New book explores history of the UMKC School of Medicine

Patricia Gosney Burton and Jerald A. Burton, M.D. '73, Ph.D.
Patricia Gosney Burton and Jerald A. Burton, M.D. ’73, Ph.D.

A graduate and a former staff member have edited the first book-length history of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

A Proven Experiment: Looking Back at the UMKC School of Medicine tells the story of the school and Hospital Hill in a series of essays by and interviews with founders, faculty, staff and alumni. The late Jerald A. Burton, M.D. ’73, Ph.D., a member of the first gradating class, and Patricia Gosney Burton, who was hired as an education assistant the year the school opened in 1971, edited the book.

Jerald Burton was diagnosed with a brain tumor around the time a manuscript for A Proven Experiment was completed. He died Nov. 17, 2014, at age 74.

The book was the idea of school founder E. Grey Dimond, M.D. He asked the Burtons, who were married the year Burton earned his medical degree, if they were up for the task in the fall of 2012. “We could not say no to Dr. Dimond,” Patricia Burton said. “Like a lot people, we owe him everything.”

The couple began assembling material in April 2013. The book is broken into five sections; the largest focuses on the academic plan that Dimond began thinking about when he was on the faculty at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. “We knew it needed to be centered around the academic plan, because that’s what made the school so different from any other medical school at the time,” Burton said.

Dimond crafted a plan in which students could begin their medical education directly out of high school, had early and regular contact with patients, and learned in small groups known as docent teams. The “experiment,” as Dimond called it, continues. The book includes an essay by Carol Stanford, M.D. ’79, associate professor of medicine and a docent for the Years 3–6 students. The docent system, Stanford writes in the essay, “is a remarkable educational method that continually rejuvenates itself as new leaders are added to the team. It is a dynamic and refreshing way to teach and educate medical students.”

Burton said that A Proven Experiment’s contributors were eager to submit material. “They were excited, like us, to tell the story,” she said.

Dimond, who died in 2013, had told the Burtons that the early graduates were at an ideal stage in their careers to reflect on their medical education. Many alumni described the pride and relief they had felt as residents, when they discovered their knowledge and skills compared favorably with graduates of more established medical schools. “They really knew they were clinically prepared to do the work in their residency,” Burton said.

In addition to more than a dozen graduates’ voices, the book features essays by Chancellor Leo E. Morton, School of Medicine Dean Steven L. Kanter, M.D., and the deans of the schools of Pharmacy, Dentistry and Nursing and Health Studies, among others.

An aerial photograph of Hospital Hill appears on the cover of A Proven Experiment. Burton said her husband saw a proof page of the cover before he died. “We love the photograph,” she said. “It speaks to the changes that have taken place since the groundbreaking.”

Jerald Burton received a doctorate in pharmacology at UMKC before he entered medical school. He trained in internal medicine and pulmonary medicine and served for a time as the president of the medical staff at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. He taught courses at the medical school until the time of his death.

Patricia Burton is a counselor at CenterPoint Counseling and Recovery Center in Kansas City, Mo. She previously worked in state government and in higher education before joining the School of Medicine. In addition to advising students and assisting docents, she was the recording secretary for the school’s governing councils.

Burton said it was exciting to work at the school in its infancy. Of course, she added, “we worked hard. We worked very, very hard.”

Burton said she appreciated the efforts of Dean Emerita Betty Drees, M.D., and the UMKC staff members who assisted her and her husband with the book, which is available at the Health Sciences Bookstore and online at The publisher is Rockhill Books, an imprint of The Kansas City Star.