Meet Our Researchers

Jannette Berkley-Patton, M.A., Ph.D.



B.S. - Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Kansas
M.A. - Human Development and Family Life, University of Kansas
Ph.D. - Child and Developmental Psychology, University of Kansas

Research Focus

Using community-based participatory research methods, Berkley-Patton focuses on health education, prevention, screening, and care support in African American churches and Jamaica.

Meet Jannette Berkley-Patton
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Your mother is from Jamaica. Did you ever visit Jamaica while growing up?

My mom immigrated from Jamaica, but we went there as kids about every summer. I kind of grew up in a little of both cultures. We would visit my family's homestead in the countryside. They had no running water, no electricity. Everything that you ate was off the land. That was very different from growing up in the inner city. It was a very, very different experience.

Why did you change careers from electrical engineer to behavioral psychology and research?

I so enjoyed the time I was spending on the weekends doing community service, working with adolescents, adolescent development and youth programs and tutoring and doing those kinds of things. I thought, this would be a great time in my life to go back to school and do something that I really feel called to do.

What do you enjoy about the research you do now?

I love what I do because it's in the very community I grew up in, particularly a faith-based setting. Growing up in inner-city Kansas City for the most part, if you were in an African-American family, then you must go to church on Sunday; you must go to Sunday school. That ability to have a positive impact on the community that I grew up in is really fulfilling to me.

Xiang-Ping Chu, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Tenured


M.S. - Physiology - Fudan University Shanghai Medical College
M.D. - Clinical Medicine - Jiangsu University School of Medicine
Ph.D. - Physiology - Fudan University Shanghai Medical College
Fellowship - Neurobiology - Robert S. Dow Neurobiology Laboratories, Legacy Research Institute

Research Focus

Understanding how a particular cell gateway — acid-sensing ion channels, or ASICs — functions and affects everything from stroke, traumatic brain injury and seizures to drug addiction and pain modulation.

Dr. Chu, who came to UMKC in 2008, has received research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the American Heart Association and the University of Missouri Research Board. His findings have been published in such journals as The Lancet, Cell and Neuron.

Meet Xiang-Ping Chu
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How did you get started in research?

I realized while getting my medical degree that often the reasons for illnesses are hidden, and I wanted to be able to find answers that are not always obvious. After I received my medical degree I was able to do physiology research on opioid receptors at Fudan University in Shanghai and post-doctoral research in Portland, Oregon.

Cellular research seems, in a way, small scale, but doesn’t it have large implications?

Yes, dozens of diseases and illnesses, from anxiety and depression to diabetes and cancer, develop because of defects in the ion channels crucial for regulating cell life and death. And as we understand their role in neurological and psychological diseases, we also discover ways that they can be regulated or modulated. These discoveries offer hope for more effective treatments for stroke, drug addiction, traumatic brain injury and other diseases.

What do you like to do besides research?

I like to spend time with my wife, a lab technician at the Stowers Institute, and our son, whom I used to bring to the lab with me when he was little. I enjoy playing table tennis, often with students at the school of medicine, and fishing with friends on weekends. That is very relaxing. I also am active in a Bible study group and in a Sunday night choir that performs at many events, including Chinese festivals and visits to a retirement center. I am fortunate to have a community of friends with many similar interests.

Betty M. Drees, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.E.

Professor, Dean Emerita, Program Director - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Fellowship, President - Stowers Institute for Medical Research Graduate Program, James B. and Annabel Nutter/Harry S. Jonas Endowed Professor


M.D. - University of Kansas
Residency - Internal Medicine - University of Kansas Medical Center
Fellowship - Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism - University of Kansas Medical Center

Research Focus

Fracture prevention and diabetes prevention.

Meet Betty M. Drees
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How did you get started in research?

I have always been interested in endocrinology because it’s applied physiology—systems with feedback loops, very logical. I also wanted the variety a career in academic medicine provides: You get to care for patients, teach and do research. After my fellowship in endocrinology I went into the Veterans Administration’s career development program, which funded physicians starting research careers and provided mentors for me.

What do find rewarding in your work?

Affecting people’s lives in positive ways is always rewarding. My current work on diabetes in the community promotes disease prevention and the connection between clinical medicine and community resources. And I always enjoy working with students, residents, fellows and junior faculty. It’s rewarding to see them develop their careers and grow professionally. I’m proud of establishing the bioinformatics program and the research infrastructure it provides for the whole school.

What do you enjoy outside of your research?

My pleasures are quiet pleasures, including the outdoors and travel to our national parks. I was in the Teton Mountains for last year’s solar eclipse. Family is very important to me; my husband and I have three grown children. And I’m always reading and learning new things. I read widely, including science and technology, history and fiction, to learn about other cultures and to see what forces brought us to current situations. I recently read a string of Russian novels, some of them classics, some contemporary authors. And “Genghis Khan and the Search for God,” “Salt: A World History,” “Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter,” “Incarnations: A History of India in 50 Lives,” “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America,” to learn about American post-Civil War history. I like to keep learning.

John Foxworth, Pharm.D.

Professor, Associate Dean for Academic Enrichment, Director of Research, Internal Medicine Residency, Fellow, American College of Clinical Pharmacology and American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Member and UMKC SOM Councilor - AOA (Alpha Omega Alpha)


Pharm.D. - University of Missouri - Kansas City
Residency - Kansas City General Hospital and Medical Center (teaching pharmacology to medical residents and medical students in the SOM and at TMC)

Research Focus

Evidence-based medicine

Foxworth works with students and residents teaching research methodology, biostatistics and evidence-based medicine.

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What do you enjoy about research and helping others with research projects?

I like biostatistics and measuring things. And I enjoy helping students and residents learn to read scientific articles well. That’s what the Medical Decision Making course is all about. I look at critical analysis of medical literature as working a puzzle. I also enjoy helping people set up research projects and write posters. It’s fun and interesting.

What kind of puzzles do you like?

I work crossword puzzles regularly, the New York Times, especially. Twenty-five years ago, when I started doing crosswords, I had trouble getting very many words at all. But if you persist, you improve. I could barely do the Kansas City Star crossword puzzle back when I first started – and that is considered easy. Now I can work those five minutes. And almost every week, you’ll find me working the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. That one takes a while, usually a few hours.

What other hobbies do you have.

I like music a lot. I enjoy dogs; I’ve always had dogs. I also enjoy woodworking. And I watch a lot of movies, usually going the movie theater about once a week, sometimes more. So, I have several hobbies and things that I like to do outside of work.

Emily A. Hillman, M.D., M.P.H.E.

Associate Professor, Director of Simulation Education - UMKC School of Medicine Clinical Training Facility, Associate Residency Program Director for Emergency Medicine, Emergency Medicine Medical Education Fellowship Director


M.D. - University of Missouri - Kansas CIty
Residency - Emergency Medicine - University of Missouri - Kansas City / Truman Medical Center
ABEM Diplomate - 2012
M.P.H.E. - M.H.P.E.- University of Missouri-Kansas City

Research Focus

Education Research

Taking simulation activities into scholarship learning, Hillman’s research explores the best ways to teach and assess learners in clinical, classroom and simulation settings.

Meet Emily A. Hillman
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What do enjoy doing outside of your busy schedule as a physician, teacher and researcher?

I’ve always been into physical fitness. I have three little girls now who are age three and under. That in itself is a workout that I had no idea was so intense, but I love spending time with my girls and my husband.

How did you stay physically fit before children?

I used to be a fitness competitor and a body builder. One time, I won the award for “best pose.” I also am a past winner of the Miss Kansas Body Builder competition. Since I’ve had children, I’ve gotten out of competition, but I still enjoy being fit.

Do you have other hobbies?

My husband and I like to go to the movies. I’m into 80’s movies – “Dirty Dancing” is my favorite. I don’t know what it is about that movie, but I’ve watched it a lot. We also love music and going to concerts. We’ve seen Pink, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Madonna and Lady Gaga. Beach vacations are another favorite activity, and we’ve enjoyed trips to Jamaica, Barbados and Mexico. We also have visited Paris, Italy and Germany and were actually in Germany during the October Festival. That was fun.

Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.P.I.D.S., F.I.D.S.A.

Dean, Professor - University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Medicine
816-234-3061, 816-235-1808


M.D. - University of Missouri - Kansas City
Residency - Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Fellowship - Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Research Focus

Vaccine implementation, judicious use of antibiotics and prevention of antibiotic resistant infections.

Jackson focuses on describing the epidemiology of vaccine preventable infections and studying new vaccines through work with the NIH-based Vaccine and Education Unit at CMH and the CDC-sponsored New Vaccine Surveillance Network. She is a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee and the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, where her work focuses on educating practitioners in strategies to reduce vaccine hesitancy and improve vaccine coverage for pediatric and adult vaccines. Her work on reducing injudicious antibiotic use, and optimizing treatment of infections, is facilitated by work through the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at CMH.

Meet Mary Anne Jackson
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How did you come to focus on pediatrics infectious diseases?

I was inspired by the patients I had contact with as a medical student doing my pediatric rotations at Children’s Mercy. When I considered my career choice, I thought I would pursue specialization in pediatric hematology oncology. When I made the decision to enter pediatrics, we couldn’t cure childhood leukemia. Ninety percent of the children with leukemia at that time, died of either their disease or of infections that followed the cancer treatment. My goal in pursuing a career in infectious diseases was to work toward prevention of those infections, so as the therapy for childhood leukemia became more effective, children survived without succumbing to their disease or to infection complications. Now, we can cure 90 percent of childhood leukemia.

What was your first job while growing up?

I started working at age 16, so I learned how to be focused and handle multiple responsibilities. I worked the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift in central supply in a hospital. I had no idea what I was doing but I had a deep interest in developing the knowledge and skills to do the job. Back in those days you went down to central supply with a requisition order and figured out what it was that you needed and dispensed it from there. I had enough down time that I could do my homework, too, so I kept up with school.

What are your favorite activities outside of work?

I do have a creative side. I’ve done a little painting, some gardening. I’ve enjoyed narrative writing in medicine and was a contributor to the book “Miracles We Have Seen”, edited by my colleague, Dr. Harley Rotbart. I’ve been writing children’s books for the last couple of years, which I’ve enjoyed. I’ve written them very specifically for people in our lives. We have three grandchildren. Poppy is the oldest, she’s 5. I started writing books for her two years ago and I’m on book seven now. She is featured in all of the books in some way, shape or form. She’s now directing what each story is about. I think the books are publishable but I would have to get Poppy’s permission at some point.

Karl Kador, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor


B.S. - Chemistry - The College of William and Mary
M.S. - Chemical Engineering - University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Ph.D. - Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering - University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Research Focus

Injuries and diseases of the optic nerve.

Dr. Kador is developing tissue engineering methods to create and transplant new cells to replace diseased and dead cells in order to restore vision to patients suffering end stage diseases of the retina and optic nerve.

Meet Karl Kador
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Why did you get involved in research?

My mom claimed she always knew I was going to be an engineer because I used to spend hours and hours each day playing with Legos. Even today, I still have Legos, graduating to the more mature engineering sets. I even used one in a science fair competition. Now I get to use those science and design skills in trying to create new tissues, though I still enjoy getting the little packs of Lego landmarks of the different places that I’ve been.

What was the first research laboratory you worked in?

The first lab that I worked in, I was 16 and was actually at the National Institutes of Health. I grew up in Maryland and my dad worked at the NIH. The institute offered programs through my high school for students who were good in chemistry and biology that allowed us to have summer internships at the NIH. It was a lot of learning the basic things, and I remember learning a lot of biology.

What has been your most unique laboratory experience?

When I was studying in Nebraska, our department chair was well-known for his blood work. Harrison Ford was doing research for a role in the movie, Extraordinary Measures, so he came to our department to see what our labs looked like and what we did. I got to meet him and still have a Harrison Ford signed copy of Star Wars and a picture of him in the middle of our lab doing the Harrison Ford pose. Now I just have to figure out a way to get Mark Hamill to come out here and sign a copy of Return of the Jedi.

Peter Koulen, Ph.D., FARVO

Professor, Felix and Carmen Sabates / Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research, Director of Basic Research, Vision Research Center


M.S. - Johannes Gutenberg University
Ph.D. - Johannes Gutenberg University / Max Planck Institute
Postdoctoral fellowship - Yale University

Research Focus

Therapy development for chronic diseases of the eye and brain.

An internationally recognized expert in biophysics, biochemistry and physiology of nerve cells, Koulen’s research has been funded since 2002 by national and international foundations and agencies. These include the NIH National Eye Institute, NIH National Institute on Aging  and the NIH National Cancer Institute.

Meet Peter Koulen
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What do you enjoy doing outside of regular work?

I like to give back. I volunteer helping a number of national agencies, trying to determine our next steps in eye research and issues like traumatic eye injury.

What other jobs have you had outside of your research career?

I made it through graduate school working as a scuba instructor. It was a nice combination of science and fun. I also worked as a chef’s assistant, cleaning vegetables and washing dishes in a restaurant right next to the Parliament building, Germany’s equivalent to the U.S. Congress. I met and interacted with some very interesting customers from all walks of life.

Where was the most exotic place you ever went scuba diving?

It was kind of a crazy decision to go there, but the most interesting place was scuba diving in the Red Sea during Gulf War 1. At the time, it was very cheap … and much more fun than waiting tables.

How did you get started doing research?

My life has been determined by role models. Studying chemistry and cell biology was determined by a very influential high school teacher. In college, I started to get bored with these subjects when, luckily, I ran into someone who was a leader in retina research. He became my mentor for my master’s and Ph.D. projects.

Agostino Molteni, M.D., Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor, Professor - Pathology and Pharmacology, Director of Student Research, Professor Emeritus - Northwestern University


M.D. - University of Milano
Ph.D. - State University of New York, Buffalo
Fellowship - University of Milano
Fellowship - State University of New York, Buffalo

Research Focus

Ways hypertension develops, particularly pulmonary hypertension

Molteni’s research often involves NEFAs — non-esterified fatty acids — and their role in high blood pressure. His studies have supported treatment for mild hypertension and looked at hypertension risks related to other medical conditions. He continues to do research while teaching and overseeing student research at the School of Medicine.

Meet Agostino Molteni
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How did you get started in research?

I became curious about hypertension while in residency at the University of Milano in 1957, where I observed incidences of hypertension in relation to the different diets of Italy’s various regions. A research fellowship brought me to the United States and the State University of New York, Buffalo. My work there and then at Northwestern University has looked at high blood pressure among many populations, including burn victims, diabetics, and mothers in pre-term births. It is a fascinating area, and I never tire of exploring it.

How did you end up at UMKC?

My wife and I had lived in the area in the 1970s. I was at KU Medical Center and she was on the UMKC faculty. We then moved to Chicago and were involved in academic research there for many years. At retirement age those tenured appointments expired, so we moved back to Kansas City to be close to our two sons and their families. But we found that we could not just stay at home: Too boring. So Dr. Richardson Noback, the dean of the School of Medicine, helped me find a research position at UMKC.

What do you enjoy outside of your research?

I study history, especially the history of various civilizations, and Latin literature. I spend time with my children and mentor my five granddaughters in how to think critically, ask questions and extend their knowledge beyond their college or high school programs. I like to travel and visit other universities. And I also like to watch soccer, especially Sporting KC.

Paula Monaghan-Nichols, Ph.D.

Professor, Associate Dean - Research Administration, Chair - Biomedical Sciences


BA - Genetics - Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Ph.D. - Genetic Engineering and Molecular Biology - Medical Research Council, Edinburgh, Scotland
Fellowship - Molecular Genetics and Development - Medical Research Council, Human Genetics Unit, Edinburgh, Scotland

Research Focus

Prenatal basis of neurological and behavioral abnormalities

Since 1999, Nichols has maintained continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health for her research, which currently involves studying environmental and genetic factors’ influence on cell behavior. She also promotes others’ research in her role as associate dean.

Meet Paula Monaghan-Nichols
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How do you foster research among others?

I have been a research mentor for many years - a role I much enjoy. At the School of Medicine, I foster research by guiding our researchers as they launch projects, from framing ideas and identifying possible collaborators, to finding the best funding mechanisms, to writing highly competitive applications. To better connect students and researchers, I worked with the nursing school's associate dean of research, Mark Nichols - who happens to be my husband - to launch a lecture series highlighting research in the UMKC Health Sciences District. And to encourage learners' interest in research, I helped create coursework for all third-year students so they gain experience early in their studies.

What are you researching currently?

Much of my past work has involved brain and nervous system development, and now I am studying neurological abnormalities that occur in people whose mothers received steroids when they were at risk for pre-term birth. These abnormalities might not present until years later, in conditions such as behavioral or emotional problems, but we now have data that could link these health issues to the use of steroids or other pre-birth agents. Such links could lead to the development of other treatments for pregnant women, reducing or preventing such abnormalities.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?

As parents of two high school daughters and a son in middle school, my husband and I enjoy supporting their many activities and interests - which keeps us busy. And as newer residents to the area, we enjoy discovering Kansas City's cultural offerings, from ballet and classical music to theater to museums.

Cy B. Nadler, Ph.D.

Associate Professor


Ph.D. - Idaho State University
Residency - Pediatric Psychology - Munroe-Meyer Institute/University of Nebraska Medical Center
Fellowship - Clinical Child Psychology/Special Needs - Children's Mercy Kansas City

Research Focus

Developmental & behavioral medicine

Assessment and treatment of autism spectrum disorder and related neurodevelopmental disabilities, parenting and behavioral intervention for children with difficult behavior and developmental disabilities.

Meet Cy B. Nadler
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Why did you become involved in working with childhood disorders?

I have always been interested in child psychology, and when I gained exposure to children with challenging behaviors, I very quickly gravitated to the developmental disabilities world. These kids have more needs and often receive less support, so it seemed like an important field to land in. I felt that as a profession, we could do more for them and their families.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

On the clinic side, it’s a pleasure to help kids get headed in the right direction in terms of their development, and reduce stress for the kids and parents as much as possible. On the research side, it’s exciting to contribute to helping us understand these disorders better and improve the quality of care we can offer to kids and their families. I also enjoy mentoring students who are excited about this kind of work.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

My wife and I enjoy doing all kinds of things in town, especially theater, art, music and eating good food. We love going to see shows at the KC Rep or the Unicorn, and Heart of America Shakespeare Festival each summer. I’m a (very) amateur trumpet player, and love going to hear good jazz. I don’t discriminate against any barbeque places in town (BB’s Lawnside is my favorite), and Betty Rae’s Ice Cream is my second home.

Nilofer Qureshi, Ph.D.

Professor, Director – Shock/Trauma Research Center, Director, Molecular & Cellular Immunology


Ph.D. - Physiological Chemistry - University of Wisconsin

Research Focus

Sepsis and septic shock, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases that are based on inflammatory processes.

An internationally recognized expert in physiological chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, and immunology, Qureshi’s focuses on pioneering studies of the structures of endotoxins, and mechanisms by which they act via the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway to cause disease. Her work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1994 and United States Department of Defense since 2005).

Meet Nilofer Qureshi
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How did you become interested doing research?

My grandfather was a professor and director of a teaching hospital, and he treated patients free of charge. I wanted to become a doctor as well. Because I kept asking all of these questions, why does this happen, why does that happen, he finally said, “You should go into biomedical research where you can think, be creative and find out what’s really going on, and then determine mechanisms of drug action, and develop novel treatment strategies.”

What would you be doing today if not a medical researcher?

I would have gone into Foreign Service. My dad wanted me to because he was a commissioner (Taxation Service) and became chairman of an industrial development corporation. We used to attend a lot of parties and meet a lot of foreign dignitaries and VIP’s, so we had to behave, and be nice and polite. I can speak with anybody in the world and not be shy about meeting them.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Research is fun at UMKC, but it is a 24-hour job. When I go home I have papers to read because I don’t have time during the day. I love to go boating on Lake Mendota (Madison) with my family. I also love to travel and have been to most of the cities in the United States, and to some of the big cities in Europe, and Russia. I love going to art and science museums, and enjoy painting, reading books, interior decoration, relaxing and listening to classical music to unwind.

Geetha Raghuveer, M.D., M.P.H.



M.B.B.S. - Mysore University, India
Residency - Pediatrics - Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Fellowship - Pediatric Cardiology - University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Research Focus

Examining the effects of “risk factors” on cardiovasculature in children.

Examining long-term outcomes in children with heart disease.

Meet Geetha Raghuveer
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How did you start working with students and what do you enjoy most about that work?

That was interesting; one day in 2006 I was in my office at Children’s Mercy and two UMKC medical students came wandering in. I had no idea who they were or how they found me. They said, Dr. Raghuveer, we want to do research with you. They were very enthusiastic, even forgoing their summer vacation for the research opportunity. It turned out they were both very successful, presented their work at the American Heart Association and published papers prior to graduating! I love to see the way the students develop and in turn, the way the project develops with them.

What do you find most rewarding in your work?

I think if you ask any doctor what they love the most in their work, in their heart-of-hearts they like taking care of people. That’s what drives doctors day-in-and-day-out, I love interacting with my patients. I also enjoy broadening my work beyond just practicing clinical medicine day-in-and-day-out: whether it’s mentoring students, performing research, or other advocacy through professional organizations. I enjoy the whole package but the thing that drives all of it is clinical care of my patients. They are the boss, they teach me what I know and to seek answers for what I don’t know.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?

My husband and I like traveling and wish we could do more of it. We enjoy art and love the museums in Kansas City, which are world class. When we travel we make a point to seek out the museums of whatever city we’re visiting. We’ve been to Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Florence, Rome, U.K. and several in the US and Canada. We often hire an English speaking guide to take us on walking tours of the city. We found that’s the best use of our time while traveling. We’re actually going to Antarctica in February 2019 with the National Geographic Society so we’ll have some pretty good guides for that trip.

Gary A. Salzman, M.D.

Professor, Senior Docent


M.D. - University of Missouri - Kansas City
Residency - Internal Medicine - Wake Forest University
Fellowship - Pulmonary - University of Missouri - Kansas City

Research Focus

Pulmonary and critical care medicine

Clinical research is focused on methods of new treatments for asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Meet Gary A. Salzman
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Were you always focused on being a doctor growing up?

No, I originally wanted to be an astronaut when I saw Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. But that was nixed when I got motion sickness at the amusement park, and I thought, well, astronaut is off of the list. It was not an option after that. I was interested in sports. I played basketball and ran track. I was very interested in sports growing up.

Why UMKC School of Medicine?

I like the opportunity to mentor medical students, to be a docent, and develop a relationship with a small group of students. That extends to being the program director for the pulmonary and critical care fellowship. I have nine fellows that I work with and mentor. I’ve had some great mentors in my time. William Sirridge was one of them. Now at this point in my career, I’m mentoring junior faculty and all of that is very enjoyable and rewarding to me.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

My wife and I like to travel. We also have a two-year-old grandson and spend a lot of time with him. I play golf and some tennis. I’m also involved in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. We had a bowling fundraiser for Big Brothers recently, so actually all of my students went bowling that night for the Big Brothers organization.

John A. Spertus, M.D., M.P.H.

Professor, Daniel J. Lauer / Missouri Endowed Chair in Metabolic and Vascular Disease Research, Clinical Director


M.D. - University of California San Francisco
Residency - University of Washington
Residency - Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Fellowship - University of Washington

Research Focus

Improvement of patient care and practice.

To deliver individualized health care at the lowest possible risk and cost, Spertus uses bioinformatics to match big data from millions of patients’ outcomes with specific data from each patient, in an effort to determine the treatment most likely to succeed for the patient at hand.

Meet John A. Spertus
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How did you get started in research?

I was interested in how we gather patient information that could actually improve patient outcomes while reducing risks and saving money. My research did that by rewriting informed consent forms that patients could actually understand, collecting useful information through them, and getting patients involved in decision making about their own care.

Why Kansas City and UMKC?

I came to Kansas City for a hospital job opportunity where I could pursue my research, which was unusual at the time. The hospital’s affiliation with the School of Medicine meant I could teach at UMKC, too. An added bonus in relocating here was having farm land nearby, allowing my wife (also a physician) to fulfill her dream to own a farm, raise a family there and create an organic food business.

What challenges and opportunities lie ahead?

It can be difficult to get systems or physicians to change the way things are done. But we have a real chance in Kansas City to make a difference. UMKC is one of the centers, along with Yale and Duke, working on the infrastructure to actually put this knowledge into practice. And personally, I’d like to shift toward less grant work and more work to build the infrastructure to change care in our community, collaborating with hospitals to essentially redesign health care delivery to maximize the benefits to patients and society.

Carol Stanford, M.D.

Associate Professor, Years 3-6 Docent


M.D. - University of Missouri - Kansas City
Residency - Internal Medicine - Truman Medical Center/University of Missouri - Kansas City

Research Focus

Hypertension; cardiovascular disease; physician burnout; patient quality of life; dermatology; medical humanities; women’s health and domestic violence

The many research interests of Stanford, a 1979 UMKC graduate, arise from her clinical practice as a teaching physician in dermatology and internal medicine and aim to improve the quality of life and daily experiences of patients and physicians alike.

Meet Carol Stanford
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How did you get started in research?

I’m always trying to answer the question of how to make things better in my practice, especially for my patients but also for students, residents and other physicians. And I realized that finding those answers and documenting their benefits often can be done through a research project. I think my first project was art carts — carts stocked with art supplies, so that hospital patients would have something creative to do to pass the time. I got a Gold Foundation grant to finance the project and help us measure its effects on increasing patient satisfaction and decreasing their perception of their pain or other symptoms.

What have some of your more recent projects done?

One study, under a Sarah Morrison Award, evaluates several acne products and cleansers on the market and compares them with homemade remedies and cleansers. Another involves intimate partner violence. We are working with women’s shelters to identify therapies and interventions that can help victims see their situations in a different light and give them the strength to make and sustain a change. Another project developed brochures, with photographs and brief bios, so that hospital patients could identify and have a chance to bond with the physicians, nurses and others taking care of them.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?

I try to learn a new skill every five years or so. I knit, and make rugs with a needle punch. And I’ve always wanted to paint —my mother’s an artist — and now I’m doing it, watercolors and oils. It’s so relaxing. And I read everything: history, historical novels, classics, Shakespeare.

Mark T. Steele, M.D.

Professor, Associate Dean - Truman Medical Center, Chief Medical and Operating Officer


M.D. - University of Missouri - Kansas City
Residency - Emergency Medicine - Truman Medical Center/University of Missouri - Kansas City
ABEM Diplomate - 1984/1994/2004

Research Focus

Infectious diseases relevant to the practice of emergency medicine

Steele is heavily involved in a nationwide network of top emergency departments that are researching infectious disease threats and testing innovative ways to deal with them. The School of Medicine/Truman Medical Centers is one of 11 founding research sites in the network.

Meet Mark T. Steele
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How did you get started in research?

As a junior faculty member, I was encouraged by Bill Robinson, M.D., the school’s chair of emergency medicine at the time. He introduced me to a group studying wound care and wound infections, which ultimately led to the formation of the EMERGEncy ID NET. This network, now more than 20 years old, was out front in identifying MRSA as a significant cause of some skin infections and helping physicians treat them. Personally, the network enabled me to participate in an NIH-sponsored project consisting of three separate research trials, and to publish the findings in three leading medical journals.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?

My wife and I enjoy travel, especially to warmer places during the winter, and we have a dog, Rosie, just 7 months old, who is really sweet and energetic. We also enjoy spending time with family. We have four kids, all in their mid-20s, including triplets.

Triplets? Did that present any particular challenges?

It was challenging at times. Shortly after adopting our first child in 1991, we learned that we were expecting triplets. So seven months later we had four little kids. I remember one family trip when they were 4 and 5, and I had to fly with them to meet my wife in Florida, who was returning from a cruise. Our first flight was delayed, so we missed our connection in St. Louis. I managed to get four tired and hungry kids to bed at 10 o’clock at an airport hotel, and then up again at 5 a.m. to catch our next flight. But all in all, it’s been great. Today, our two daughters are nurses, one of our sons is a police officer, and our other son works in finance and accounting.

Gary Sutkin, M.D., M.B.A.

Professor, Associate Dean of Women's Health, Victor and Caroline Schutte Chair in Women’s Health


M.D. - Northwestern University
M.B.A. - J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management
Residency - Magee Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA
Fellowship - Magee Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA
Board Certification - American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Subspecialty Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery

Research Focus

Dr. Sutkin is passionate about the education of tomorrow’s doctors. His current research interests address surgical education, safety and error prevention. He collaborates with multiple researchers outside of medicine to study how surgical education, communication, and safety can be improved. Collaborators include cognitive psychologists, members of the UMKC Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, a professor of linguistics with expertise in semantics, a humanities scholar, a sociologist, a theater professor with expertise in nonverbal communication, and a professor of composition. safety and error prevention, including interprofessional communication in the operating room. His National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering sponsored research focuses on surgeon kinematics and surgical error.

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As a family of big sports fans, what are your favorite teams?

As an alumnus, I'm a big Northwestern fan. And living in Pittsburgh for 10-plus years, my kids grew up cheering on the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins, who by the way, won the Stanley Cup. I know we should get to like the KC Chiefs, but I was raised, you know, loyal to your team. So, in our house, it's Northwestern for college sports and Pittsburgh teams for everything else.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?

Everyone in the family likes roller coasters, especially Pittsburgh's famous wooden coaster called the Jackrabbit. And my wife and I like music a lot. There's no type that we don't like - we download, listen and talk about music. Pre-kids, we went to lots of concerts. Now, we look forward the kids getting older so we can stay up later and go to concerts again.

How did you become interested in doing research?

Picture that kid who would stay after school, meet with the teacher, spend extra time doing dissection and lab experiments - that kid was me. I loved science and would do anything to spend more time doing it. As a kid reading science textbooks and learning about great experiments, part of me said "I want to be a part of that process." And now, I'm at UMKC, which really promotes cutting edge research. It's such a great place to be.

A cut above:

What I love to do most outside of work is spend time with my wife and our two boys, who envision one day when cool lasers will be used in the OR to keep surgeons from making errors. I also am an avid music listener.

Needle unprotected:

My pet peeve is loud noises, like the garbage cart that rolls right by our lab door every morning.

Slice of life:

The most interesting thing about me you may not know is.. I once had the kitchen staff in a restaurant throw an egg at our table for staying too late.

Michael Wacker, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Associate Dean - Academic Affairs, Vice-chair - Biomedical Science


B.S. - Texas Christian University
Ph.D. - University of Kansas
Fellowship - University of Kansas

Research Focus

Exploring the mechanisms for cardiovascular disease suffered by kidney disease patients.

Most patients with kidney disease actually die of cardiovascular disease, Wacker says, so his lab is trying to figure out which chemical agents in kidney disease patients could be affecting cardiac muscle or blood vessel function in ways that can lead to heart disease.

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What excites you about your work?

I enjoy the problem solving and the challenge of trying to understand the mechanisms behind human health and disease. You are trying to figure out something that is unknown and has never been put in any textbook. I also enjoy mentoring students in research and watching their interest and excitement grow.

What led you to focus on research?

As an undergraduate, a gifted genetics professor involved me in research on the effects of space radiation on mutation rates in worms sent up on the space shuttle. The same semester I also served as a biology teaching assistant. Having discovered an interest in both research and teaching, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. I was passionate about physiology, so my graduate work started with a neurophysiology research project with another great mentor. We discovered that the agent we were looking at also induced abnormal heartbeats. That turned my interest toward cardiovascular physiology. Now I am investigating the interaction between heart disease and kidney disease.

What do you enjoy outside of work time?

Besides spending time with family and friends, I play softball and basketball and enjoy hitting the golf course. I also coach a youth basketball team and have been known to play on a UMKC intramural team or two. I always joked that I got into academia to prolong my intramural sports career. I just didn't know it would be this long.

John Q. Wang, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor, Westport Anesthesia / Missouri Endowed Chair for Research


M.D. - Tongi Medical University, China
M.S. - Tongi Medical University, China
Ph.D. - Shanghai Medical University, China
Fellowship - Beijing Medical University, China
Fellowship - Medical College of Wisconsin

Research Focus

Drug abuse and addiction

Supported by National Institutes of Health grants, Wang leads a research team that studies, analyzes and clarifies the brain mechanisms underlying drug addiction.

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What do you like about living in Kansas City?

I grew up in Wuhan, a city located in the center of China, much like where Kansas City is in the United States. I often wonder whether I can dig a hole through the earth from my backyard here and emerge in Wuhan. Both places enjoy each of the four seasons, which gives me the feeling of the home and reminds me how similar these two cities are.

How did you get started doing research?

I am interested in the brain and how it works. I feel that the brain is a fantastic world, and I wonder how the abnormal activity of the brain leads to mental illnesses. I am especially interested in the rewarding system of the brain. Drug addiction, which is the focus on my research, is related to that rewards system.

What research challenges and opportunities do you see in the future?

While it is a challenge to translate experimental results of basic science to clinical treatments, I personally feel we have a good chance to do so at UMKC. We are working to take advantage of our recent progress in lab research to develop new treatments for some psychiatric disorders, and know our success will require basic and clinical scientists working together.