivating culturally aware medical students: An analysis of the effectiveness of a two hour interactive course.” Phillips presented “Failing our youth: Under-documentation of electronic nicotine use in adolescents.”
In the resident/fellow category, Laith Derbas, M.D., was chosen to present “Improving Resident Confidence in ACLS,” and Thomas Odeny, M.D., presented “Improving documentation of meaningful smoking history at Truman Medical Center: a quality improvement project.”
Fourth-year medical student Sahaja Atluri and fifth-year student Chizitam Ibezim were chosen as the student poster presentation winners. Atluri presented the research poster on “Does Intensivist Management of Brain Dead Organ Donors result in Increased Organ Yield?” Ibezim presented a poster focused on “Fracture Liaison Service (FLS) in Safety-Net Hospital.”
Resident/fellow winners of the poster presentations were Robin Imperial, M.D., and Kathryn VanderVelde, M.D. Imperial presented a poster on “Improving interdisciplinary communication on general medicine wards through the use of a two-way HIPAA-compliant text messaging app.” VanderVelde presented “Optimization of Surgical Prophylaxis in Penicillin-Allergic Labeled Patients.”