Tag Archives: Alumni

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.”

 

School of Medicine welcomes new class of 22 into AOA honor society

The School of Medicine Alpha Omega Alpha honor society inducted its 2019 class of students, residents, alumni and faculty during a banquet at Diastole on May 2.
Michael Bamshad, M.D., chief of genetic medicine at the University of Washington, presented the annual AOA lecture.

The School of Medicine chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha welcomed 22 new inductees into the medical honor society during a banquet on May 2 at Diastole.

This year’s list of new members includes 17 students, four junior members and 13 senior members, three residents, one alumna and one faculty member from the med school.

Two senior student members, Sara Pourakbar and Vidhan Srivastava, were elected this spring to join the class. Senior members elected to this year’s AOA class last fall include: Ahmed Elbermawy, Julia Esswein, Ella Glaser, Usman Hasnie, Cindy Jiang, Niraj Madhani, Raksha Madhavan, Grant Randall, Grace Rector, Kale Turner and Vivek Vallurupalli.

Junior student members who were elected this Spring are Karen Figenshau, Komal Kumar, Daniel O’Toole and Anthony Oyekan.

Also elected to the AOA this spring were School of Medicine alumna Emily Volk, M.D., a 1993 graduate; faculty member Julie Banderas, Pharm.D., chair of graduate studies; and residents/fellows Omar Abughanimeh, M.D., internal medicine, Mohamed Omer, M.D., cardiovascular medicine, and Katelyn Smelser, M.D., internal medicine.

Selection to AOA membership is considered an honor recognizing one’s dedication to the profession and art of healing. It is based on character and values such as honesty, honorable conduct, morality, virtue, unselfishness, ethical ideals, dedication to serving others and leadership. Membership also recognizes excellence in academic scholarship.

This year’s AOA student officers are Jonah Graves, Imran Nizamuddin, Taylor Carter and Miracle Amayo. Fohn Foxworth, Pharm.D., professor of medicine and associate dean, and David Wooldridge, M.D. ’94, internal medicine residency program director, serve as faculty officers.

Michael Bamshad, M.D., a 1989 graduate of the School of Medicine, was the keynote speaker at this year’s AOA lecture on May 3. Division chief and a professor of genetic medicine at the University of Washington, Bamshad spoke on the genetic basis of Mendelian conditions.

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.

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 schlichtingf@umkc.edu.

School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award Goes to Wes Stricker

Wes Stricker, M.D. ’79, has been selected as the 2018 UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award recipient.

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.

Interim Dean Appointed at School of Medicine

Mary Anne Jackson, MD
Mary Anne Jackson, MD

Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., has been appointed interim dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. Her appointment will begin July 1.

Jackson is a 1978 alum of UMKC’s innovative six-year degree program and has been a faculty member since 1984. She is a professor of pediatrics with a specialization in infectious diseases, holding a clinical appointment with Children’s Mercy, one of the school’s partners in the UMKC Health Sciences District.

Jackson is internationally respected for her impressive record of scholarly achievement. She serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Red Book Committee on Infectious Diseases, a publication that provides guidance on the diagnosis, treatment, manifestations and epidemiology of more than 200 childhood conditions. She is a journal reviewer for American Journal of Infection Control, Journal of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal and JAMA Pediatrics, among many other research publications.

Jackson has won numerous awards for her mentorship including the Children’s Mercy Department of Pediatrics Excellence in Mentoring award in 2015, and Golden Apple Mentoring Awards in 2012 for mentoring fellows and 2013 for residents. In 2012, she received a Take Wing Award, presented annually at the School of Medicine to one 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.

In 2017, Jackson was selected to the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. She also serves on the American Heart Association’s Committee on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young as well as numerous additional national, regional and local committees.

Steven L. Kanter, M.D., who served as dean since 2014, is leaving UMKC this summer for an international leadership opportunity in academic health in Washington, D.C. He will be president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Association of Academic Health Centers and the Association of Academic Health Centers International.

School of Medicine recognizes Class of 2018

Members of the School of Medicine Class of 2018 line up to have their names called during the Commcencement ceremony on May 21 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

In his final commencement address as UMKC School of Medicine Dean, Steven L. Kanter, M.D., applauded the Class of 2018 for its accomplishments and welcomed the graduates to the health care profession on May 21 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The School of Medicine recognized more than 150 graduates with degrees for doctor of medicine, masters in anesthesia, bioinformatics, health professions education, physician assistants, and a graduate certificate in clinical research.

Kanter, who will assume the role of president and chief executive officer of the Association of Academic Health Centers and the Association of Academic Health Centers International (AAHCI) on July 1, reminded the graduates that they are now part of a rich legacy and long-standing tradition of outstanding alumni of the School of Medicine.

One of those alumni, Michael Hinni, M.D. ’88, spoke to the class as the 2018 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award winner. A renowned surgeon and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery at the May Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, recounted his time at the School of Medicine how it prepared him for his current role in medicine. Specifically, to the more than 110 new physicians, he encouraged them to trust themselves and their education.

He said he was more prepared than he imagined when began his residency  because of his vast training at the School of Medicine.

“And you will be, too,” Hinni said. “So, a shout out to the School of Medicine and all of your achievements and your careers.”

2018 Student Award Winners

Master of Science Anesthesia

Jennifer Nolan | Student Ambassador Award

Master of Science Bioinformatics

Carrie Kriz | Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics Award for Excellence

Krishna Patel | Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics Award for Excellence

Doctor of Medicine

Gaurav Anand | Missouri State Medical Association Honors Graduate

Danielle Cunningham | Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation; UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Medical Education; Richardson K. Noback, M.D., Founders’ Award for Clinical Excellence; Thomas R. Hamilton, M.D., Award for Excellence in Microbiology; Lee Langley Award

Dorothy Daniel | Merck Manual for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Education; Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation; Bette Hamilton, M.D., Memorial Award for Excellence in Immunology

Sanju Eswaran | Merck Manual for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Education; Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation; Lee Langley Award; Richardson K. Noback, M.D., Founders’ Award for Clinical Excellence

Ravali Gummi | Ratilal S. Shah Medical Scholarship Fund; Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Honor Recipient

Ahsan Hussain | J. Michael de Ungria, M.D. Humanitarian Award

Margaret Kirwin | Thomas R. Hamilton, M.D. Award for Excellence in Pathology

Brooks Kimmis | Missouri State Medical Association Honors Graduate

Peter Lazarz | James F. Stanford, M.D. Patient Advocate Scholarship

Eric Dean Merrill | Friends of UMKC School of Medicine Award for Research

Steven Philips | UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Award Association Outstanding Senior Partner

Omar Qayum | Malhotra Family Scholarship for Academic and Clinical Excellence

Nidhi Reddy | Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation

Alexandra Reinbold | Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation

Salvador Rios | Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Award

David Sanborn | Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Honor Recipient

Meghna Singh | Friends of UMKC Harry S. Jonas, M.D., Award; Laura L. Backus, M.D. Award for Excellence in Pediatrics

Shikhar Tomur | Friends of UMKC School of Medicine Basic Science Award

Sai Vanam | ACP Senior Student Book Award

Christopher Wester | Pat D. Do, M.D., Matching Scholarship in Orthopedics

Danielle Witt | Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation; Malhotra Family Scholarship for Academic and Clinical Excellence

 

Surgical innovator Mike Hinni wins 2018 Take Wing Award

Michael Hinni, M.D. ’88, received the 2018 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award from School of Medicine Dean Steven Kanter, M.D., on May 21.

“For many medical students, usually the specialty picks the person, and not the other way around,” said Michael Hinni, M.D. ’88, the 2018 winner of the E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award.

If that’s the case, surgery made a great choice with Hinni, a pioneer in performing and then teaching innovative head and neck surgery, all while building an academic department.

“I needed to fix things, so surgery attracted me,” Hinni said.

“When I was on an otolaryngology rotation and first walked into an OR and observed a middle ear reconstruction – using a microscope, and all its precision, so cool – I was hooked!”

School of Medicine Dean Steven Kanter, M.D., presented the award to Hinni on May 21 in Theater A as part of the annual Take Wing Award lectureship.

After Hinni graduated from UMKC’s B.A./M.D. program, his internship in general surgery and residency in otorhinolaryngology were at Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota. After that, he was hired at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where he now is a professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery and head of the Department of Otolaryngology.

He also had a year’s fellowship in Germany studying transoral laser microsurgery — surgery that removes head and neck tumors through a patient’s mouth rather than cutting through the neck and jaw. Hinni brought the technique back in 1994 and became one of the first two U.S. surgeons to use it extensively.

“There was great resistance, because head and neck tumors had always been removed by opening people up,” Hinni said. “But I ran with it, and eventually we had a record of success.”

Hinni said the surgery offers great benefits to a patient, cutting hospital stays from 10 days or two weeks to three days, greatly reducing the difficulty of recovery and allowing patients to eat and speak by avoiding a tracheostomy and extensive reconstructive surgery.

“I’m proud to have stuck it out and helped bring a less-invasive way of treating cancer to the public,” Hinni said. “Now there are minimally invasive surgeons in most academic centers throughout the country.”

Along the way has treated some well-known patients, including U.S. Sen. John McCain and Buddy Bell, the former Major League third baseman and Kansas City Royals manager.

“Senator McCain is a great man, and I know Buddy Bell is known and loved by a lot of baseball fans,” Hinni said. “It has been an honor to care for them, and all my patients.”

Hinni also built the otolaryngology program at Mayo in Arizona, which had little research or academic offerings when he first was hired.

“Building a program from scratch has been gratifying — and humbling. You don’t build something like that without great collaboration and motivated partners, but we did it.”

He built the Arizona location’s thyroid surgery practice, and Mayo Rochester residents came for some of their thyroid surgery experience. He also trained residents from the military, first from the U.S. Air Force and then the Army and the Navy.  Eventually that meant he had two residents training year-round.

In 2006 the Department of Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery/Audiology launched an independent otolaryngology residency program with Hinni as its founding director.

“If I retired tomorrow,” Hinni said, “starting that residency is what I would be most proud of.”

Along the way, Hinni helped design the instruments needed to accomplish better, safer surgery; contributed to the published medical literature on such topics as how much tissue needs to be removed to completely clear malignancy from the throat and surrounding areas; and presented the evidence for these medical advances at local, national and international forums.

Hinni also looked forward to returning to UMKC to receive his Take Wing Award, give the annual lecture at its presentation and address the 2018 School of Medicine graduating class.

“I made the best friends of my life,” Hinni said, ticking off names from his Class of ’88. “Jimmy Hartman and Tom McGinn, John McKenzie and Marty Emert. I had the good fortune to be roommates and hallway buddies with them on 1 North at the old 5030 Cherry Street dorm. They’re just wonderful people and caring doctors all at the top of their field.”

He also credited “my great senior support partner,” Cindy Chang, M.D. ’85, “and more great faculty members than I can name.”

“I’ve been very blessed in my career at Mayo,” Hinni said. “But UMKC was my launching pad. The camaraderie and the education were phenomenal.”

School of Medicine unveils new Student Wellness Wing

Niloofar Shahmohammadi, School of Medicine wellness program coordinator, shows off the new Wellness Wing for students.

Note to students entering the UMKC School of Medicine’s new fifth-floor Wellness Wing: Studying is off limits.

Niloofar Shahmohammadi is the school’s wellness program coordinator who brought the Wellness Wing to life. She calls the space a special area where students can step away from the rigors of schoolwork for a short while.

“This is our official wellness place where you can take a break, step away and then get back to what you need to do,” Shahmohammadi said.

The School of Medicine officially opened the space on May 9 with a grand opening event that included food and drawings for door prizes.

A massage chair sits discreetly in one corner of the room. Large bean bags on the floor along one wall allow students to stretch out and relax while soft music fills the area. Tables loaded with puzzles, coloring books and arts and crafts, sports equipment that can be checked out, and a small library of books on wellness are just some of what the area offers as an escape from the rigors of study and work.

Two computers loaded with meditation software are available. Students can also step in for a drink of tea, or to check out a Fitbit to count their steps while they’re active.

The area once housed the school’s curriculum office. Now, Shahmohammadi said, it is intentionally designed not to look or feel like any other room in the building.

“You are in the library studying all day. You are in the clinic and you’re working all day,” she said. “This is a little oasis where you can step away in the middle of your day, maybe during your lunch break, maybe in a break between classes, step in here and get rejuvenated.”

The room will be open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. to provide students a place to get away after class hours. Student members of the wellness council will fill shifts manning a front desk to help those who want to check out equipment or need help with the meditation software.

Shahmohammadi applauded School of Medicine advancement director, Fred Schlichting, for obtaining support and funding from the school’s alumni association to make the area a reality. The two met about a year ago to talk about student wellness needs. That’s when she shared her ideas for a physical space at the medical school where students can escape the stresses of schoolwork.

“He said, ‘I think we can make that work,’” Shahmohammadi said. “Because he works with the alumni, he was able to allocate some alumni association funds for this project. All of a sudden, in one year, it’s here and we’re very excited.”

Vision crucial for improving U.S. health care, AOA lecturer says

Steve Miller, M.D. ’88, delivered this year’s AOA Lecture.

Improving U.S. medical care while holding down costs will require vision and innovation. Short-sighted adjustments that perpetuate longstanding ways of practicing medicine won’t bring about the changes needed.

That was the message delivered May 4 by Steve Miller, M.D. ’83, in the 2018 AOA Lecture at the UMKC School of Medicine. Miller is senior vice president and chief medical officer of Express Scripts, a large pharmacy benefits manager based in St. Louis.

Miller used St. Louis to illustrate the importance of vision — and the peril of lacking it. At the turn of the 20th century, St. Louis was the Gateway to the West and a city on the rise. It had the first U.S. skyscraper, the Wainwright Building, and in 1904 the largest World’s Fair ever. But the city was about to be eclipsed because of its decision backin the mid-1850s against building a railroad bridge over the Mississippi River, betting on river travel remaining more important than the promise of a transcontinental railroad.

St. Louis had violated an important principle, letting existing resources limit its vision. And, Miller said, “When you don’t have the right vision, others are going to do something about it.”

Today, Miller said, U.S. health care has the same problem of limited vision, spending far more than other developed countries but without better outcomes. A system designed by physicians for their own convenience has limited innovation, to the point where examining rooms look much as they did 100 years ago, and physicians see about the same number of patients as they did in the early 1900s.

Against that stagnant productivity, he said, 12,000 minute clinics have sprung up, but not with any evidence of better results or lower costs. There’s evidence that, for example, they overprescribe antibiotics and don’t produce better health care. But they are growing, he said, because their hours and convenience are what people want.

Medicine has improved greatly in other ways, Miller said, often involving his company’s area of expertise, pharmaceuticals. For example, he said, better medicines have virtually eliminated operating on peptic ulcers, once among the most common surgeries, and also have greatly reduced the number of heart bypass surgeries.

Miller said his company, Express Scripts, besides managing pharmacy benefits, is also the third largest pharmacy company in the U.S. Its automated pharmacies, he said, have improved convenience and greatly reduced errors in the dispensing of medicines. And as a large benefits manager, his company works to hold down drug prices by increasing pharmaceutical makers’ bidding for its business.

Working to hold down prices is becoming even more important, he said, because the pharmaceuticals being developed now are mainly specialty drugs, with the promise of effectively treating relatively rare illnesses.

So the possibilities are exciting, he said, but vision will be crucial to finding innovative ways to make breakthroughs affordable and accessible for everyone.