Tag Archives: Faculty

Alumni join SOM faculty as newest docents

Monica Katamura, M.D.

It had been four years since Monica Lau Katamura, M.D., ’13, last stepped inside the UMKC School of Medicine. So when the school’s newest docent returned in August, she wasted little time in heading to the fourth-floor Gold 1 docent unit.

“One of the first things I did was go back to my old office and take a walk down memory lane,” Katamura said. “It was surreal coming back to the place that had trained me.”

Katamura completed her residency in medicine pediatrics at Tulane University in New Orleans last spring. Now, as the School of Medicine’s Blue 8 docent, she has a new office located on the fifth floor.

As a docent, Katamura said she fees a responsibility to take what she learned as a resident, combined with her time as a student at UMKC, to help the next generation of physicians.

“I want to come back and apply some of what I learned to assess the needs among my individual group of students and make a framework of how to best mentor them, guide them and nurture them through their years three through six,” she said.

Katamura served as chief resident during her final year at Tulane, where she gained administrative experience that she hopes to incorporate into her new role as a docent. She was active in numerous volunteer activities throughout her residency, serving both locally and abroad. She collaborated with pediatrics residency staff and co-residents on the clinical learning environment committee to improve clinical and academic learning environments and provided resident leadership as chair of the medicine-pediatrics ambulatory committee.

Ultimately, Katamura said, she returned to the School of Medicine largely because of the docent program and to be a part of the mentorship that docents provide students.

“Somebody told me that alumni are the most enthusiastic docents,” Katamura said. “I am very enthusiastic about coming back.”

She isn’t alone. Two more recent additions to the School of Medicine’s docent teams are alumni.

Richard Harlow, M.D.

Richard Harlow, M.D., ’82, began his role as Green 1 docent this past November.

He was a founder and one of the original owners of HIMS, one of the first and largest hospitalist groups in the Kansas City metro area. After 20 years as a hospitalist, he was ready to return to his roots.

“I have always had medical students with me during my entire time in private practice and have always loved to teach,” Harlow said. “I really feel that the UMKC School of Medicine does a singularly excellent job of preparing students to be doctors on day one and I had always wanted to return one day to give back to what I so enjoyed. I really love working with the students and residents.”

After completing an internal medicine residency at the UMKC School of Medicine and Truman Medical Centers, Harlow entered private practice in Belton, Missouri. He also served as president of the medical staff at Research Belton Hospital and as chairman of the Department of Medicine at St. Joseph Hospital.

David John, M.D.

David John, M.D., ’77, returned to Kansas City last spring and joined the School of Medicine faculty as docent for Katamura’s old student unit, Gold 1. A board-certified rheumatologist for more than 30 years, John previously practiced at Queen’s Medical Center and at  Spark Matsunaga V.A. Medical Center in Honolulu.

He said when the growing demands of electronic medical records began encroaching on his teaching time, he decided to step down from his hospital work and eventually decided to leave his private practice.

“Leaving was the hardest decision I believe I’ve ever made,” John said.

In January, John stepped down as Chair of  Pu’ulu Lapa’au, the Hawaii’s Physican’s Health Committee, to return to UMKC.

“It’s been a very good decision,” he said.

While in Hawaii, John served as chair of the Life Foundation, an organization that continues the fight against HIV/AIDS, and participated as a board member of Friends of Youth Outreach, attacking the problem of child homelessness.

He completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine and his rheumatology fellowship at the University of Michigan. He joined the teaching faculty at the University of Hawaii in the department of medicine in 1984. There, he served on many committees and received the school’s Excellence in Teaching Award.



Dr. Gardner appointed Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education

Dr. Sara Gardner

School of Medicine Dean Steven Kanter, M.D., announced that Sara Gardner, M.D., associate professor and director of the Internal Medicine-Pediatrics residency program, has been appointed assistant dean for Graduate Medical Education.

Dr. Gardner will work directly with the associate dean for Graduate Medical Education in interacting with the school’s Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and non-ACGME programs, residents and fellows. She will be responsible for quality improvement of graduate programs and providing faculty development opportunities to enhance the educational experience for residents and fellows.

She brings important qualifications to this new role, with leadership experience in Graduate Medical Education, teaching and mentoring. Dr. Gardner has experience in the ACGME review process, having served as residency program director since 2009, and as associate program director in 2007 and 2008. She also serves as a member of the Graduate Medical Education Committee.

She has chaired the School of Medicine’s Council on Evaluation, served as a Years’ 1 and 2 Docent, and has been a member of many School of Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics residency committees.

A 2002 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine, Dr. Gardner completed her residency and served as chief resident in internal medicine and pediatrics at UMKC.

Please join Dean Kanter in congratulating Dr. Gardner and welcoming her to this important new role at the School of Medicine.

School of Medicine celebrates faculty achievements, honors

Julie Strickland, M.D., second from left, received the UMKC School of Medicine’s Betty M. Drees, M.D., Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring award. She is pictured with School of Medicine Dean Steven Kanter, Betty M. Drees, M.D., former dean, and Rebecca Pauly, M.D., associate dean of faculty development.

The School of Medicine recognized members of its faculty who have recently received promotions and tenure and presented awards for faculty achievements at its annual reception on Sept. 7.

This year’s promotions included 59 faculty members, 16 of those promoted to the rank of professor and 43 promoted to the rank of associate professor.

School of Medicine Dean Steven Kanter, M.D., said that serving as a faculty member  is a special privilege because it provides a remarkable opportunity to shape the future of health care through teaching and discovery. He said faculty are responsible for making the school a model of medical education.

“It’s the caring, thoughtful and individualized approach that you use to mentor and advise learners here throughout the docent system and outside the docent systems,” Kanter said. “It’s the cutting-edge research by outstanding investigators among our faculty. It’s the way you take care of patients, the way you model that for students, and the way you embody professionalism.”

Special Recognitions

Dr. Betty M. Drees Excellence in Mentoring Awards

Julie Strickland, M.D., was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award given to a faculty member with the rank of professor. Her nomination letters for the award described her as an example of leadership, confidence and collegiality, and an outstanding role model for all women physicians for how to balance one’s personal and professional success. She is an expert in pediatric and adolescent gynecology and is instrumental in a fellowship program that has graduated many fellows. At the same time, she has also served as a mentor for residents, medical students and young faculty members.

Brenda Rogers, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, received the Excellence in Mentoring Award given to a faculty member with the rank of associate or assistant professor. For the past three years, Rogers, a 1990 graduate of the School of Medicine, has also received Children’s Mercy Hospital the Golden Apple Award that recognizes a faculty member identified by pediatrics residents as a mentor. Through her many different roles working with students, staff, residents and faculty colleagues, Rogers’ style of mentoring is frequently more informal and often based on establishing relationships.

Louise E. Arnold Excellence in Medical Education and Research

Stefanie Ellison, M.D., associate dean for learning initiatives, received the award presented for significant contributions to the School of Medicine in the area of medical education research. Ellison has been a key figure of support for two subcommittees in preparation for the school’s 2018 LCME accreditation visit. She served as associate dean for curriculum from 2010-2017 and was instrumental in bringing the school’s general competency objectives up to date and into alignment with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s established competencies. She also plays an integral role as one of the primary organizers for the UMKC health sciences schools’ interprofessional education program.

Excellence in Diversity and Health Equity in Medicine awards

  Brianna Woods-Jaeger, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics and a child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital, received the individual award for effective and sustained contributions to promoting diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, or health equity. She is heavily involved in Operation Breakthrough, a non-profit organization that provides a safe, loving and educational environment for children growing up in poverty. She has studied the effects of trauma passed from one generation to the next and its heavy burden on the health and well being of disadvantaged communities, particularly in the African-American community. Seeing patients from 7-years-old to adulthood, Woods-Jaeger is described as treating each client as a unique individual, worthy of her close care and attention and a model of patience, respect and cultural humility in every patient interaction.

Gender Pathways Service and its medical director, Jill Jacobsen, M.D., received the diversity award for an organization. The service, based in the Children’s Mercy Hospital Division of Endocrinology, provides interdisciplinary and family-centered services for transgender, gender-variant, and gender-questioning patients. It is the only center of its kind in the Midwest, and one of only a few in the entire country. Specialists in endocrinology, psychology, adolescent medicine and social work are all part of the clinic. Psychological evaluation is provided to continuously meet the mental health needs of the patient and the family. Jacobsen and her team are active in community education, advocating at patient’s schools, churches and with families.

SOM professor explores history of locally-owned mummies

Randall Thompson, M.D., professor of medicine and cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, used a hospital CT scan to look at the history of a pair of locally-owned mummies.

The mummies are part of an exhibit that is on display at Kansas City’s Union Station.

Thompson said the remains appeared to be of someone who lived between 500 and 1,500 years ago in the highlands area of Peru.

The story was featured recently on Kansas City television station KCTV.

Brain tumor research follows unusual path

Tom Curran, Ph.D.

A promising therapy to combat brain tumors in children has emerged from a confluence of bold research, scientific insight and luck, a Children’s Mercy research director said Aug. 30 in the latest installment in the UMKC Health Sciences Deans’ Seminar Series.

The research aims to block a pathway that mutant cells often take when forming tumors near the brain stem. The work’s progress and hurdles were detailed by Tom Curran, Ph.D., who is the executive director and chief scientific officer of the Children’s Research Institute and a professor of pediatrics at the UMKC School of Medicine.

His presentation was titled “How mice, sheep, corn lilies and a beer helped children with brain tumors: Targeting the hedgehog pathway in medulloblastoma.”

When he started the hedgehog inhibitor work, Curran already had contributed extensively to the understanding of tumor formation – and knew plenty about mice. He discovered the Fos-Jun tumor-generating complex, and had identified reelin, the gene responsible for reeler, the mutation that makes mice lose muscle control.

Curran wanted to extend his mutation research to the tumors that form during brain development, “so we made the decision that we would take a take a precision medicine approach to medulloblastoma, even though we knew nothing about it at the time.”

He said his team came up with “a very naive concept” for proceeding: to identify molecules involved in tumor formation and then develop inhibitors for them, confirming both the mutations and their inhibition in mouse studies. After cause and prevention were demonstrated in mice, clinical drug trials in humans would follow.

The plan, however naive, has generated significant research success.

“That’s what translational research is about,” he said. “You have to develop a simple model … with milestones that let you know you’re making progress toward the goals.

“The other factor that is really important to this kind of science is luck. You need to be in the right place at the right time.”

The project’s first indication of good timing came quickly.

“Three weeks after we decided we were going to target medulloblastoma, the very first paper came out linking the sonic hedgehog pathway and … these tumors.” (A family of mutant genes with a spiky appearance is called hedgehog genes, and one of those was named after the Sonic Hedgehog computer game a Harvard researcher’s son was fond of.)

Sheep and corn lilies entered the picture when Curran was looking for a hedgehog-path inhibitor to work with and recalled a story about sheep giving birth to one-eyed lambs. What might have been a genetic defect was determined instead to be caused by a chemical in the corn lilies the ewes had eaten. The chemical, named cyclopamine, was found to block the sonic hedgehog path, the effect Curran was looking for. But it also was toxic and eventually seemed unlikely to lead to a suitable drug for humans.

Fortune intervened again when Curran was having a beer with a colleague after a conference in Taos, N.M. The friend was an expert on the sonic hedgehog pathway and referred Curran to another researcher whose team was doing similar work but running out of money for testing. Curran got in touch with the other team and was able to do the testing, which produced good results.

The project also has had its share of challenges to overcome, including recurrence of tumors after initial success in a human trial. That often happens in cancer treatment, Curran said, as drug resistance develops. But a biopsy from that case has provided further information, and trials continue.

Besides his positions at the Children’s Research Institute and UMKC, Curran is the Donald J. Hall Eminent Scholar in Pediatric Research and a professor of cancer biology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Before coming to Kansas City, he led the Translational Brain Tumor Program for a decade at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; was deputy scientific director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute for another decade; and set up the multi-institution Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium.

Curran earned his doctorate for studies at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories in London. His work has been published in nearly 300 papers and cited more than 50,000 times.




Biomedical research now a primary discipline of UMKC’s I-Ph.D. program

Jeremy Provance is one of four students in UMKC’s Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program with a primary emphasis on bioinformatics through the School of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics.

Four graduate students in UMKC’s Interdisciplinary Ph.D. (I-Ph.D.) program have begun working toward their doctorate degree with a primary emphasis on bioinformatics through the School of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics.

The four started their coursework this semester, becoming the first students to pursue a Ph.D. through the School of Medicine.

The I-Ph.D. program allows students to work across disciplines to develop an individualized academic plan requiring a primary discipline and at least one co-discipline. In collaboration with the university’s School of Graduate Studies, the medical school has offered bioinformatics as a co-discipline since the fall semester of 2014. Bioinformatics has two co-discipline students who are on track to complete their degrees next May; one with a primary discipline in molecular biology and biochemistry, and the other with a primary discipline in engineering.

The School of Medicine also offers a master’s degree in bioinformatics and a graduate certificate in clinical research through the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics.

“I feel like our co-discipline program has been successful because we have had students from so many different primary disciplines,” said Mary Gerkovich, Ph.D., associate professor and coordinator for the I-Ph.D. discipline.

Through the bioinformatics emphasis, the students primarily focus on biomedical data and knowledge, with an emphasis on how to use that information in problem solving and decision making to develop the technology and processes that will shape future health care.

Gerkovich said the program helps students think about biomedical research in the context of interacting with people.

“We’re very excited with our initial group,” Gerkovich said. “We think they’re really strong students and it’s perfect that they all have different co-disciplines because it points out the intersection between what we’re doing and so many different units within the university.”

The students with primary disciplines in bioinformatics are studying co-disciplines in mathematics and statistics, cellular biology and biophysics, entrepreneurship, and computer sciences.

“In our little cohort of four students, we have a diverse mix of what they’ll be doing and the kind of research they’ll be working on,” Gerkovich said.

Jeremy Provance is a software analyst in the School of Medicine’s Center for Health Insights. He completed his master’s degree in bioinformatics last May and decided to continue in the I-Ph.D. program. He will be working largely in cardiovascular outcomes research with the Mid America Heart Institute at Saint Luke’s Hospital.

Provance said a number of factors made the program appealing. The quality of faculty and the research at UMKC were the major factors, as well as the interdisciplinary aspect of the program.

“It ensures that I’m going to interact with related but separate disciplines to really dig deep and draw connections between bioinformatics and, in my case, entrepreneurship and innovation,” Provance said. “Being at the medical school means I have access to a lot of health science faculty in addition to everyone on the Volker campus. Biomedical and health informatics itself is largely interdisciplinary, so it’s a big plus to know faculty with a lot of varying expertise, even outside the department.”

David Walsh, another I-Ph.D. student, worked at the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Kansas State University for three years before moving to Kansas City about a year ago and discovering the program at UMKC. With a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology, Walsh began learning more about the relationship between genomics and bioinformatics. Now, he hopes to incorporate his interest in computer programming with finding process improvements for tracking samples and controls, and checking results.

“Using the tools of informatics, it’s possible to develop the targeted treatments that we need, and I want to be involved in helping our species overcome disease,” said Walsh.

Gerkovich said the I-Ph.D. program benefits both the university and the community. While it helps provide graduate students to support faculty research endeavors throughout UMKC and the School of Medicine, it is also developing a community resource.

“Our department has really put an emphasis on trying to develop collaborations with area institutions,” Gerkovich said. “One of our goals is to do exactly that, develop collaborations with corporations such as Cerner and our affiliate hospitals so that we have students working with people in those organizations. We’re training students to have the skills to contribute to those types of environments.”

UMKC School of Medicine featured in July/August issue of Missouri Medicine

The UMKC School of Medicine and the school’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery are prominently featured in the July/August issue of Missouri State Medical Association journal, Missouri Medicine.

A report written by School of Medicine Dean Steven Kanter, M.D., looks at the new UMKC Health Sciences District, bringing the university together with local, county and state health care organizations in the Hospital Hill area. It serves as an as innovative enterprise to stimulate research, education and community initiatives.

A series of scientific articles written by School of Medicine faculty discuss musculoskeletal health care. The articles look at a wide array of issues such as providing musculoskeletal care and education at UMKC, effects of smoking on musculoskeletal health, the economic impact of orthpaedics in Missouri, and the regulation of orthopaedic medical devices.

Also in the current issues, School of Medicine alumnus Sam Page, M.D., offers his case for a prescription drug monitoring program.

The July/August issue of Missouri Medicine can now be viewed online.


In Memoriam: Dr. Eugene Fibuch

Dr. Eugene Fibuch
Dr. Eugene Fibuch

Long-time UMKC School of Medicine faculty member and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Eugene Fibuch, M.D., died on Aug. 20 at the Hospice House of Kansas City.

Only the second chair in the history of the department, Fibuch provided leadership in that role from 1997 until 2014. He was also the second program director for the residency program and served in that position 35 years.

Under his leadership, the residency program flourished, graduating more than 125 residents, most of whom remain and practice in this region. Fibuch recruited the first Westport/Missouri Endowed Chair in Anesthesiology, John Wang, M.D. Together, they enhanced the research and scholarship in the department.

His leadership  extended beyond the department to include quality initiatives at Saint Luke’s Hospital and Saint Luke’s Health System. His efforts were instrumental in the recognition of Saint Luke’s Hospital as a Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award winner in 2004.

A graduate of the Creighton University School of Medicine, he did his anesthesiology residency at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine and entered the United States Navy as a Lieutenant Commander. He returned to Kansas City in 1976 and became program director for the anesthesiology residency at Saint Luke’s Hospital.

Following a funeral service on Aug. 25, a military burial took place at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.



Faris receives UMKC Project ADVANCER award

Third-year medical student Hunter Faris, left, has received a research award to work with John Q. Wang, M.D., Ph.D., Westport Anesthesia/Missouri Endowed Chair in Anesthesia Research.

Third-year medical student Hunter Faris has been selected for a student research award from the UMKC strategic funding award initiative, Project ADVANCER (Academic Development Via Applied aNd Cutting-Edge Research). The program supports research projects of UMKC undergraduate and professional students from underrepresented minorities.

Faris will be working with faculty mentor, John Q. Wang, M.D., Ph.D., Westport Anesthesia/Missouri Endowed Chair in Anesthesia Research, to establish a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying the regulation of neuronal activities. His project, Regulation of Src Family Protein Kinases in the Rat Striatum by Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptor, could significantly advance the knowledge of receptor signaling and protein kinases biology.

Project ADVANCER is a UMKC initiative to provide students the opportunity to gain experience and build a “track record” in research. That experience will provide students better access to competitive postgraduate training such as residencies or graduate programs and, ultimately, to better employment opportunities.

Students who have identified a UMKC faculty mentor in the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geosciences; School of Biological Sciences; School of Computing and Engineering; School of Medicine; or School of Nursing and Health Studies may jointly develop an application for a Project ADVANCER award with their faculty mentor.

Faris and Wang expect to produce results that will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Med school experience begins for Class of 2023

Joshua Hill received the 2017 Richard T. Garcia Memorial Award at the School of Medicine’s annual InDOCtrination Ceremony.

Looking out at the faces of the 106 first-year medical students, Joshua Hill remembered being in their shoes. It was just a year ago when he sat where they were August 18 during the UMKC School of Medicine’s annual InDOCtrination Ceremony.

“I was happily terrified of what was beginning,” said Hill, now a second-year medical student.

This year’s InDOCtrination marked the beginning of a six-year medical school journey for the Class of 2023. Hill address the audience as recipient of the school’s 2017 Richard T. Garcia Award. The honor recognizes a second-year student for outstanding leadership skills, compassion toward fellow classmates, and outstanding academic performance throughout Year 1.

More photos from 2017 InDOCtrination Ceremony

First-year students are introduced at the 2017 UMKC School of Medicine InDOCtrination Ceremony.

During the ceremony at the UMKC Student Union, the students were introduced to family and friends according to their docent units. After two years with their Years 1-2 docents, the students will join Years 3-6 docent units as they advance to the more intense clinical portion of their medical school training.

Sharing his first-year med school experiences, Hill talked of how his first and second-year docent, Michael Monaco, M.D., ’87, expertly and compassionately treated a particular patient.

“I knew, right there, that I had learned what kind of person I want to be as a physician,” he said. “And that’s a lesson that I was so lucky to have learned this early in life.”

Hill said that each member of this year’s class of students would soon begin to build on their own remarkable medical school experiences and forge memories that will last a lifetime.

“You will see that there is so much more to look forward to through the first year,” he said.