UMKC School of Medicine’s visionaries
(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.