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 explored 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.