They Dared to Dream Big

UMKC School of Medicine’s visionaries

E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Nathan Stark, Homer Wadsworth

(As we celebrate the UMKC School of Medicine’s golden anniversary, we are sharing stories from our history and alumni throughout the first 50 years.)

Sometimes dreams do come true. This is a story of visionaries, men with a passion and tireless dedication to improving the health of their community.

Many recognize E. Grey Dimond, M.D., as the founder of the UMKC School of Medicine. It was, after all, his idea, to develop an accelerated, six-year medical school program, something he experienced first-hand during his time in the military during World War II. But others, particularly Homer Wadsworth and Nathan Stark, were key to the school’s existence.

Together, the three are celebrated for the rebirth of Kansas City’s Hospital Hill and the creation of the UMKC School of Medicine.

One of Kansas City’s most influential citizens, Wadsworth was responsible for helping develop foundations that served the city’s indigent populations. After arriving in Kansas City in 1949, Wadsworth led the Kansas City Association of Trusts and Foundations and laid the groundwork for establishing the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Foundation. He would later spend 10 years as director of the Cleveland Foundation, the oldest and third-largest community foundation in the United States.

While in Kansas City, Wadsworth had an even more grand vision of how to address the health care needs of his growing community and beyond. It wasn’t a new idea to start a new medical school in Kansas City. But where previous efforts had fallen short, Wadsworth was determined to make it happen.

The tide began to change when Wadsworth began collaborating with Nathan Stark. A trained lawyer who specialized in health policy, Stark served as chairman of the board of directors for Kansas City General Hospital, a forerunner to today’s University Health Truman Medical Center. A leading executive in the medical industry, Stark also served in Washington, D.C., as a health insurance consultant to the House Committee on Ways and Means, and would eventually hold the post of undersecretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the precursor to today’s U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

Stark was also a prominent Kansas City business executive. The senior vice president of operations for Hallmark Cards, he eventually served as CEO and chair of Kansas City’s Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation. Together, Stark and Wadsworth made headway in improving the operations of Kansas City’s hospitals. In 1962, they turned their attention to developing a new Kansas City medical school.

As the rebirth of Kansas City’s Hospital Hill began taking shape in the 1960s, they envisioned a UMKC medical school as the centerpiece. They worked to acquire the needed land and had their eyes on a third visionary in Dimond, who had chaired the Department of Medicine at Kansas University Medical Center.

Dimond moved on to California to become founder and head of Cardiopulmonary Diseases at the Scripps Clinic and spent time as a medical education consultant for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, but he and Stark remained in touch. During a trip back to Kansas City to visit, Stark and Wadsworth approached Dimond with their vision of creating a new medical school. He agreed, with one caveat. “Only if you (don’t) build a four-plus-four med school. Only if you make some fun out of it,” said Dimond.

A few years later, city and state leaders joined the three in breaking ground for the new UMKC School of Medicine, a program built upon Dimond’s design of a six-year combined baccalaureate/doctor of medicine degree program that would accept students directly from high school. The school first opened in 1971 and the building was officially dedicated in 1974.

This year, as the UMKC School of Medicine celebrates its 50th anniversary, it recognizes its founders and follows their commitment to medical education and caring for the health and welfare of their community.

SOM researcher receives NIH grant to study treatment for chronic lung disease

UMKC School of Medicine researcher Paula Monaghan Nichols, Ph.D., has received a $867,000 National Institutes of Health grant to look into a treatment that minimizes neurological side effects for a chronic lung disease that affects a significant number of premature babies.

The project is part of a multi-principle investigator initiated proposal between Monaghan Nichols, Dr. Venkatesh Sampath from Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City, and Dr. Donald DeFranco at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, that totals more than $3 million in NIH funding over a 5-year period.

The research will explore the use of Ciclesonide (CIC), an inhaled steroid currently used to treat asthma, as an alternate therapy for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). BDP causes tissue damage in the tiny air sacs of the lung leading to severe respiratory distress. It is often the result premature birth and mechanical oxygen ventilation. The disease touches nearly seven of 10 infants born before 28 weeks of gestation. In the United States, that is an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 babies a year.

There is currently no cure for BPD but clinical treatments to limit inflammation and the progression of BPD include long-acting synthetic drugs such as dexamethasone. Those drugs, however, also come with a significant risk of adverse effects on a child’s systemic growth and neurodevelopment that can lead to long-lasting changes in brain structure and function.

Monaghan Nichols, associate dean for research, professor and chair of Biomedical Sciences, said infants that acquire BPD face significant mortality rates. Survivors often have recurrent hospital visits, need for respiratory therapies and persistent limitations in pulmonary function.

“Therefore, there remains a need for a pharmacotherapy for BPD in neonates that will have beneficial anti-inflammatory and lung maturation effects, but limited adverse neurological side effects,” Monaghan Nichols said.

Preliminary studies have found that Ciclesonide, even with intermittent doses, can suppress acute lung inflammation with limited neurological alterations in rat models.

“Given the established safety of CIC in very young children, the clinical translation of our proposed studies to human neonates could be expedited, particularly given the limited, safe and effective therapeutic options available for treating or preventing BPD in susceptible premature infants,” Monaghan Nichols said.

School of Medicine students recognized as Dean of Students Honor Recipients

Five sixth-year School of Medicine students have been recognized as fall semester Dean of Students Honor Recipients for their scholastic performance, community leadership and service.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, students were recognized online with short videos introducing the recipients and those who nominated them.

“Every semester, it is our pleasure to host a breakfast in celebration of the accomplishments of the Dean of Students Honor Recipients,” co-interim Dean of Students Keichanda Dees-Burnett said in an online presentation. “While this semester has been a bit different, we wanted to continue this tradition by virtually celebrating your achievements.”

The program distinguishes exceptional students who maintain high scholastic performance while actively participating in University and community leadership and service activities outside of the classroom.

This semester’s School of Medicine recipients include:

 

 

Dr. Beth Rosemergey chosen as new chair of Community and Family Medicine

The UMKC School of Medicine and University Health have announced the appointment of Beth Rosemergey, D.O., as the new chair of the Department of Community and Family Medicine. Her appointment takes effect Jan. 10, 2022.

Rosemergey, an associate professor of community and family medicine, currently serves as vice chair of the department. She is also medical director of the Bess Truman Family Medicine Center at University Health Lakewood Hospital and director of the Family Medicine residency program and will continue in those roles as well.

A 1988 graduate of the Kansas City University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine, now Kansas City University, Rosemergey completed her community and family medicine residency, including a year as chief resident, at UMKC before joining the School of Medicine faculty in 2016.

“I am honored to be appointed as chair of the Department of Community and Family Medicine and work with an amazing group of faculty, fellows and residents,” Rosemergey said. “I hope to partner with our patients, learners, healthcare system, medical school and community to develop innovative ways to serve our patients by expanding primary care access, educational endeavors and scholarship.”

Rosemergey is an active member of many committees and boards. She is on the Physician NTT Initial Academic Appointment and Promotion Committee, the Professional Development Committee, Graduate Medical Education Committee and Honor Council.  She is also a co-faculty advisor for the School of Medicine chapter of Gold Humanism Honor Society and a mentor in the Faculty Mentor Program. With University Health, she serves on the Physicians Board of Directors and Finance Committee. She is also a board member on the Kansas City and Missouri Academies of Family.

In 2020, the Independence Examiner honored Rosemergey with a Woman of Distinction Award. The award recognizes outstanding women of Eastern Jackson County, Missouri, in in the fields of business, government, education and non-profits based on their accomplishments and community involvement.

Stephen Griffith, M.D, professor and past chair of community and family medicine, has served as interim department and academic chair since April. Beginning Jan. 10, he will serve as vice chair for the department.

Noback-Burton lecturer discusses physician challenges during COVID pandemic

The challenges of being a physician during the time of COVID-19 are nothing new to medical professionals said Kevin Churchwell, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Boston Children’s Hospital. The ongoing pandemic has increasingly brought those issues to light.

Churchwell delivered his remarks to faculty and staff of the UMKC School of Medicine as the keynote speaker for the annual Noback-Burton Lectureship held virtually on Dec. 9.

He outlined four particular challenges physicians have faced that include information overload, dealing with shift work, time commitment and finding an adequate work-life balance.

“I hope you realize that it’s not just in a time of COVID that these challenges are presented to us,” he said. “These are challenges that have faced us since the beginning of time. It’s really a challenge of how do we continue to see medicine as a profession.”

At the children’s hospital in Boston, Churchwell said, leaders have addressed the issues by creating the Boston Children’s Hospital academy for teaching education, innovation and scholarship. It is a program that explores how to help physicians, practitioners and residents with the information overload, while promoting excellence in innovation and offering mentorship and support to help with career development.

“No matter what, in the time of COVID or outside of COVID, I believe the issues that we’re facing now are the issues that we will continue to face,” Churchwell said. “The solution will be to start by treating medicine as a profession.”

The Noback-Burton Lecture series is endowed by James Riscoe, M.D., ’75, a member of the school’s third graduating class. Riscoe started the event in 2016 to honor Richardson K. Noback, M.D., the first dean of the School of Medicine, and the late Jerry Burton, M.D., ’73, a classmate who is recognized as the first graduate of the medical school.

SOM researcher receives NIH grant to study treatment for chronic lung disease

Monaghan-Nichols, Paula
Paula Monaghan-Nichols, Ph.D.

UMKC School of Medicine researcher Paula Monaghan Nichols, Ph.D., has received a $867,000 National Institutes of Health grant to look into a treatment that minimizes neurological side effects for a chronic lung disease that affects a significant number of premature babies.

The project is part of a multi-principle investigator initiated proposal between Dr. Monaghan Nichols, Dr Venkatesh Sampath from Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City, and Dr. Donald DeFranco at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, that totals more than $3 million in NIH funding over a 5-year period.

The research will explore the use of Ciclesonide (CIC), an inhaled steroid currently used to treat asthma, as an alternate therapy for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). BDP causes tissue damage in the tiny air sacs of the lung leading to severe respiratory distress. It is often the result premature birth and mechanical oxygen ventilation. The disease touches nearly seven of 10 infants born before 28 weeks of gestation. In the United States, that is an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 babies a year.

There is currently no cure for BPD but clinical treatments to limit inflammation and the progression of BPD include long-acting synthetic drugs such as dexamethasone. Those drugs, however, also come with a significant risk of adverse effects on a child’s systemic growth and neurodevelopment that can lead to long-lasting changes in brain structure and function.

Monaghan Nichols, associate dean for research, professor and chair of Biomedical Sciences, said infants that acquire BPD face significant mortality rates. Survivors often have recurrent hospital visits, need respiratory therapies and experience persistent limitations in pulmonary function.

“Therefore, there remains a need for a pharmacotherapy for BPD in neonates that will have beneficial anti-inflammatory and lung maturation effects, but limited adverse neurological side effects,” Monaghan Nichols said.

Preliminary studies have found that Ciclesonide, even with intermittent doses, can suppress acute lung inflammation with limited neurological alterations in rat models.

“Given the established safety of CIC in very young children, the clinical translation of our proposed studies to human neonates could be expedited, particularly given the limited, safe and effective therapeutic options available for treating or preventing BPD in susceptible premature infants,” Monaghan Nichols said.

UMKC alum works to promote breast cancer awareness, diversify field

Dr. Amy Patel leads KC area Breast Care Center while mentoring students

Growing up in Chillicothe, Missouri, a town of fewer than 10,000 people, Amy Patel didn’t see many physicians that looked like her.

“There was only one primary care woman physician in my hometown and there weren’t any women who looked like me, a woman of color. From a young age I realized there was such a need for women practicing specialized care, but especially for women of color,” Patel said.

That observation sparked a fire and passion in Patel that has continued to grow. Patel went on to study medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and graduated from the school’s six-year medical program. During medical school she completed a rotation with a breast radiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, which was a turning point in her decision to specialize in breast cancer radiology.

After completing a breast imaging fellowship at Washington University, Patel began her professional career in Boston, and even found time to work as a faculty member at Harvard. But eventually, Patel felt called to return to Missouri.

“I always wanted to come back to the Midwest to assume a leadership position where I could make a difference and make an impact,” Patel explained.

In July of 2018 Patel was named medical director of the Breast Imaging Center at Liberty Hospital. Since her arrival she’s helped grow the program, adding an additional breast imaging specialist, starting a plastic surgery program and partnering with the UMKC School of Medicine to launch a Breast Radiology elective course. Patel teaches the course, which involves a rotation designed to introduce medical students to a range of screening and diagnostic breast imaging modalities to multidisciplinary care. She hopes this course will help others, especially women and minorities, become more interested in the profession.

“The percentages of women entering the radiology field have remained around 27% a year, and those numbers for underrepresented minorities are even lower. Right now, there are so many opportunities for students and I’m hopeful in the future, we will start to see growth in the percentages that have remained stagnant for many years,” Patel said.

In addition to helping launch the new rotation, Patel says one of the initiatives she’s most excited about is a newly launched genetics program within Liberty Hospital.

“Knowing your family history is very important because that could potentially warrant genetic consultation and then possible testing. That is why it’s so important for a hospital system to have a genetics program and that’s why we’ve worked really hard to have one here,” she adds.

While familial genetic indicators may be out of our control, Patel says everyone can proactively take steps to lower their risk of breast cancer.

“A healthy diet is important, maintaining a body mass index that is within recommended limits is key because we know obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer. Moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking are also important ways to lower your risk,” Patel said.

Regular screenings are also key in the fight against breast cancer. Patel says screening rates among women plummeted into the single digits during the pandemic due to the pause of routine screenings in Spring and early Summer of 2020 under advisement of the CDC. While the numbers have started to rebound, they’re still down about 13% compared to pre-pandemic.

“I always wanted to come back to the Midwest to assume a leadership position where I could make a difference and make an impact.” — Amy Patel

 

Dr. Amy Patel looks at images in a lab

“We are particularly worried about women of color, who tend to be the ones with more barriers when it comes to access and education. If screening rates don’t pick back up, we are worried that disparity could widen even further so it’s really going to take the entire breast cancer community to come together and encourage patients of all backgrounds to get screened,” Patel said.

Patel says October is a good time to get screened and encourage friends and family to do so as well.

“Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not just about raising money for research; the awareness component is equally as important, and I love to see specialists coming together and encouraging others to go and get your mammogram.”

SOAP Notes

SOAP Notes
For October 2021

The School of Medicine Council on Curriculum has selected its new student ambassadors. Ambassadors represent the Health Sciences District and the St. Joseph campus to provide input on curriculum development and change and communicate student concerns and needs. This year’s ambassadors:
Council on Curriculum Members – Erin Galakatos, MS 5; Neal Shah, MS 5; Kevin Varghese MS 5
Year 1 Ambassadors – Cameron Quick, Brandon Park
Year 2 Ambassadors – Khyathi Thallapureddy, Bailey Whithaus
Year 3 Ambassadors – Safa Farrukh, Sameer Khan (STJ), Katie Long
Year 4 Ambassadors – Karishma Kondapalli, Erik Way
Year 5 Ambassadors – Herschel Gupta, Sidharth Ramesh
Year 6 Ambassadors – Megan Schoelch, Shubhika Jain

Josephine Nwanko, MS 4, took first place in the research category of this year’s Missouri ACP (American College of Physicians) Student Poster Competition during the organization’s annual meeting in September. She will be invited to present her winning presentation, “Increasing representation of Black women in orthopediacs starts with medical students,” at the 2022 ACP Internal Medicine Meeting next April in Chicago.

The UMKC School of Medicine’s Missouri Delta chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society announced 13 sixth-year students who will be inducted into the society next May. The inductees include Lauren Gresham, Rishabh Gupta, Shubhika Jain, Varsha Kandadi, Morgan Kensinger, Valerie Kirtley, Vijay Letchuman, Leilani Mansy, Caroline Olson, Michael Oyekan, Geethanjali Rajagopal, Megan Schoelch and Jacob Williamson. Selection to the organization recognizes a student’s dedication to the profession and art of healing and excellence in academic scholarship. Next spring, the AOA chapter will also welcome fifth-year students, alumni, residents and faculty inductees. This year’s student officers are: Andrew Peterson, student president; Kartik Depala, student vice-president; Madhavi Murali, student secretary; and Yen Luu, student treasurer.

We want to know what is going on at the UMKC School of Medicine. Send us your story ideas and we will consider them for publication in “SOAP Notes,” a new feature on our School of Medicine PRN news page that will include short, interesting tidbits about our students, faculty and staff.

To submit a note or story idea, email edwardske@umkc.edu:
Your name:
Your email:
Student ___ / Faculty ___ / Staff ___
Story idea or note (150 words or less):

 

UMKC physician assistant student focuses on treating the underserved

Kevin Du, a first-year physician assistant student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, has experienced patients at their worst while working in the emergency room at University Health Truman Medical Center.

“I see the impact the social determinants of health have on certain populations,” Du said. “In the emergency room, we see a lot of immigrants and persons of color and that really resonated with me coming from a first-generation family.”

It made such an impact that Du is now part of a unique Area Health Education Centers Scholars program that helps prepare health professions students to care for rural and urban underserved patients in small interprofessional teams.

Throughout the two-year program, students take part in didactic and community activities that focus on areas such as quality improvement and patient-centered care, as well as cultural competency and emerging issues in health care. Interprofessional education events that bring together students from differing health care fields are also part of the curriculum.

Du is taking part in the scholars program in conjunction with his physician assistant studies at the School of Medicine. Much of the coursework for the AHEC program is done individually but participants also work interprofessionally once or twice a year with others throughout the state.

“My biggest reason for doing this program is to become more culturally competent and to be able to recognize any biases I may have so that I can be a more understanding patient care provider in the future,” Du said.

Before starting the physician assistant program at UMKC, Du served as an emergency room technician at Truman Medical Center, now University Health Truman Medical Center, as well as a technician in the cardiovascular ICU at St. Louis Barnes Jewish Hospital and as an EMT/technician with an urgent care center also in St. Louis.

Now, he says his goal is to work in an urban core medical center where he can reach those in need of help.

“I have seen the struggles that my parents went through and how they were treated regarding health care,” Du said. “I truly want to help the underserved population when I graduate from UMKC.”

Longtime emergency medicine physician addresses burnout in annual McNabney Lectureship

Robert Muelleman, M.D.

Doctoring is hard work, said Robert Muelleman, M.D., quoting long-time emergency medicine physician W. Kendall McNabney, M.D.

Muelleman, who spent 36 years in clinical and administrative roles as an emergency medicine physician, was the keynote speaker on Oct. 14 at the school’s W. Kendall McNabney Endowed Lectureship. The graduate of UMKC School of Medicine Emergency Medicine Residency program talked about burnout as a physician and specifically those who practice emergency medicine.

“Dr. McNabney said doctoring is hard work,” Muelleman said. “I heard him say it more than once.”

Muelleman understands just how hard. He served as a faculty member in emergency medicine for 10 years at UMKC before moving to Nebraska where he retired as a professor at the University of Nebraska.

The World Health Organization describes burnout among physicians not a medical condition but an occupational phenomenon, Muelleman said. He added that it’s a wicked problem that poses serious consequences for not only physicians but for patient care and the health system as well.

“You’re dealing with a bunch of exhausted doctors who love what they do,” he said. “We’ve got issues in terms of exhaustion and things like that but also a lot of opportunities for resilience.”

The annual lectureship honors McNabney, who founded the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UMKC School of Medicine and Truman Medical Center in 1973. McNabney was the first and longest serving chair of emergency medicine at the school and served as the head of trauma services for many years.

Adam Algren, M.D., chair of Emergency Medicine, recognized McNabney, who died  in August, as an icon of the school and the specialty of emergency medicine.

“He impacted thousands of individuals, learners, patients in his career,” Algren said. “We’re all thankful about what he was able to teach us about being a skilled compassionate clinician and a good human being. We know his memory and legacy will live on in the department and the organization.”