Saint Luke’s fares well in U.S. News hospital rankings

Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, an affiliate of the UMKC School of Medicine, was the No. 2 hospital in Missouri and the Kansas City area in the 2020-2021 U.S. News & World Report rankings of hospitals nationwide.

The hospital’s cardiology and heart surgery specialty jumped in the national rankings to No. 22 from No. 42 last year. It also fared well in four specialties, receiving “high performing” rankings in gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics, neurology and neurosurgery, and orthopedics.

The hospital also was deemed “high performing” in eight procedures and conditions: abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, aortic valve surgery, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, colon cancer surgery, heart bypass surgery, heart failure, lung cancer surgery and transcatheter aortic valve replacement. That last procedure, also known as TAVR, is being more widely used as a less-invasive alternative to aortic valve surgery.

In Missouri, Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis had the top ranking, and the University of Kansas Hospital was top ranked in the Kansas City metro area.

The U.S. News rankings are based on reputation and data including patient outcomes and readmission rates. Twenty-six specialties, procedures, and conditions in nearly every community hospital in America were reviewed, according to the report.

To be nationally ranked in a specialty, a hospital must excel in caring for the sickest, most medically complex patients. In most specialties, the top 50 hospitals are nationally ranked and additional hospitals may be recognized as high performing.

In a separate ranking of children’s hospitals earlier this year, another School of Medicine affiliate, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, was nationally ranked in all 10 of its pediatric specialties.

UMKC Health Equity Institute Works to Halt COVID-19 Pandemic in KC

Charlie Keegan, KSHB, talked to Jannette Berkley-Patton and volunteers at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site

The UMKC Health Equity Institute facilitated volunteer efforts at a recent drive-thru COVID-19 testing site. The institute is a group, which was formed four years ago, focused on identifying health care problems and offering solutions led by Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D.. Read Keegan’s story about the testing site and the Health Equity Institute.

Student Emergency Fund Success

From fellow students who started crowdfunding projects, to staff members and community donors, UMKC supporters contributed over $70,000 to the UMKC Student Emergency Fund to help students not only stay in school, but pay for housing, food, utilities and other emergency needs.

“We recognize that the effects of COVID-19 are not only physical, but economic. We are grateful to those who were able to step up and lend a hand.” – Jenny Lundgren

“Based on the demand, we were relieved to be able to provide critical assistance to our students in need,” said UMKC Provost Jenny Lundgren. “We recognize that the effects of COVID-19 are not only physical, but economic. We are grateful to those who were able to step up and lend a hand.”

Victor is studying electrical and computer engineering. He believes having a college degree will provide a solid foundation for him to build a successful career. Emergency aid kept him on track for completing the academic year and building a brighter future.

“With this act of kindness, I am one step closer in achieving my educational and career goals,” he said. “I plan to always give back to the community as a professional and successful engineer.”

Some students faced broader challenges than solely their academic ones. Denise is raising her children alone while pursuing her graduate degree.

“I had fallen behind on everything,” she said. “I am ever grateful for the blessing that you have bestowed on me.”

“We are grateful for those donors who support this fund at every level.” – Lisa Baronio

While the current crisis will eventually pass, the need for emergency funds will always exist. UMKC Foundation President Lisa Baronio is confident that the community will continue to support students on their paths to graduation.

“We always make the distinction that our donors are supporting people who are working to improve their lives and our communities as a whole,” Baronio says. “But these emergency funds are critical to keeping students in school, and we will always have students for whom relatively small amounts can make the difference between graduating and not being able to continue their education due to small financial constraints. We are grateful for those donors who support this fund at every level.”

School of Medicine Dean Answers Coronavirus Questions

School of Medicine Dean Answers Coronavirus Questions

Mary Anne Jackson was a guest on KCUR’s Up to Date

Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., has been providing expert advice on coronavirus and COVID-19. Most recently, Jackson participated in a Q&A session with KCUR. You can listen to the full interview on KCUR.


Top Stories

Beams of Light to Treat Diabetes: UMKC Invention Gets Federal Funding Boost

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue work on an important advancement to help treat the tens of millions of people who have diabetes.

The lifetime burden of constantly checking blood sugar and injecting insulin is significant. UMKC research has developed a way of delivering insulin to diabetics that eliminates pumps and most injections.

“We’re aiming to improve the lives of diabetics all over the world,” said UMKC pharmacy professor Simon Friedman, the principal investigator on the grant.


Normally, diabetics must inject themselves with insulin numerous times per day to enable the body to absorb blood sugar. The amount of insulin needed and timing vary with what an individual eats and their activity level. With blood glucose continuously varying, the insulin requirement parallels the amount of glucose in the blood.

The only clinically-used method to permit continuously variable delivery of therapeutic proteins like insulin is a pump. But they do so at a high cost: a physical connection to the outside of the patient, where the drug reservoir resides, and the inside of the patient, where drug absorption will ultimately take place. This connection in insulin pumps is a cannula — or needle — which can be dislodged, crimped, snagged, infected and most importantly, rapidly gets biofouled from moisture after implantation. This leads to variable and unpredictable delivery.

For several years, Friedman and his lab associates have been developing a method in which a single injection of a material called a PAD (photo-activated depot) can take the place of multiple normal insulin injections and allow for minute-by-minute automatic updating of insulin release. The material is injected into the skin like insulin, but lies dormant until a beam of light stimulates release of insulin, in response to blood sugar information.

The new grant will help make the technology more reliable for someone to use and easier to manage.

“With the improvements, we anticipate creating a new and revolutionary approach to continuously variable protein delivery, one that minimizes invasiveness and maximizes the close matching of therapeutic with patient requirements,” Friedman said.

Karen Kover, associate professor of pediatrics at the UMKC School of Medicine and Children’s Mercy, has been an integral member of the research team for years, and Friedman is grateful for her collaboration.

Reviewers of the grant application praised the work, and Friedman, who has won previous NIH funding, said this was his highest rated grant award.

“We are grateful for the enthusiastic response from the NIH study section, given the very competitive nature of funding at this time during the pandemic,” said UMKC Vice Chancellor for Research Chris Liu.

The project is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the NIH.

In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin. Patients need insulin to process sugar from meals.

People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies don’t respond well to it. At first the pancreas produces extra insulin to make up for it. But over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep blood sugar at normal levels.

About 34.2 million children and adults in the U.S. — 10.5% of the population — have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 25 percent use insulin shots. About 86 million people ages 20 and older in the U.S. have prediabetes.

Complications from diabetes include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system damage and amputation.

People with diabetes risk more serious complications from COVID-19 than others who do not have the disease.

“Through research at UMKC, we strive to improve the health of not just our community but our entire population,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. “We are proud of Dr. Friedman and his team’s innovation, which could significantly benefit people around the world.”

Making a Difference in Women’s Global Health

Faith Mueller wants to become an obstetrician/gynecologist and change the world. David John, M.D., believes she will and is mentoring her on that path. When each talks about the other, it’s clear that their inspiration is mutual.

“Early on, I became enveloped in the world of women’s liberation,” said Mueller, who is entering her last year of the UMKC School of Medicine’s six-year B.A./M.D. program. “I started reading stories of female genital mutilation, of sexual violence, of the pregnancy circumstances in areas of instability. These were stories that I could not shake, and I knew I had found my vocation.”

Faith Mueller
Faith Mueller

When she graduates, Mueller plans to find a role in women’s global health after serving her OB/GYN residency.

John, a member of the six-year program’s original graduating class in 1977, had a long career in rheumatology in Hawaii and returned to UMKC three years ago to teach and mentor students as a docent, the teaching physician for a small “docent unit” of medical students. He and Mueller met when she joined his docent unit.

“Our students are all bright and uniquely talented,” John said, “but it is rare to have a student like Faith Mueller. In addition to exceptional capabilities, Faith has the drive and the initiative, the passion, to do great things in her career. I hope to live long enough to see her early accomplishments to improve the health of women at a global level.”

Dr. John … approaches medicine with an empathy that is sustainable and rooted in ideas of equality. He stands for a world that is better for the people he serves.” — Faith Mueller

Her drive to get started in medicine as soon as possible led Mueller to UMKC, where she could get her M.D. two years sooner than at other universities. But in John, who as a young man envisioned being a professor of English literature, she found a mentor who also emphasized the humanities and appreciated her desire to help others.

Dr. John is unwaveringly kind and takes the effort to see the humanity in everyone, no matter how they come to him,” Mueller said. “He approaches medicine with an empathy that is sustainable and rooted in ideas of equality. He stands for a world that is better for the people he serves.”

David John
David John

Her mentor’s personality and commitment also make learning medicine less daunting. “I know I can always ask questions, whether about patient care, navigating the medical field, or life in general,” Mueller said.

In turn, John said, Mueller and his other students have inspired and renewed him.

“I had become intellectually complacent, emotionally placid, professionally successful but somehow not complete,” John said. “When I was a medical student here in the 1970s, certain docents showed me what it really means to wear the mantle of the physician within society. I viewed it as a great gift. This knowledge kept me true to the profession; it kept me grateful that my purpose was to help people suffer less and live healthier. When I decided it was my turn to give back, life got exciting again.

“Faith has the drive and the initiative, the passion, to do great things in her career. I hope to live long enough to see her early accomplishments to improve the health of women at a global level.”
— David John

“As Faith’s mentor, I feel my major purpose is to be a sounding board and a cheerleader. Her accomplishments are her own; she created her own goals. Mueller said she appreciates his support: “Dr. John inspires me to live boldly. I feel like I can ‘go for the gold’ knowing that I have someone within the faculty who will have my back and advocate for my success.”

The med school’s docent system gave Mueller her opportunity to find a mentor, but she encourages other students to actively seek out mentors if a mentor relationship doesn’t develop naturally. “Keep your mind open for who would be a good mentor,” she said. “They don’t have to be in your field or occupation. Find someone that helps you grow as a person. Look for someone who inspires you.”

UMKC School of Medicine Approved to Expand Program in Missouri

A new UMK School of Medicine campus in St. Joseph, in partnership with Mosaic Life Care, will increase rural health care

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine plans to expand its program to St. Joseph, Missouri, to address the state’s rural physician shortage.

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators approved the proposal on Thursday.

UMKC received a $7 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to start the new program in January 2021. HRSA, the primary federal agency for improving access to health-care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable, will pay out the grant over four years.

“We are thrilled we will be able to address a critical health-care need in Missouri,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D. “This will enable more patients throughout the state to get better access to high-quality medical treatment.”

The need is great in the United States – the American Association of Medical Colleges projects a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032, with primary-care physicians making up almost half of this shortage. And the need is especially great in Missouri: the state has 250 primary-care health professional shortage areas, including 109 of its 114 counties. It ranks No. 40 among U.S. states in terms of health.

“The disparities in care in rural areas result in higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease for rural Americans. Expansion of our medical school to the northwestern region of our state will serve to bridge this gap, knowing that students training in rural programs are three times as likely to remain in practice in those areas.” – UMKC School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson

“Missouri is facing a physician shortage in the next five years, creating major challenges for rural communities,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Missouri). “As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, I started the Medical Student Education Program to ensure resources were specifically targeted toward improving access to care where it’s needed most. I am glad to see the University of Missouri-Kansas City focusing efforts on addressing that challenge by training more physicians to practice medicine in rural and underserved areas. This is great news for UMKC and the St. Joseph community.”

Typically, physicians remain in the areas where they go to medical school, and 80 percent of UMKC School of Medicine students are from Missouri and the surrounding counties, said Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., dean of the school. “The disparities in care in rural areas result in higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease for rural Americans. Expansion of our medical school to the northwestern region of our state will serve to bridge this gap, knowing that students training in rural programs are three times as likely to remain in practice in those areas.”

While the UMKC School of Medicine is known for its innovative six-year B.A./M.D. program that admits students directly from high school, it will offer a four-year M.D. program in St. Joseph open to students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree. This M.D. track option has been part of the school tradition since opening its doors almost 50 years ago.

“I am glad to see the University of Missouri- Kansas City focusing efforts on addressing that challenge by training more physicians to practice medicine in rural and underserved areas. This is great news for UMKC and the St. Joseph community.” – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt

The new program in St. Joseph will expand the UMKC School of Medicine M.D. program by adding 20 students in St. Joseph to each cohort of about 100 students in Kansas City, said Steven Waldman, M.D., J.D., program director and principal investigator on the grant, and vice dean and chair of Humanities at the UMKC School of Medicine. The co-investigators on the grant are Michael Wacker, Ph.D., associate dean of academic affairs, and Paula Monaghan-Nichols, Ph.D., associate dean of research administration, both from the UMKC School of Medicine. The four-year program eventually will allow the UMKC School of Medicine to train 80 additional medical students.

In addition to the grant, the expansion is possible because of a partnership with Mosaic Life Care, located in St. Joseph. Mosaic is one of the largest private rural primary-care networks in the U.S. and a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network. Students will be able to learn and train in Mosaic’s rural healthcare network.

“The receipt of this federal grant, as well as the partnership, will allow the UMKC School of Medicine to expand our mission of training superlative physicians and health-care professionals to care for our most vulnerable populations,” Waldman said. “The addition of the UMKC School of Medicine’s St. Joseph campus will greatly enrich rural health-care education for our students.”

Other partners:

  • Truman Medical Centers, the primary teaching hospital for the school, has a mission dedicated to providing public health and specialty services for those with financial, health or insurance issues that limit access to care in Kansas City. Students, residents and faculty who are based at Truman in Kansas City will be able to learn and teach at Mosaic in St. Joseph and collaborate on care for patients.
  • UMKC Health Sciences District is a partnership of a dozen health-care entities including four UMKC health professions schools. This further expands the district’s reach into rural health care.
  • UMKC STAHR (Students in Training, in Academia, Health and Research) Partnership Program is committed to increasing the number of students from educationally and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are prepared to enter, persist and graduate from a UMKC health sciences degree program. STAHR serves as a mentorship resource to students.

UMKC has a successful track record of creating rural health education programs in Missouri. The UMKC School of Pharmacy includes satellite campuses at the University of Missouri in Columbia and Missouri State University in Springfield.

Student scientists go online for 9th annual Health Sciences Student Research Summit

Health Sciences Student Research SummitStudents from across UMKC’s Health Sciences campus displayed their research skills during the 9th annual Health Sciences Student Research Summit, making 82 presentations in a week-long virtual, online format because of coronavirus concerns.

The event brings together members of the UMKC health sciences community in a forum that highlights the research being conducted by students. It also fosters research collaborations across disciplines and schools to produce economic, health, education and quality of life benefits for the Kansas City community.

Students were invited to either present a poster or give an oral PowerPoint presentation of their research findings. A panel of judges selected the top three in both graduate student and undergraduate divisions.

Judges were from the School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Nursing and Health Sciences, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Truman Medical Centers, Children’s Mercy Kansas City Hospital and the Kansas City Veterans Administration Medical Center.

This year’s research summit drew 66 participants, including 51 medical students, eight pharmacy students, two from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and two from master’s programs.

Graduate Clinical Poster Presentations
(BA/MD and MD Year 5 and 6 medical students, master’s students, Pharm.D. students and medical residents)

  • 1st Place: Mark Gray, master’s student SBCS: Bone Strain Alters Cardiac Function. Mentor: Michael Wacker, SOM
  • 2nd Place: Suma Ancha, SOM MS VI: Electronic Health Record Functionality: Medical Students’ Perspective.
  • 3rd Place Tie: Brooke Jacobson, PharmD YR4: Development of a Cystic Fibrosis Specific Antibiogram. Mentor: Claire Elson, CMH
  • 3rd Place Tie: Rachna Talluri, SOM MS V: The influence of maturity on the relationship between the triglyceride/HDL ratio and vascular health in children and adolescents with dyslipidemia. Mentor: Geetha Raghuveer, CMH
  • 3rd Place Tie: Brandon Wesche, SOM MS VI: Transcriptome Changes after Glucocorticoids for Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. Mentor: Paula Monaghan Nichols, SOM

Graduate Oral PowerPoint Presentations
(BA/MD and MD Year 5 and 6 medical students, master’s students, Pharm.D. students, and medical residents)

  • 1st Place: Darya Tajfiroozeh, SOM MS VI: Immune profiling of dexamethasone response in treatment of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Mentor: Paula Monaghan Nichols, SOM
  • 2nd Place: Andrew Peterson, SOM MS V: Development and Validation of the Nasal Outcome Score for Epistaxis in Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (NOSE HHT). Mentor: Jay Piccirillo, Washington University-St. Louis
  • 3rd Place: Emily Boschert, SOM MS VI: 22 Years of Pediatric Musculoskeletal Firearm Injuries: The Carnage Continues. Mentor: Richard Schwend, CMH

Undergraduate Poster Presentations
(BA/MD and MD Years 1 to 4 medical students, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences students)

  • 1st Place: Adnan Islam, SOM MS IV: rfaZ’s Role in Escherichia coli Neonatal Sepsis: In-Vitro Bacterial Growth. Mentor: Susana Chavez-Bueno, CMH
  • 2nd Place: Som P. Singh, SOM MS III: Mental Health Outcomes of Early-Entrance to College Students: A Cross Sectional Study. Mentor: Jianwei Jiao, SOM
  • 3rd Place: Shil Shah, MS III: The Effects of Necrotizing Enterocolitis on Cytoskeletal Genes in Gut Epithelium. Mentor: Paula Monaghan Nichols, SOM

Undergraduate Oral PowerPoint Presentations
(BA/MD and MD Years 1 to 4 Medical students, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences students)

  • 1st Place: Madhavi Murali, SOM MS IV: Challenges of interpreting Naranjo causality assessment of pediatric adverse drug reactions. Mentor: Jennifer Goldman, CMH
  • 2nd Place: Aarya Ramprasad, SOM MS II: Contributions to Health Disparities Observed in the COVID19 Pandemic. Mentor: Bridgette Jones, SOM
  • 3rd Place: Victoria Shi, SOM MS II: Transcriptome Analysis of Patients with Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. Mentor: Paula Monaghan-Nichols, SOM