Situated prominently on the corner of 21st and Charlotte is UMKC School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Research Center, a bustling center of excellence within the new UMKC Health Sciences District. Yet, even with the cutting-edge research and advanced academics taking place under its roof, many are unaware of the critical position it plays in improving the treatment of eye disease for people in our community and beyond.
Nelson Sabates, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and co-director of the Vision Research Center, is working to heighten the facility’s recognition and its continued efforts to offer the most advanced academic environment for teaching the next generation of ophthalmologists.
Two recent gifts from donors, one from the estate of Mary Adams and the other from an anonymous contributor, are helping to make this goal possible by supporting basic science research being conducted by UMKC faculty members, Peter Koulen, Ph.D., and Karl Kador, Ph.D.
“These gifts will have a significant impact on our ability to provide newer and longer lasting treatments for patients diagnosed with glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy,” Sabates. “We are grateful to have been chosen by these donors as the recipients of their generous contributions to our mission of ensuring patients receive the most advanced medical treatments available.”
Both researchers are working to develop new therapy approaches urgently needed by physicians worldwide to better diagnose, prevent, and treat eye disease and vision disorders.
Koulen, the Felix and Carmen Sabates Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research and Director of Basic Research at the Vision Research Center, focuses on therapy development for chronic diseases of the eye and brain. Kador’s research focuses on creating three-dimensional models of the retina that can be used to understand how retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) integrate and form synapses (the point at which a nervous impulse passes from one neuron to another) with their binding partners within the retina. He and his lab are working to develop a functional cell source and transplantation method to treat optic neuropathies such as glaucoma and optic nerve stroke.
“Having an endowed chair in vision research has been instrumental in our ability to conduct research at UMKC and, in order to continue moving forward, we need to raise additional funds for a second endowed chair,” Sabates said.
Sabates will join the UMKC Foundation Board of Directors in July and is resolute in seeing a new health sciences building become a reality.
“I, along with many others, am a true advocate for advancing UMKC’s combined health sciences with a modern, functional space where faculty and students can have access to the latest technologies,” he said. “I am excited to be a voice for the health sciences arena at UMKC.”
Built on a 50-year history, UMKC’s Department of Ophthalmology and the Vision Research Center look to opportunities for future growth in research, education, prevention, treatment and outreach.
July at the UMKC School of Medicine is a time for high school students to immerse themselves in the school’s annual Summer Scholars Program. The activity has been providing opportunities for minority and disadvantaged students in the Kansas City metropolitan area to get a head start on a potential career in health care for 37 years.
This summer’s class is the largest ever with 78 students signed up to take part, nearly 30 more students than a year ago.
Darius Jackson serves as coordinator of the School of Medicine’s diversity programs, including Summer Scholars. He said the growth is partly by design and partly out of necessity to meet a growing need.
“I was a little ambitious,” Jackson said. “We had around 300 applications for Summer Scholars this year. We kept seeing the number of applications increase and decided, let’s find a way to increase our numbers instead of turning away more students.”
The solution was to expand the program by adding a third two-week session and allowing in more first-time participants.
Previously, all students in the program for the first time were in the Summer Scholars group, and those returning for a second year were in the Advanced Summer Scholars program. This year, one class of first-year scholars was made up of high school juniors and the other consisted of high school seniors. Students returning for a second year of the program still participate in the Advanced Summer Scholars program.
Prior to starting the program, students and parents from all three groups participated in an orientation session. The full two-week session for juniors begans Monday, July 10, with seniors starting a week later and the Advanced Summer Scholars beginning the week after that.
Each year, Summer Scholars receive daily instruction in academic areas such as chemistry and language arts, and study anatomy and physiology in the school’s cadaver lab. Classroom experiences range from medical terminology and understanding health disparities to ACT and standardized test taking. Summer Scholars also experience different medical services such as emergency and outpatient medicine, rehabilitation, and nursing, as well as surgery.
The advanced program includes a research component and additional experiences in various clinical rotations.
Summer Scholars prepares students for a career in health care by helping them build a foundation for success in multiple areas including interview skills, study and test-taking strategies, and interpersonal and communication skills.
Two prominent figures from the UMKC School of Medicine were introduced into the new Hospital Hill Run Hall of Fame on June 1 during a VIP reception just prior to race weekend.
The inaugural class of inductees includes the two founding fathers of the Hospital Hill Run, UMKC School of Medicine founder E. Grey Dimond, M.D., and retired faculty member Ralph Hall, M.D. Mark Curp, a local two-time Hospital Hill Run winner who held U.S. and world records in the half marathon from 1985 to 1990, was also part of the inaugural Hall of Fame class.
During the past 44 years, the race has grown from a single, 6.8-mile race with fewer than 100 runners to an annual event that boasts thousands of athletes competing in three different distances. Annually, it includes the UMKC School of Medicine 5K on Friday night, followed by a 10K and a half marathon on Saturday morning. Runner’s World magazine has touted the Hospital Hill Run as one of the top 25 road races in the United States.
The 2017 races were held June 2 and 3 with each beginning and ending on Grand Boulevard directly in front of Crown Center.
Jordann Dhuse, a fourth-year student at the UMKC School of Medicine, won the women’s division of the School of Medicine 5K event in 23-minutes, 11-seconds, more than 40 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher in the women’s race.
Dimond (1918-2013) was a devoted physician who dedicated his life to the practice of medicine, medical education and physical fitness. He scheduled a symposium of physical fitness to be held in May 1974 with the intent to combine the symposium with a running event. Dimond approached Hall, a UMKC faculty member and an endrocrinologist at Saint Luke’s Hospital, with the idea and together they created the Hospital Hill Run. For many years, Dimond experienced a great surge of happiness standing on the southwest corner of 25th and Holmes, cheering on thousands of runners as they competed in the event.
Hall was a runner in high school and college but had never managed a running event. He used his running network to secure a race organizer. For the first few years, Hall managed the medical tent to ensure that all runners would receive proper care if needed. In addition, he worked with various physicians to incorporate medical education courses before moving from Kansas City.
With a collaboration unlike any other in the nation, many of Kansas City’s leading health-care institutions announced today that they have agreed to align more closely to form the UMKC Health Sciences District. The newly created district combines the unique expertise and services of 10 partners to spur research and community outreach in service of the Kansas City region and beyond.
The UMKC Health Sciences District is unlike any other in the nation. It is one of 18 areas in the country that have public schools of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and nursing in one location along with a children’s hospital and an adult, acute-care hospital. But by including a health department, the medical examiner and a mental health center that bring together agencies of the city, county and state, the UMKC Health Sciences District is one of a kind.
Drawing on these institutions’ efforts, the UMKC Health Sciences District has the potential to enhance collaboration on research and grant requests; combine efforts on community outreach; improve faculty recruitment; coordinate area parking, safety and transportation; and create shared opportunities in health and wellness for more than 16,000 health professionals, faculty members and students.
“We have all worked together already for a long time, and worked very well together, but today we are opening a new chapter,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “Today, we will sign an agreement designed to stimulate economic growth and job creation, attract new talent to Kansas City, create shared opportunities in health and wellness, and improve opportunities for recruiting and neighborhood outreach.”
“Better functioning health-care teams provide better patient care. Interprofessional education means educating future physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and other health-care professionals to work effectively as members of those teams so that patients get the best and safest care possible,” said Steven L. Kanter, M.D., Dean of the UMKC School of Medicine. Kanter will serve as the first executive director of a newly-formed Health Sciences District Board.
“The UMKC Health Sciences District is the perfect environment for students, scientists and health-care professionals to work and learn together as they deliver top-quality, personalized health care,” Kanter said.
“This District is a collaboration among dedicated organizations determined to improve the health and wellness of people in Kansas City—and across the United States,” said Charlie Shields, President and Chief Executive Officer of Truman Medical Centers and University Health. “We believe that as the UMKC Health Sciences District, we will be able to stimulate collaboration in research, advance interprofessional education and foster communication. Those are the steps necessary to developing the kind of innovations that will shape the health care of the future.”
“Children’s Mercy is proud to be a part of this one-of-a-kind District, celebrating the collective spirit of innovation, research and discovery that drives our collaborative quest for answers, new treatments and cures,” said Randall L. O’Donnell, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Mercy. “And while today’s announcement focuses on the organizations within the boundaries of this District, the resulting impact of our work together will benefit every corner of our city and touch families throughout the region and the nation.”
The UMKC Health Sciences District will be governed by a board composed of approximately 20 members, including two from each institution. The board will also appoint a chair for a two-year period beginning July 1, 2018. The chair will rotate among the following participants in the following order: UMKC, TMC and CMH. The first chair, who will serve a two-year term, will be the UMKC Chancellor. The executive director of the District will serve a three-year term.
The District is about two miles in circumference and will be bound on the north by 20th Street; south by 25th Street; west by Oak Street; and east by U.S. 71 South.
The UMKC School of Medicine is the 5K sponsor of the 2017 Hospital Hill Run – one of the most storied races in Missouri history. Originally created by SOM Founder Grey E. Dimond, the race attracts thousands to participate or volunteer in the family friendly UMKC School of Medicine 5K, as well as the 5K rerun, 10K or half marathon.
As the named sponsor of the UMKC School of Medicine 5K on Friday, June 2, at 7 p.m. – where strollers are welcome and families of all sizes are encouraged to take part – all UMKC staff, faculty, students and alumni may register at a discounted rate.
Participating UMKC staff and faculty also may earn points toward their wellness incentive programs by racing or volunteering. When registering for the Friday night or Saturday morning race events, use the code DISCUMKC for 20 percent savings.
In addition to improving your health and wellness, your participation in the Hospital Hill Run supports many local charities.
There are many ways to get involved in this year’s Hospital Hill Run. Volunteers are needed for all events: to help unwrap medals; pack post-race food packets; sort, stack, and pass out t-shirts; distribute bibs; set up and staff aid stations; cheer and steer participants on course; award medals; give wet towels, food, and hydration at the finish line; and race clean up.
Each Sunday since October 2004, students from the UMKC School of Medicine have volunteered the afternoon to care for the homeless and underprivileged living in the downtown area of Kansas City.
Today, the Sojourner Health Clinic continues to provide free health care for some of the city’s most vulnerable patients. Those volunteers have grown to include students from UMKC’s pharmacy, physician assistant, dental and dental hygiene programs. In the past year, students from Rockhurst College’s occupational therapy program have joined the effort.
Executive director of Sojourner, Peter Lazarz, said volunteers devoted more than 1,500 hours of service to treating patients in the past year.
The event also brings together faculty volunteers, financial supporters and community partners in celebration of the services provided to about 250 patients throughout the school year.
Several students were recognized for their individual dedication and service in the past year.
2017 Sojourner Clinic Awards
Top Year 1 Volunteer: Shruti Kumar
Top Year 2 Volunteer: Michele Yang
Top Year 3 Volunteer: Tong Cheng
Top Year 4 Volunteer: Bhavana Jasti
Top Year 5 Volunteer: Margaret Kirwin
Top Year 6 Volunteer: Eri Joyo
Top Physician Assistant Volunteer: Daniel Beck
Brook Nelson Award for Leadership: Priyesha Bijlani
On March 11, School of Medicine members of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association took part in a free health fair for foreign refugees. The event was open to the public and was the first health fair conducted by the UMKC students directed toward refugees.
More than 40 students assisted the Jewish Vocation Service with the program. It offered free blood glucose screenings, blood pressure checks, cholesterol/lipid panels and translator services.
“The majority of the people who came were in the refugee community programs with the JVS,” explained Sarthak Garg, a member of APAMSA.
The health fair drew more than 100 people from the community, Garg said.
UMKC School of Medicine members of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association reached out to underserved populations of the community with two free health fairs.
Students conducted glucose and blood pressure screenings, and cholesterol and lipid profiles at an Oct. 15 health fair for the local Vietnamese community at the KIPP Endeavor Academy Charter School. The second health fair was Oct. 29 for the Indian community at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center.
Nearly 30 medical student volunteers as well as UMKC pharmacy students and local physicians participated at each event, said APAMSA member Sarthak Garg.
“The majority of the people that show up are elderly and don’t go to the doctor as often,” Garg said. “This is, for a lot of people, the main time that they’re getting those screenings.”
Students and volunteers from the local Vietnamese and Indian communities also served as translators between the patients and those conducting the screenings.
The student volunteers were largely made up of first and second-year medical students. Second and third-year students are generally paired with a first-year student to act as a mentor during the screening sessions.
“This lets them see what’s going on and gives them some hands-on activity without them struggling,” Garg said. “They have someone to guide them.”
APAMSA is one of the largest student groups at the School of Medicine with more than 100 members. Three student coordinators work together as organizers for each event along with the organization’s 16-member board of directors.
The APAMSA health fairs have become annual events. Garg said the younger students participating get experience working with patients before they start their clinic and docent rotations.
“It’s not hard,” he said. “It’s something that gives them the understanding that everything is not just about school stuff, it’s also about getting out there in the community. And it starts building that confidence.”
For one month each summer, minority and disadvantaged students from Kansas City area high schools immerse themselves in activities at the UMKC School of Medicine to improve their chances of success as a college student and jump-start a potential career in health care.
The School of Medicine recognized the 2016 class of 49 Summer Scholars during its annual awards dinner and program at Pierson Auditorium.
Participants in the program that takes place each July receive daily instruction in academic areas such as chemistry, and language arts and study anatomy and physiology in the school’s cadaver lab. Classroom experiences range from medical terminology and understanding health disparities to ACT and standardized test taking. Summer Scholars also experience different medical services such as emergency and outpatient medicine, rehabilitation and nursing services as well as surgery.
Darius Jackson, coordinator of diversity programs and recruitment said this year’s program also utilized some of medical school’s student interest groups to lead some of the teaching sessions. For example, the Family Medicine Interest Group, the school’s surgical society and members of the Student National Medical Association led workshops in areas such as casting and suturing.
Summer Scholars is for students entering their junior or senior year of high school. Those students who participate prior to their junior year and return for a second year of the program take part in the Advanced Summer Scholars.
This year’s advanced program included a research component led by Michael Wacker, Ph.D., associate dean for student medical research, and fifth-year medical student Jazmine Smith. Those students studied their DNA, prepared reports and discussed their findings during presentations to their families and classmates at the awards dinner.
This was the 36th year of the program with students from 48 different high schools participating. Many Summer Scholars continue their education in a healthcare field and school officials say that recently, nearly 5 percent of those who complete the Summer Scholars program have been selected for entrance to the UMKC School of Medicine.