Alumni Reflections Through 50 Years
Since 1971, nearly 4,000 physicians and health care professionals across the United States have received their degrees from the UMKC School of Medicine. As a leadup to our Gold Jubilee 50th anniversary event on June 4, we will spotlight some of our alumni who embody the school’s spirit and excellence in medical education and patient care.
Today, we catch up with Mario Castro, M.D., ’88, a pulmonary care specialist who received the 2021 E. Grey Dimond Take Wing Award.
Where are you now and where are you working?
I’m now live in Lenexa, Kansas. I joined the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 2019 and serve as L. E. Phillips and Lenora Carr Phillips Professor, chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. I am also vice chair for clinical and translational research and director of the Frontiers Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
What is your focus?
Asthma and COPD have been my focus at KUMC. When I’m not working, I focus on my family, running and biking.
While working on improving respiratory health throughout the developing world, Castro also played a major role in the battle against COVID-19 on a global level. He worked with partners throughout Kansas City on one of the largest vaccine studies in the country to develop a global vaccine that could be taken to the farthest reaches of the world. The study enrolled more than 500 participants in Kansas City who were part of an effort that resulted in the development of the COVID vaccine most used worldwide.
Can you share something that people may not know about you?
I came to the U.S. as a refugee from Cuba as a young child. In one of my efforts to give to those in need, I am a board member of the International Medical Assistance Foundation (IMAF), an organization that reaches the underserved in Honduras and lead an annual medical brigade to Hospital Hermano Pedro in Catacamas, Honduras.
Castro oversees a board that regularly sends volunteer teams of ENT, orthopedics, cardiology, neurology and other specialists to remote areas of Honduras. Twelve years ago, the Honduran government provided $3 million and the IMAF raised another $3 million through church donations and fundraisers to build and supply the 100-bed Hospital Hermano Pedro. Just prior to the onset of the COVID pandemic, Castro and his team saw and treated 1,300 pulmonary patients in less than a week at the hospital.