All posts by Greg Hack

Meet the school’s new alumni president

Dr. Ralph Wuebker

Ralph Wuebker, M.D. ’94, is the new president of the School of Medicine’s Alumni Association, a post he will hold for the next two years. He was elected Oct. 16 at a meeting of the National Board of Alumni and Partners.

“I have a great network of friends and lots of good memories thanks to UMKC, so I look forward to the opportunity to give back and support the school,” said Wuebker, the chief medical officer at Slalom Consulting St. Louis. “I’ve been on the alumni board for a couple of years, and I would love to get more alumni my age and younger involved.”

At the October meeting, the board also welcomed three new members: Monica Farley, M.D. ’80, Joe Goldenberg, M.D. ’80, and Mangesh Oza, M.D. ’96. The outgoing president, Tracy Stevens, M.D. ’90, presided.

Wuebker said he hoped to bring a unique perspective to the association. He practiced pediatrics for 20 years and now is a health-care executive. Wuebker earned an M.B.A. from Washington University in 2003 and for several years was chief medical officer for Optum 360. In May, he joined Slalom St. Louis, which helps clients utilize technology, data analytics and artificial intelligence.

Wuebker’s UMKC associations also include family. His wife, Heather Walton Wuebker, M.D. ’98, and his sister, Maria Wuebker Gove, M.D. ’01, are both alumni. Heather Wuebker is an obstetrician-gynecologist, and they have a 9-year-old son.

Ralph Wuebker said: “The Alumni Association and our events are a good opportunity to network, staying connected to each other and to the school. I hope to engage more alumni as we advance UMKC School of Medicine.”

He said he would like to hear from other alumni and can be reached at


A School of Medicine original takes alumni and engagement post

David John, M.D. ’77, with some of his Gold 1 students.

David John, M.D. ’77, has been appointed associate dean of alumni and community engagement. He continues in his role as assistant professor of medicine and Gold One docent.

John is active in clinical teaching in internal medicine and rheumatology and is also very involved with the Humanities Department, addressing the art of medicine and the humanities approach to patient care.

In making the appointment, interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. ’78, said: “As a 1977 alumnus of the first class of B.A./M.D. students at the UMKC School of Medicine, Dr. John has knowledge of the history, mission and culture of the School of Medicine that will allow him to focus on engaging our students, faculty and alumni who are invested in the future initiatives of our School of Medicine, particularly as we approach our 50th anniversary celebration in 2021.

“Dr. John’s role will allow him to advance alumni connection and participation as well as to enhance involvement and support from the community at large.  I am delighted to welcome Dr. John to this new role.”

John said he was planning to develop good lines of communications with alumni so they would know what’s going on at the school and feel more connected. He also hopes to educate many organizations about the value the School of Medicine brings to the Kansas City area and the state of Missouri.

John’s history with the school and current work as a docent were highlighted in a 2018 article in UMKC Medicine about the docent system. You can read it here.

Welcome new parents!

A reception and information session Aug. 15 started the school year off right for parents of new School of Medicine students.

The evening session, put on at the Student Union by the Friends of the School of Medicine, drew scores of parents. Susan Storm, M.D. ’85, the Friends president; Brenda Rogers, M.D. ‘’90, associate dean of student affairs; and a panel of a half-dozen current students gave them valuable information on what to expect in the next year.

Rogers said the school was dedicated to the success of all students and offered a range of services that parents and students are encouraged to use, from financial advice to tutoring and other academic support. Storm encouraged the parents to join the Friends to make connections with other parents and help with activities that support their students.

Students on the panel, which included Storm’s son and daughter, also said the Friends group had helped their parents. “It was great for my mom, especially, to have other parents to talk with,” said Caroline Olson.

The students, ranging from second-years to a sixth-year, also explained some of the benefits and workings of the docent teams and the peer mentor system. A slide show also told about how the Friends support students, and how students often serve the community through UMKC’s Service Day and the Sojourner Clinic, which mainly serves the homeless population in Kansas City.

Many parents asked about housing options for next year, when their students no longer have to live in university housing. Storm advised not worrying about housing for fall 2020 just yet, and said the Friends’ next meeting, set for Feb. 29, would focus on housing options.

Before the presentation, parents had a chance to mingle, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and buy T-shirts especially designed for them.

Class of 2025 enjoys move-in day

Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. ’78, greeted many students and their families.

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.

Upperclass students — veterans of move-in day — say there’s always room for more on the elevator.

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.

Former faculty member Dr. Joseph Parker Jr. dies

Dr. Joseph Parker

Dr. Joseph C. Parker Jr. passed away May 3 at the age of 81. His survivors include Dr. John Parker, M.D. ’93, with whom he practiced the last 10 years of his career.

From 1986 to 1992, he served as professor and chairman in the Department of Pathology for the UMKC School of Medicine and Truman Medical Center. He also served on the Board of Directors at Truman Medical Center from 1989 to 1992.

After leaving UMKC, he was the chairman of pathology at the University of Louisville for many years. He then was director of Louisville’s pathology residency program until he retired in 2014. He co-wrote more than 130 journal articles, 95 abstracts and 10 book chapters, often with his son. Dr. John Parker said his father’s “knowledge and wisdom will live on in the hundreds of students and residents he enjoyed teaching over his long medical career.”

Match Day 2019: A day of celebration

Match Day List 2019
Match Day Photo Album

The brisk morning wind couldn’t cool the excitement and enthusiasm of Match Day 2019 at the UMKC School of Medicine. Residencies were announced for 93 students who are headed toward graduation in May. Family and friends cheered them on as they learned where they will write the next chapter in their medical careers.

Just more than half of the class will be headed to a primary care residency. Interim dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., said this year’s class exceeded the national average of students matching to primary care positions. Many, she added, are headed to notable programs throughout the country.

The students won assignments in 28 states and the District of Columbia, from Vermont to Hawaii and California to Florida. Some are headed to the top names in medicine, including Mayo, Stanford, Emory, Baylor, Yale and UCLA. A baker’s dozen will stay at UMKC and its affiliate hospitals; 22 will be elsewhere in Missouri and Kansas.

Internal medicine was the top category with two-dozen placements, followed by 14 in pediatrics or medicine-pediatrics, eight in psychiatry, seven each in family medicine and anesthesiology, and six each in emergency medicine and general surgery.

Just minutes before 11 a.m., Ryan Lee stood at the back of Theater A surrounded by friends. He was trying to remain calm as everyone waited for the appointed time when students could receive their Match envelopes and discover their residency destinations.

“Right now, I’m just feeling relieved because I know I have a job somewhere,” Lee said.

Moments later, he learned that he would remain in Kansas City for a preliminary medicine year at the School of Medicine before heading to St. Louis and Barnes-Jewish Hospital for a three-year anesthesiology residency.

Meanwhile, Amaka Ofodu was still gasping for breath and accepting a long line of hugs after receiving her first choice of residencies — medicine-pediatrics at Greenville Health System, University of South Carolina, Greenville.

“I can’t believe it. I’m still freaking out,” Ofodu said. “It’s a blessing. My family is here and my friends are all here. There’s just so much love and some much appreciation.”

Chris Favier held a letter in his hands as his father recorded the moment with a cell phone. His brother, Ben, a 2012 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine, stood nearby watching with friends and family.

“And the survey says,” Favier said as he opened the letter. “Oh my gosh, Mizzou!”

A St. Louis native, Favier will be heading closer to home for his first residency choice of emergency medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“At first you’re really nervous and anxious but as time progresses, you look around at your family and friends and the excitement keeps building,” he said. “This was one of the residencies I was expecting so I’m very happy to go. And, I’ve got a job for next year, so I’m pumped.”

Former School of Medicine resident recognizes TMC mentor on Missouri House floor

State Rep. Jon Patterson, M.D., recognized Charles Van Way, M.D., on the floor of the Missouri House.

State Rep. Jon Patterson, who completed his general surgery program in 2011 at the UMKC School of Medicine and Truman Medical Center, on Wednesday recognized the former chairman of the TMC surgery department, Dr. Charles Van Way, on the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives.

Van Way travelled from his home in Kansas City to serve as the physician of the day at the Missouri State Capitol.  Before the start of session, Patterson recognized Van Way’s contributions to medicine and the United States.

“Dr. Van Way was a leading surgeon in his field and chair of surgery at Truman Medical Center.  I also thank him for his service to our country as he served in the U.S. Army Reserves and is a colonel in the Medical Corps.,” said Patterson, a Lee’s Summit Republican.


School of Medicine attracted sisters in Legacy Award winning family


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.


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.

Class-wide exercise builds research skills

Jennifer Bickel, M.D. ’01, one of the professors who designed the research exercise last year, judged posters again this year.

One mark of a good experiment is that its results can be replicated. By that standard, a required research project for third-year School of Medicine students appears to be a success.

The research exercise was introduced a year ago in the medical neuroscience course and drew positive comments from the students and the faculty members who judged their projects. The reactions were much the same for the assignment’s second go-round, the results of which were presented Dec. 4 in the school lobby.

“We wanted to give students an early research experience, to raise the bar of their baseline research knowledge,” said Jennifer Bickel, M.D. ’01, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Comprehensive Headache Clinic at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Whether or not conducting research becomes a part of their careers, Bickel said, it’s vital for all physicians to know how to use research.

“All research has some weakness, and without understanding of the process, you can’t properly interpret results,” she said.

In the exercise, teams of four students used data from the Cerner HealthFacts database, a nationwide compilation of data made available by Cerner Corp., one of the largest health care software companies in the world. The student teams, with the help of a faculty mentor and a supporting biostatistician, answered a unique question they identified related to a serious medical condition. The databases used this year covered such conditions as dystonia, migraines, catatonia, stroke and seizures.

After analyzing the data and drawing conclusions, each team made a poster displaying its question and hypothesis, telling how the team members went about testing their hypothesis, explaining their findings, and identifying questions for further study.

Agostino Molteni, M.D., Ph.D., is a research leader at the school and was one of the contest judges.

For many students it was their first medical research, and several of them said the assignment was helpful in many ways. Some said that before the exercise they were worried about how difficult it would be to do research, but now they looked forward to being able to do more.

“There was a first-time learning curve,” said one student, Michele Yang. “It was a good challenge to organize our information and narrow the focus of our project.”

One of her teammates, Courtney Dorris, said she was motivated to do more research and was looking into other opportunities with faculty.

“It was a good change of pace from the classroom to have real patient data and think about how to apply it,” she said.

Other students said they found value in learning more about how to use statistics; about the need for teamwork in research; about how to present data and frame conclusions; and how to think about research that could follow up on their projects.

The exercise was devised in 2017 by Bickel; Julie Banderas, Pharm.D., BCPS, professor of pharmacology in the Department of Internal Medicine and assistant dean for Graduate Studies and Allied Health; and Paula Monaghan-Nichols, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and associate dean for research.

The teams were judged for poster content, clarity, appearance and organization; their oral presentations; and demonstration of critical thinking. The top three teams and their mentors and research titles:

1st place – Group 22 – Michael Brancato, Madhavi Murali, Anna Davis, Varoon Kumar; Dr. Tyler Allison; “Relationship Between Payer Status and Length of Hospital Stay in Patients with Catatonia: Analysis of a Nationwide Sample.” 

 2nd place – Group 12 – Megan Schoelch, Eshwar Kishore, John Lin, Laraib Sani; Dr. Keith Coffman; “How Age Affects Length of Stay in Stereotactic Implantation.” 

3rd place – Group 26 – Laura Mann, Christy Nwankwo, Dakota Owens, Ethan Williamson; Dr. Jennifer Goldman; “Herpes Simplex Virus 2 Distribution Among Urban and Rural Communities.”

Patel lands speaking spot, promotes social media mentoring at radiology convention

Amy Patel, M.D. ’11, addressed the radiologists’ convention in Chicago.

Social media can play a crucial role in mentoring and sponsoring young radiologists, Amy Patel, M.D. ’11, recently told the 2018 convention of  the Radiological Society of North America.

Patel was one of only five radiologists worldwide chosen to make a 5-minute “Fast 5 Session” presentation at the radiologists’ Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting in Chicago. The convention, billed as the largest meeting of radiologists in the world, this year drew 60,000 people.

Patel is medical director of women’s imaging at Liberty Hospital and a clinical assistant professor at the UMKC School of Medicine. She told the gathering that Twitter and other social media made it possible to connect medical students, residents and fellows to practicing physicians. The hashtags #RADxx (for female radiologists) and #RADxy (for male radiologists) make it easier to connect on Twitter, she said, and as a result she is now mentoring or sponsoring many radiology trainees across the country who have sought her out.

“Social media has the opportunity to become the great equalizer,” Patel said.

The Fast 5 Session presented five radiologists each addressing a non-clinical topic. Competition for the speaking spots was heavy, and Patel said it was an honor to be chosen.

The full 2018 Fast 5 Session can be viewed here. Patel is the last of the five speakers and is introduced at the 22:50 mark. Her presentation begins at 23:45.