Two of five advisors on Jackson County COVID-19 funding group are UMKC faculty

Two of the five advisors named to help guide Jackson County on spending CARES Act funds from the federal government are top UMKC faculty members: School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., and Clara Irazábal-Zurita, Ph.D., director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies program and professor of planning in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design.

The county received about $122 million under the federal government’s CARES Act to aid the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the volunteer advisory group will provide recommendations to County Executive Frank White Jr. and the legislature on how to allocate funding consistent with CARES Act restrictions to have the greatest and most direct impact for the community.

Joining Jackson and Irazabal-Zurita on the advisory group are former Kansas City Mayor Sly James, former Kansas City Mayor Pro-Tem and Councilwoman Cindy Circo and accountant Rachelle Styles.

Mary Anne Jackson
Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., dean of the UMKC School of Medicine

Jackson, who is also an alumna from the UMKC School of Medicine, will be the senior advisor on public health. In addition to her role as dean, she is a pediatric infectious diseases expert, affiliated with Children’s Mercy and internationally known for her research. She is widely recognized for developing one of the nation’s leading and most robust pediatric infectious diseases programs.

She serves as a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, at the direction of the United States Assistant Secretary of Health, to provide recommendations for ways to achieve optimal prevention of human infectious diseases through vaccine development.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, Jackson has served as one of the six physicians statewide advising Missouri Governor Mike Parson. She also continues to be a frequently sourced expert for the media and national publications.

Clara Irazabal-Zurita
Clara Irazabal-Zurita, Ph.D., director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies program and professor of planning in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design

Irazabal-Zurita will be the senior advisor on community development and humanitarian response. Before joining UMKC, she was the Latin Lab director and associate professor of urban planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in New York City.

In her research and teaching, she explores the interactions of culture, politics and placemaking, and their impact on community development and socio-spatial justice in Latin American cities and Latino and immigrant communities.

UMKC’s Som Singh invited to present research on sports injuries at international conference

Med student Som Singh, left, is helping lead a study group that monitors injuries to U.S. rugby players. He is pictured with Dr. Victor Lopez Jr., Dr. Alex Metoxen (UMKC Orthopedic Surgery Resident), Dr. Sean Bonnani (UMKC Orthopedic Surgery Resident), and Chizitam Ibezim (2020 UMKC medical school graduate).

Like many young, aspiring athletes, Som Singh saw his football career end early with an injury during high school. Yet, his love for sports never waned. Now, it could be taking the fourth-year UMKC medical student to the European College of Sports Science in Spain next fall to present as lead author of a research project on rugby player injuries.

His work is part of a project affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and the Rugby Research and Injury Prevention Group (RRIPG) that has been monitoring U.S. Rugby Club-Sevens player injuries and performance.

“The culture of sports has always had an impact on me and I wanted to stay around sports,” Singh said.

When he first came to the School of Medicine, Singh used what free time he had to help as a volunteer assistant football coach at a local high school. While coaching, he realized the hunger to be connected to sports still burned.

“Coaching players was cool, teaching, talking to the players,” Singh said. “That aspect of teaching sports was unique and it led me to seek out other things I could do to combine sports and medicine.”

About a year ago, a national rugby tournament came to Kansas City. Dr. Victor Lopez Jr., founder and executive director of the RRIPG in New York, arrived as well to study the players on the field, monitoring their injuries and the effects on their performance. Lopez was also looking for medical students and residents to help with his project. A UMKC orthopaedic surgery resident who knew both Lopez and Singh introduced the two.

Singh began working on the sidelines in the medical tents and soon became the assistant national study coordinator for the group, attending countless rugby matches and collecting injury data.

His report, which was based on a five-year analysis of medical costs related to player injuries sustained in U.S. Rugby-Sevens regional tournaments, caught the eye of the European College of Sports Sciences.

He said his findings could serve as a profile of the financial impact that sports injuries have on both men and women players. Much like the National Football League has done in developing its concussion protocols, Singh said his data could also serve as a tool for national U.S. Rugby-Sevens to improve player welfare and safety.

“It is a growing collision sport,” Singh said of rugby.

Singh also is co-author of two other group abstracts that were selected for presentation at the international conference in Seville, Spain – assuming limitations brought by the novel coronavirus are lifted and allow the conference to take place.

In addition to Lopez, the project has Singh working closely with Dr. Richard Ma, Gregory L. and Ann L. Hummel Distinguished Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery Missouri Orthopaedic Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Dr. Answorth Allen, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and team doctor for the NBA’s New York Knicks.

Singh said he doesn’t plan to let up on his injury prevention research with the group anytime soon.

“We have plenty of studies coming up,” he said. “I’m booked for the next couple of years. We’re continuing to grow and understand more about sports injuries.”

Patel chosen to lead section of American College of Radiology

Patel, Amy
Amy Patel, M.D. ’11

Amy Patel, M.D. ’11, was elected chair of the American College of Radiology’s Young and Early Career Professional Section at this year’s ACR Annual Meeting.

The section comprises more than 6,000 young U.S. radiologists, defined as 8 years or less out of training or under the age of 40. Patel, recognized nationally for her use of social media among radiologists, is the section’s first chair from Missouri.

Patel is medical director of women’s imaging at Liberty Hospital and a clinical assistant professor at the UMKC School of Medicine. In 2018, she addressed the Radiological Society of North America’s Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting on her use of social media to mentor and connect young radiologists. She also is active in the fight against breast cancer, in raising awareness and in raising money for research and better treatment.

Take Wing winner driven by passion to serve

Dana Thompson, M.D., M.S., M.B.A ’91, was just a child when she began to realize what it meant to be a physician.

Her maternal grandfather, throughout most of his career as a general practitioner in Mississippi, was the only black physician in a nearly 100-mile radius. Thompson watched him and learned about commitment to patients and community. She saw the endless drive for excellence and the longing to provide patient care where it was sorely needed.

Her father, in the midst of the Civil Rights Era, was among the first black physicians to enter the integrated obstetrics/gynecology residency program at Kansas City General Hospital. As she grew older, Thompson accompanied her father to the hospital, and during her high school years she worked in his Kansas City, Kansas, practice. She was even one of the early graduates of the UMKC School of Medicine’s Summer Scholars pipeline program for area high school students.

Now, Thompson is a third-generation African-American physician who embodies those same family characteristics, the drive for excellence and a thirst to assure access to medical care for those in need. Those traits also made her a natural for the School of Medicine’s 2020 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award winner.

Thompson delivered this year’s Take Wing lecture online to a School of Medicine audience on May 19.

Thompson serves as the Lauren D. Holinger Chair of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and a professor of otolaryngology head and neck surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Working in Chicago, where the population is diverse and ranges across socioeconomic backgrounds, Thompson is on a personal mission to educate others about the unintended consequences of bias in health care delivery.

“At this point in my career, I think that’s what I’m most passionate about,” Thompson said.

After graduating from the School of Medicine, she completed her residency in otorhinolaryngology head and neck surgery at the Mayo Clinic. She followed that with a fellowship in pediatric otolaryngology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where she trained under the pioneer of pediatric airway surgery, Dr. Robin Cotton.

Throughout a 23-year career in academic medicine, Thompson has become a leader in pediatric airway and swallowing disorders. Her landmark research in laryngomalacia made her a world authority and transformed the medical and surgical management of the condition, the most common cause of infant stridor, a high-pitched wheezing caused by disrupted airflow.

Thompson spent most of her career at the Mayo Clinic, where she became the inaugural chair of the division of pediatric otolaryngology.

“What an opportunity that was – at age 32, to build a program from scratch and create a service line at a world-class organization,” she said.

The experience also helped her understand that she wanted to have the same sort of impact in an urban setting at a major academic children’s hospital. So, when the opportunity arose to lead the division of otolaryngology at Lurie Children’s Hospital, Thompson made the move.

Now a surgeon and administrator, she also serves as vice chair of the Department of Surgery and executive director for the hospital’s ambulatory practice.

Much of her work in the operating room involves highly specialized, complex, high-risk surgeries on children with obstructions in the upper airway. With the onslaught of the coronavirus, the procedure is of particular high risk for transmission of the virus to health care workers. As a result, Thompson has been busy helping the hospital and her surgical teams adjust to new, safer ways to provide such patient care.

“We’re taking different processes in the operating room in terms of protecting our team with personal protection equipment, while assuring a safe environment to deliver care to children in need,” she said. “We’ve even changed some minor details of how we ordinarily do surgeries to prevent virus aerosolization during surgery. It’s rapidly changing and evolving. We’re going to have a whole new way of doing things.”

School of Medicine celebrates Class of 2020

Erica Sherry, 2020 graduate of the master of science of anesthesia program, is hooded by her husband in the School of Medicine’s virtual commencement ceremony.

Graduation had a slightly different look and feel because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the excitement and joy was the same. The UMKC School of Medicine honored 145 members of the Class of 2020 on May 18 with an online commencement ceremony.

School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., joined Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D., and Dana Thompson, M.D., ’91, the E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award recipient, in applauding the graduates.

The celebration included video clips of graduates being hooded by family and friends at home as each name was read following a congratulatory message from each individual’s docent and program director.

“It’s been inspiring to see the resilience and determined efforts of our students, faculty and staff,” Jackson said. “But our success has not been surprising because the School of Medicine has always taken a different approach.”

This class will be part of a team of health care providers involved in developing and implementing new diagnostics, therapies and vaccines going forward, she said.

“You will continue to be the heart of the health care system as we traverse the next days, weeks and years of this pandemic,” Jackson said. “Be proud and celebrate this day. We are honored to have been a part of this success.”

In her recorded message, Thompson talked about the values of learning, diversity, integrity, accountability, respect and collaboration that the school has imparted upon its more than 4,000 graduates.

“As health care professionals, all of you are also leaders,” Thompson said. “Each one of you will lead teams, policies, processes and procedures that will change health care education, research and delivery. These values have shaped each one of you for success as you start your careers at this time of unprecedented change in medicine. As the world changes, so must we. You will be called upon to shape and change the future of medicine.”

School of Medicine 2020 Senior Awards

Master of Science in Anesthesia

Sadie Laddusaw | Student Ambassador Award

 Doctor of Medicine

Priyesha Bijlani | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Emily Boschert | Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation; Missouri State Medical Association Honors Graduates

Tim Brotherton | Malhotra Family Scholarship for Academic and Clinical Excellence

Shelby Chesbro | Dean of Students Honor Recipient; Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation

Jordan Dhuse | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Morgan Dresvyannikov | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Karen Figenshau | Malhotra Family Scholarship for Academic and Clinical Excellence; Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation

Elizabeth George | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Keerthi Gondi | Friends of UMKC School of Medicine Harry S. Jonas, M.D., Award; Missouri State Medical Association Honors Graduates

Thomas Haferkamp | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Chizitam Ibezim | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Robert Johnson | J. Michael de Ungria, M.D., Humanitarian Award

Anusha Kodidhi | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Christopher Kurian | Dean of Students Honor Recipient; UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Senior Partner

Robert Link | Pat. D. Do, M.D., Matching Scholarship in Orthopedics

Cynthia Liu | Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation

Neil Maitra | ACP Senior Student Book Award; Friends of UMKC School of Medicine Basic Science Award

Rmaah Memon | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Daniel O’Toole | Bette Hamilton, M.D., Memorial Award for Excellence in Immunology; Lee Langley Award; Merck Manual for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Education; Richardson K. Noback Founders’ Award for Clinical Excellence; Thomas R. Hamilton, M.D., Award for Excellence in Microbiology; Thomas R. Hamilton, M.D., Award for Excellence in Pathology

Anthony Oyekan | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Nikita Rafie | Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation

Zachary Randall | Dean of Students Honor Recipient; James F. Stanford, M.D., Patient Advocate Scholarship; UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Medical Education

Marcella Riley | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Nicole Rogers | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Landon Rohowetz | Dean of Students Honor Recipient; Friends of UMKC School of Medicine Award for Research; Merck Manual for Outstanding Achievement in Medical Education; Missouri State Medical Association Honors Graduates; Ratilal S. Shah Medical Scholarship Fund

Subhjit Sekhon | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Mehr Zahra Shah | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Saumya Singh | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Shane Storm | Laura L. Backus, M.D., Award for Excellence in Pediatrics

Garima Thakkar | Dean of Students Honor Recipient

Krishna Trivedi | Women in Medicine Scholarship Achievement Citation

UMKC Honors Top Class of 2020 Graduates

Seniors recognized through social and multimedia in lieu of annual commencement events

Dean of Students Honors Recipients

Each year as the semester begins to wind down and seniors prepare for commencement, one of the biggest moments of their lives, academic and administrative units host breakfasts and ceremonies honoring the academic accomplishments of their graduates.

This year, however, things are very different, because of the novel coronavirus and related social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Still, UMKC faculty and staff are finding other ways to virtually recognize honors seniors through social and multi-media.

Dean of Students Honors Recipients are nominated each semester by faculty and staff for their commitment to academic success while actively participating in leadership and service to the community and our university outside of the classroom. Nominators and students recorded videos reflecting on this semester’s honors. See what they had to say:

“You are an exceptional group of people. Despite the demands of family, work and studies, you made time to give back to the community. When you saw a need, you worked to fill it. You are humanitarians, leaders and philanthropists and you should rightfully be proud of yourselves,” said Interim Dean of Students Chris Brown.

Afaq Alabbasi – School Pharmacy [watch the video]
Nominated by Cameron Lindsey, interim chair of the Division of Pharmacy and Practicum [watch the video]

Priyesha Bijlani – School Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Betsy Hendrick, academic advisor, School of Medicine [watch the video]

Hannah-Kaye Carter – School of Biological & Chemical Sciences and Honors College [watch the video]
Nominated by Carla Mebane, director of the UMKC High School/College Dual Credit Partnership [watch the video]

Austin Dada – School of Biological & Chemical Sciences [watch the video]
Nominated by Ryan Mohen, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology [watch the video]

Morgan Dresvyannikov – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Brent McCoy, senior academic advisor, School of Medicine [watch the video]

Sierra Duncan-Sonich – School of Biological & Chemical Sciences and Honors College [watch the video]
Nominated by Tammy Welchert, director of Student Affairs and Undergraduate Enrollment, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences [watch the video]

Jorden Erskin – School of Nursing & Health Studies [watch the video]
Nominated by Corinna Beck, academic advisor, School of Nursing and Health Studies [watch the video]

Elsa George – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Brent McCoy [watch the video]

Thomas Haferkamp – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Krisana West, academic advisor, School of Medicine [watch the video]

Chizitam Ibezim – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Krisana West [watch the video]

Alyssa Jones – School of Biological & Chemical Sciences and Honors College [watch the video]
Nominated by Susana Chavez-Bueno, associate professor of pediatrics [watch the video]

Anusha Kodidhi – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Krisana West [watch the video]

Christopher Kurian – School of Medicine
Nominated by Betsy Hendrick [watch the video]

Nuvia Lemus-Diaz – School of Dentistry [watch the video]
Nominated by Richie Bigham, assistant dean for student programs, School of Dentistry [watch the video]

Rmaah Memon – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Krisana West [watch the video]

Pooja Menon – School of Biological and Chemical Sciences [watch the video]
Nominated by Lawrence Dreyfus, associate vice provost of faculty development and research [watch the video]

Emily Oliver – School of Pharmacy [watch the video]
Nominated by Roger Sommi, associate dean and professor, School of Pharmacy [watch the video]

Anthony Oyekan – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Betsy Hendrick [watch the video]

Jayanth Rao – School of Biological and Chemical Sciences [watch the video]
Nominated by Tara Allen, teaching professor, School of Biology [watch the video]

Nicole Rogers – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Brent McCoy [watch the video]

Subhjit Sekhon – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Betsy Hendrick [watch the video]

Mehr-Zahra Shah – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Betsy Hendrick [watch the video]

Saumya Singh – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Krisana West [watch the video]

Garima Thakkar – School of Medicine [watch the video]
Nominated by Brent McCoy [watch the video]

Sarah Towakoli – College of Arts & Sciences and Honors College [watch the video]
Nominated by Ken Novak, professor, criminal justice [watch the video]

Rachel Zender – School of Law [watch the video]
Nominated by Molly Wilensky, director, Professional and Career Development Center [watch the video]

Undergraduate Research Fellows

Eleven May graduates earned the Undergraduate Research Fellow honorary transcript designation by demonstrating deep involvement in research process–formulating a research question, identifying an appropriate method to investigate the question, carrying out the project, and publication or presentation of the results beyond the classroom or research group.

Jerrah Biggerstaff – B.S. Physics/Astronomy, College of Arts and Sciences

Jaime Crouse – B.S. Biology; double minor in physics/astronomy and chemistry

Austin Dada – B.S. Biology

Lauren Higgins – B.S. Physics/Astronomy

Brandon Landaverry – B.S. Environmental Sciences

Andy Leon – B.S. Biology

Pedro Morales-Sosa – B.S. Biology

Minh Nguyen – B.S. Biology

Bwaar Omer – B.S. Biology

Annie Spencer – B.A. English and History

Sarah Towakoli — B.A. Criminal Justice & Criminology and Political Science

College of Arts and Sciences Graduates with Distinction

The College of Arts and Sciences’ Graduation with Distinction luncheon, hosted by the College of Arts & Sciences alumni board, brings together graduates with Latin honors, and their families, in celebration of academic success. Guest speakers offer words of congratulations and advice for the future and scholars are presented medals to wear during commencement. Here is a list of graduates with distinctions Summa Cum Laude – the highest praise – and Magna Cum Laude – with great praise.

Honors College

Sarah F. Towakoli | Summa Cum Laude Anticipated | Undergraduate Research Fellow

University Honors

Kamariah Al-Amin | Magna Cum Laude Anticipated

Cemile Arabaci | Magna Cum Laude Anticipated

Abigail Birkner | Summa Cum Laude Anticipated

Zonara Nawaz | Magna Cum Laude Anticipated

Erica Sullivan | Summa Cum Laude Anticipated

Sarah Towakoli | Summa Cum Laude Anticipated | Undergraduate Research Fellow

Grab your running shoes! Hospital Hill Run goes virtual and extends to July 1

UMKC participants receive discounted registration

The UMKC-Hospital Hill Run relationship may go back 47 years, but it’s still making history. The 2020 Hospital Hill Run has gone virtual, and participants can run their distance anytime and anywhere they choose before July 1.

This year’s race is sponsored by the UMKC Health Sciences District and UMKC faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends receive a 20% discounted registration using code WPFCUMKC20.

The race, founded in 1973 by School of Medicine founder Dr. E. Grey Dimond, has long been a favorite of runners and walkers nationwide. As in the past, the 2020 virtual race offers three race options – 5K, 10K and half marathon. Participants will receive digital finisher certificates and a swag packet – including t-shirts and medals – in the mail. Here’s how to join the virtual event:

  • Register and run virtual by July 1. Run or walk your distance on roads, tracks, treadmills, or one of many new race routes throughout town and provided on the HHR virtual website.
  • Submit your results. Runners and walkers send in their results online and see how they stack up against other participants.
  • Share your experience. Using the HHR Facebook page and hashtag #HHRVirtual2020, share your run photos, videos and screenshots.

Race organizers have also developed several race challenges (with prizes!), training tip videos and other resources to support participants. Visit https://virtual.hospitalhillrun.com/ for more information.

For UMKC medical student and entrepreneur Fahad Qureshi, health care connects it all

Driven. Creative. Optimistic. Curious. Determined. Smart. Happy. These are common traits found in successful entrepreneurs. All of them are found in Fahad Qureshi.

A third-year medical student at UMKC, Qureshi took third place in the UM System Entrepreneurship Quest Pitch Competition, where 20 student teams from across the four campuses presented innovative business ventures.

Qureshi is the founder and creator of Vest Heroes, which uses a system of pulleys and levers in the operating room to relieve surgeons from bearing weighted lead X-ray skirts and vests during long procedures. Wearing the vests are required by law and protect health care professionals from radioactive exposure. But they are heavy – between 30 and 69 pounds – and can hinder mobility.

Qureshi wasn’t nervous during the final rounds of competition, as he’s had the idea for a long time and knows the product well. In fact, his invention is patent-pending, and he’s launched a company to fulfill orders for 100 vests that will be used throughout the country. “I strongly believe in the idea,” he said, “and it was great to get affirmation from the judges. To know it’s real and it’s working – I feel good about that.”

As a child, Qureshi had a good friend who died during an operation following a bad accident. He heard the surgeon say that wearing his 60-pound vest made it hard for him to make movements during his friend’s operation – and that’s something he never forgot.

While finding a way to reduce the weight of these vests has been in his head for a long time – “10 to 12 years, maybe more” – he didn’t have the background needed to solve it … until medical school.

Once at UMKC, he gained academic understanding, expanded his medical knowledge, got into the operating room and participated in an engineering apprenticeship, completely independent of the School of Medicine.

“Just because you are practicing medicine doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for credit, I was looking for knowledge.”

He also found a local engineering firm to help out.

“When you have an interdisciplinary approach, that’s when you can really solve problems. Without medicine, I wouldn’t know what to build,” he said. “Without engineering, I wouldn’t know how to build it.”

In addition, Qureshi reached out to various physicians to get their opinions – how to improve the vest, how to grow consumer interest, what did and didn’t work well. His biggest support has come from Bogdan Derylo, M.D., a nephrologist from his hometown of Chicago and Akin Cil, M.D., UMKC professor and the Franklin D. Dickson/Missouri Endowed Chair in orthopaedic surgery.

“All of the feedback received was terrific,” Qureshi said. “The final model is a culmination of all the suggestions they provided.”

Qureshi, who worked minimum-wage jobs to fund the company so he can retain full equity, says mass distribution is his ultimate goal. He’s currently working with a Chinese manufacturer to help produce large numbers of the Vest Heroes, although that is sidelined now due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Any doctor or health care professional that uses radiation has a need for this,” he said. “There’s really no downside to using it – it’s a necessity, as I see it.”

There’s no doubt that Qureshi’s entrepreneurial spirit motivates him, but he sees health care connecting it all. As for his future, he plans “100 percent to practice medicine.” And part of that plan includes research, his company and teaching the next generation of doctors.

“When you choose what you do every day, it should be something that makes you happy. Going to work shouldn’t be scary or dreaded. If your work makes you happy, you’re doing something right.”

In addition to Qureshi, the UMKC teams presenting pitches during the final competition were Greyson Twist, Ph.D., bioinformatics and computer science major presenting his Genalytic project; and Kyle McAllister, business administration graduate student presenting his company Compost Collective KC.

For UMKC Medical Student and Entrepreneur, Health Care Connects It All

Fahad Qureshi combines medical and engineering interests to create innovative solutions

A third-year medical student at UMKC, Qureshi took third place in the UM System Entrepreneurship Quest Pitch Competition, where 20 student teams from across the four campuses presented innovative business ventures. Qureshi is the founder and creator of Vest Heroes, which uses a system of pulleys and levers in the operating room to relieve surgeons from bearing weighted lead X-ray skirts and vests during long procedures. Wearing the vests are required by law and protect health care professionals from radioactive exposure. But they are heavy – between 30 and 69 pounds – and can hinder mobility.

Qureshi wasn’t nervous during the final rounds of competition, as he’s had the idea for a long time and knows the product well. In fact, his invention is patent-pending, and he’s launched a company to fulfill orders for 100 vests that will be used throughout the country. “I strongly believe in the idea,” he said, “and it was great to get affirmation from the judges. To know it’s real and it’s working – I feel good about that.”

As a child, Qureshi had a good friend who died during an operation following a bad accident. He heard the surgeon say that wearing his 60-pound vest made it hard for him to make movements during his friend’s operation – and that’s something he never forgot.

While finding a way to reduce the weight of these vests has been in his head for a long time – “10 to 12 years, maybe more” – he didn’t have the background needed to solve it … until medical school.

Once at UMKC, he gained academic understanding, expanded his medical knowledge, got into the operating room and participated in an engineering apprenticeship, completely independent of the School of Medicine.

“Just because you are practicing medicine doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for credit, I was looking for knowledge.”

He also found a local engineering firm to help out.

“When you have an interdisciplinary approach, that’s when you can really solve problems. Without medicine, I wouldn’t know what to build,” he said. “Without engineering, I wouldn’t know how to build it.”

In addition, Qureshi reached out to various physicians to get their opinions – how to improve the vest, how to grow consumer interest, what did and didn’t work well. His biggest support has come from Bogdan Derylo, M.D., a nephrologist from his hometown of Chicago and Akin Cil, M.D., UMKC professor and the Franklin D. Dickson/Missouri Endowed Chair in orthopaedic surgery.

“All of the feedback received was terrific,” Qureshi said. “The final model is a culmination of all the suggestions they provided.”

Qureshi, who worked minimum-wage jobs to fund the company so he can retain full equity, says mass distribution is his ultimate goal. He’s currently working with a Chinese manufacturer to help produce large numbers of the Vest Heroes, although that is sidelined now due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Any doctor or health care professional that uses radiation has a need for this,” he said. “There’s really no downside to using it – it’s a necessity, as I see it.”

There’s no doubt that Qureshi’s entrepreneurial spirit motivates him, but he sees health care connecting it all. As for his future, he plans “100 percent to practice medicine.” And part of that plan includes research, his company and teaching the next generation of doctors.

“When you choose what you do every day, it should be something that makes you happy. Going to work shouldn’t be scary or dreaded. If your work makes you happy, you’re doing something right.”

In addition to Qureshi, the UMKC teams presenting pitches during the final competition were Greyson Twist, Ph.D., bioinformatics and computer science major presenting his Genalytic project; and Kyle McAllister, business administration graduate student presenting his company Compost Collective KC.

Mayor appoints faculty, alumni to Kansas City Health Commission

From left: Erica Carney, Joseph Lighter, Austin Strassle

Three members of the UMKC community with expertise in emergency medicine and public health have been appointed by Mayor Quinton Lucas to the Kansas City Health Commission.

Erica Carney, M.D., was appointed co-chair of the commission, which provides oversight for the city’s Community Health Improvement Plan and fosters collaborative community efforts in the wider metropolitan area. Lucas said Carney’s work had been instrumental in the city’s response to COVID-19 and collaboration with area health providers.

Carney is a graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine’s innovative six-year B.A./M.D. program, an assistant professor in emergency medicine, an emergency care physician at Truman Medical Centers and the medical director of emergency medical services for the City of Kansas City.

“I was fortunate enough to complete my emergency medicine residency at UMKC, where I served as one of the emergency medicine chiefs,” Carney said. “I found my love for emergency medical services after responding to the Joplin tornado.”

Carney said her areas of interest included improving survival rates for out-of-hospital heart attack patients from lower socioeconomic ZIP codes, improving health care for people who need and use the system the most, and improving public safety, including response to disasters and special situations such as COVID-19.

“The best defense to the unknown is a united front in the name of public protection, and I truly feel that our region is leading the way,” Carney said.

The mayor also appointed to the commission Joseph Lightner, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor and director of the Bachelor of Science in Public Health Program at the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies, and Austin Strassle, a housing stabilization specialist at Truman who earned his bachelor’s degree in urban studies/affairs from UMKC in 2016.

Lightner has helped launch the School of Nursing’s undergraduate public health degree and worked to involve undergraduates in innovative research bringing fitness and nutrition programs to area schools. In his research and outreach, Lightner has collaborated with community groups and institutions including Kansas City schools and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Health Department.

Strassle, who also has a master’s in city/urban, community and regional planning from the University of Kansas, has worked for three and a half years at Truman as a mental health caseworker. He also was the leader of a successful community campaign to get the Kansas City Council to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors by licensed medical practitioners.

The mayor, in making his appointments, said it was important to have “experts in outreach to at-risk communities” on the commission, along with “medical professionals with specialties in trauma, infectious disease treatment, pediatric and prenatal care; supporters for survivors of domestic violence; advocates for residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; educators; long-time community health reformers; and more.”