Tag Archives: Alumni

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.”

Remembering 9/11

UMKC Medicine Alum recalls his time at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Tyson Becker (M.D. ‘01) was one of many UMKC alumni whose job found him responding to the tragic event. He was a first-year surgical resident at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. – about eight miles from the Pentagon, where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the structure. On 9/11, his skills were needed to treat those injured by the explosion and his efforts in the burn unit at Walter Reed were featured in the school’s alumni magazine.

On the 20th Anniversary of September 11, many are taking the time to look back at that date in history. Here are Becker’s recollections and how the experience shaped his medical career.

How has your professional career evolved since that time?

I am still in the Army and am now a colonel. I work as a trauma critical care surgeon at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. BAMC is the Department of Defense’s only Level 1 trauma center and covers San Antonio and the surrounding 22 counties in South Texas, serving military and civilian traumas.

I also serve as the general surgery consultant to the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army and am a member of the American College of Surgery Board of Governors. In addition to that, I am the director of the Strategic Trauma Readiness Center, which prepares forward surgical teams to deploy and take care of combat trauma. I have deployed six times to Central America, Africa, Afghanistan and Syria.

What memories stand out from your time at Walter Reed after September 11, 2001?

A lot has happened since that day. I have spent the last 20 years taking care of our service members injured in combat operations against terrorism. That day two decades ago is when my whole career started. Everything I have done since has stemmed from that day. As we see with current events, the work continues.

I remember that on 9/11 everything changed. One minute I was working in a hospital as an intern, and the next minute, everything I did was focused on ensuring those citizens that were put in harm’s way came home alive and in the best shape possible.

That day gave the rest of my career a clear purpose.

How did the experience shape you as a health care provider?

I have a strong sense of service to our country. After 9/11, I felt I could best serve the country as a trauma surgeon in the military. It has made me want to serve in austere environments, whether combat or humanitarian.

I feel that what I do is more than just a job, it’s a duty.

Distinguished SOM professor and alum Michael Weaver, M.D., announces retirement

Michael L. Weaver, M.D., FACEP, CDM, clinical professor in emergency medicine and early graduate of the medical school, has announced his retirement as of July 1. Weaver was the first African-American to complete the school’s full six-year curriculum, graduating in 1977.

During his years as a physician, Weaver has championed the School of Medicine’s efforts in diversity and inclusion while earning a national reputation as a leader in emergency medicine and an advocate for victims of abuse.

In addition to his teaching role at the School of Medicine through Saint Luke’s Hospital, Weaver served in many capacities at the school. These included being a member of the Selection Council, the Diversity Council, and chair of the alumni Minority Faculty Recruitment Committee and the Alumni Retention Committee. He established a minority scholarship at the school in 2004, and was the first African- American to hold the title of clinical professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine. He has provided education to the School of Medicine through Grand Rounds and noon conferences, and has provided mentorship within the Summer Scholars Program.

Weaver is the 1997 winner of the school’s E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing award and is also an E. Grey Dimond Fellow.

He served as medical director of Saint Luke’s Kansas City Hospital’s Level I trauma emergency services for 17 years and was the founding chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine. He has provided emergency medicine oversight for MAST and Life Flight Ambulance systems for more than 15 years and was appointed by Missouri Governors Carnahan and Ashcroft to chair EMS for Missouri.

Since 1980, he has been the medical director of Saint Luke’s Health System’s Clinical Forensic Program, providing care for victims of elderly/child abuse, sexual assault, interpersonal violence and trauma. In this role, Weaver has also been a consultant for the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the White House. He has authored numerous articles, edited books/journals and lectured internationally.

For the past 15 years, Weaver has led the Critical Mass Gathering event, a mentoring program for underrepresented minority medical students at UMKC, University of Kansas and Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. To continue that work, Weaver founded Mission Vision Project KC, a nonprofit that aims to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the Kansas City health care workforce.

Weaver says, “It’s hard to be it, if you can’t see it!” He plans to create age-appropriate mentorship opportunities for K-12 to show underrepresented minorities that they can see and aspire to be doctors or dentists, pharmacists, nurses, paramedics, biomedical engineers, etc. He will continue working with health care organizations, educational institutions, and community partners to raise funds to support these goals.

With retirement, Weaver plans to spend more time with his family and continue his work with Mission Vision Project KC.

Giving back is part of 2021 Take Wing winner’s blood

Mario Castro, M.D., ’88, is the School of Medicine’s 2021 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award recipient.

Mario Castro, M.D., a specialist in pulmonary care and 1988 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine, received the school’s prestigious E. Grey Dimond Take Wing Award and delivered the annual Take Wing lectureship on May 17.

After congratulating and offering encouraging words to School of Medicine graduates two days earlier during a commencement ceremony at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, Castro spoke on the care of patients with severe asthma, a major focus of his research career.

He also discussed respiratory health in the developing work and his work to battle COVID-19 on a global level. Castro serves as principal investigator and director of Frontiers, a clinical and translational research institute at the University of Kansas. The organization collaborates with leaders of health care institutions throughout the region including the UMKC School of Medicine.

While much of the country anxiously awaited the first vaccines to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Castro was leading a group of researchers in the Kansas City area with a much broader focus.

The goal was a global vaccine that could be taken to the farthest reaches of the world. Vaccines that were being produced for distribution in the United States required deep freezing, said Castro, whose team studied the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“If you’re in the middle of Africa, that won’t work very well,” Castro said. “We needed a vaccine like the AstraZeneca that just requires simple refrigeration, that you can take in a cooler and you can take it anywhere with you.”

Working with partners throughout Kansas City, the collaborative embarked on one of the largest vaccine studies in the country. The study enrolled more than 500 participants in Kansas City who were part of an effort that has since developed the COVID vaccine most used world-wide.

The vaccine has been approved for use in more than 30 countries. More than 200 million doses have been applied. It is also part of the World Health Organization’s plan to reach those world’s lower socioeconomic countries.

Castro has already launched three additional National Institutes of Health-funded studies to combat COVID infection.

“It’s really been an honor to participate in and lead that effort in the midst of this pandemic,” Castro said. “It’s definitely been a help on a world-wide basis to get a vaccine that will be easy to transport and be more readily available around the world.”

Castro joined the KU School of Medicine in 2019 as chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine and vice chair for clinical and translational research. Before that, he spent 25 years in St. Louis at the Washington University School of Medicine where he oversaw the asthma and airway translational research unit that conducted as many as 30 clinical trials at a time.

A renowned leader in his specialty, he has received numerous honors for his work including two awards from the American Lung Association of Eastern Missouri and the CHEST Foundation’s Humanitarian Recognition Award.

“What UMKC always taught me well was how to take care of a patient and how to listen to a patient,” Castro said.

That training also paved the way for Castro to create the International Medical Assistance Foundation, an organization that has been reaching the underserved in Honduras.

He 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 Castro’s foundation raised another $3 million through church donations and fundraisers to build and supply a 100-bed hospital and clinic, Hospital Hermano Pedro, in Catacamas, Honduras.

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.

“I immigrated to this country in 1965,” said Castro, who was born in Matanzas, Cuba. “It’s been part of my blood to give back to those who are disadvantaged. We want to give back to those who are less fortunate and certainly it helps us appreciate what we have here in this country.”

Alumni Physicians Help Chiefs, Blues to Championships

Michael Monaco, left, with the Vince Lombardi trophy and Matt Matava holding the Stanley Cup.

School of Medicine classmates celebrated their teams’ super seasons

What a difference a few months can make.

In February, team physician Michael Monaco (B.A. ’84, M.D. ’87) was holding the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl trophy. Now, he has a new granddaughter he hasn’t held yet, to keep her from any possible coronavirus exposure.

And last June, orthopedic surgeon Matt Matava (B.A. ’86, M.D. ’87) was tending to the St. Louis Blues as they won their first-ever National Hockey League championship. Now, he’s slowly reviving his regular surgery practice and wondering whether the rest of the hockey season will be canceled.

Both savor the camaraderie and association with elite athletes that make being a team physician special, and the particular joy of being part of a championship. But they also confront the challenges and uncertainties, personal and professional, that the pandemic has put front and center for everyone.

The peak

They didn’t complete the big touchdown pass or make the winning slap shot, but Monaco and Matava did their part to make their teams champions in the past year.

In February, Monaco was the senior physician on the sidelines with the Kansas City Chiefs when they won the team’s second NFL championship, 50 years after their first.

“I have been with the team 26 years,” Monaco said. “When I realized we were going to win the Super Bowl, I got a little teary-eyed.”

It was much the same feeling for Matava the previous June, when the Blues took the Stanley Cup.

“In 23 years with the Blues, my most memorable experience was being in Boston for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals,” Matava said. “I got to hold the Stanley Cup overhead on the ice and drink champagne out of the cup in the locker room during the player celebration.”

Getting to the top, though, took years of effort, starting at the School of Medicine.

Matt Matava in his office with the Stanley Cup.
Matt Matava in his office with the Stanley Cup.
The long climb

Matava played basketball for UMKC while he was in medical school, and he wanted to be a surgeon. That focus turned to orthopedic surgery for athletic injuries when a torn ACL (a knee ligament) knocked him off the basketball court. He experienced first-hand the important process of recovering from a serious injury.

“Though I wasn’t drawn to internal medicine, my docent was Marjorie Sirridge, an excellent internist,” Matava said. “She taught us the importance of being thorough in the evaluation of patients … of sitting down when speaking with patients to let them know that you are taking time specifically for them. Doctors in general and surgeons in particular have a reputation for paying more attention to lab tests and imaging studies than to the patient themselves. No one should underestimate the importance of the physical exam.”

When he returned to his native St. Louis after a sports medicine fellowship in Cincinnati, it didn’t take long to find work with sports teams to go along with a private practice. He became a team physician for Washington University, a job he still holds along with being a professor of orthopedic surgery. He also worked for the St. Louis Rams for 16 years, until the franchise moved back to Los Angeles. That’s in addition to serving the Blues, a position he’s held since 1997.

The clock is always running

But for all the excitement of being part of sports, being a team physician also means hard work, long hours and performing under intense pressure.

“Hockey season involves up to three games a week from October to April for the regular season and into June for a deep run in the playoffs,” Matava said. “When I finish my regular clinical duties, I head to the games.” Add in his 25 years serving Washington University’s sports teams — along with football games each fall weekend during the years he was with the Rams — and Matava has spent a lot of time in locker rooms and away from his family.

“In 23 years with the Blues, my most memorable experience was being in Boston for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.”–Matt Matava

“But the most challenging aspect of being a team physician or surgeon,” Matava said, “is having to ‘bat 1,000′ in the care of every player, considering the scrutiny of the public, media, team administration, agents and other team members.”

In Monaco’s situation, being the Chiefs’ head medical team physician is a year-round job. “From the end of July when training camp begins until the exit exams after our last game, two days after the Super Bowl this past season, there are daily issues: medication changes, illness evaluations, exams for new players acquired.” He’s also involved in the preparation for the NFL Combine each February, a weeklong showcase for possible pros coming out of the colleges, and the NFL draft in April.

“I also have a full-time internal medicine concierge practice with my partner of more than 20 years,” Monaco said. “He’s been very supportive, which makes doing both possible.”

Monaco with internal medicine and Matava with orthopedic surgery exemplify the two main types of medicine for sports teams. And they both will tell you it’s about a lot more than operations to mend broken bones or reconstruct damaged joints.

According to Monaco, his medical team handles various types of injuries, such as chest and abdominal problems. In a given week, they might take care of more players than the surgical and rehab staff, keeping players hydrated and managing their electrolytes if there’s a bug going around. Quickly isolating a player with the flu, for instance, can protect the rest of the team.

“I have been with the team 26 years, when I realized we were going to win the Super Bowl, I got a little teary-eyed.”–Michael Monaco

Working and waiting

When the NHL season was suspended, Matava noted, “the team was in first place and expecting the return of Vladimir Tarasenko, our star goal scorer, whose shoulder I fixed earlier in the year.”

Now, he said, he can see the players if they are injured or require rehabilitation, but the training facility, practice rink and weight room have been off-limits across the league. Whether the season resumes or is canceled remains up in the air.

For several weeks at his other practices, Matava said, “Washington University and Barnes Hospital were on a strict lock-down with all non-emergency surgeries and procedures cancelled to treat COVID-19 patients. The most COVID patients we have had at our hospital was 95. We are now allowed to return to 50 percent of our normal duties.”

Michale Monaco with UMKC medical students.
Monaco, far right, with students from the UMKC School of Medicine.

For Monaco, coping with the pandemic has meant focusing on safety for his staff and patients, and for Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park, Kansas, where he is on the Medical Executive Committee. Precautions have worked to reduce the pandemic’s effects, but they can’t be eliminated.

“After my first positive COVID-19 in the office, I have been doing all testings outside in the parking lot using personal protective equipment,” he said. “I am doing this to protect my staff, others in the office and all those who come into our medical building.”

One picture in particular, of a tent attached to the hospital, haunts Monaco: “Family members of COVID-19 patients cannot be allowed in the hospital, but we placed a tent next to the window of one dying patient in the intensive care unit to allow the family to be with and grieve for their loved one.”

Personally, Monaco said, precautions have meant he has yet to hold his third granddaughter, born just a few days before the pandemic was declared. And his son, Nicholas Monaco, a 2017 graduate of the six-year medical program at UMKC, is serving his internal medicine residency in Georgia, where the incidence of coronavirus cases is high.

“I would say this virus has had a definite impact on my life professionally and personally, like so many other health care workers,” Monaco said.

Monaco also is in touch with other Chiefs physicians, and infectious disease specialists across the country, as the team moves toward possibly reopening some facilities. Resuming sports would provide a great emotional outlet for fans, he said, but there’s no telling when that might be possible safely.

“Unfortunately, I do not see it going away soon,” he said. “I can only hope we come up with more and improved testing to give us the data that we need to make better decisions, better treatment protocols to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with this virus, and eventually a vaccine to once and for all give the global community enough herd immunity so we can get back to work and life again.”

Patel chosen to lead section of American College of Radiology

Patel, Amy
Amy Patel, M.D. ’11

Amy Patel, M.D. ’11, was elected chair of the American College of Radiology’s Young and Early Career Professional Section at this year’s ACR Annual Meeting.

The section comprises more than 6,000 young U.S. radiologists, defined as 8 years or less out of training or under the age of 40. Patel, recognized nationally for her use of social media among radiologists, is the section’s first chair from Missouri.

Patel is medical director of women’s imaging at Liberty Hospital and a clinical assistant professor at the UMKC School of Medicine. In 2018, she addressed the Radiological Society of North America’s Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting on her use of social media to mentor and connect young radiologists. She also is active in the fight against breast cancer, in raising awareness and in raising money for research and better treatment.

Take Wing winner driven by passion to serve

Dana Thompson, M.D., M.S., M.B.A ’91, was just a child when she began to realize what it meant to be a physician.

Her maternal grandfather, throughout most of his career as a general practitioner in Mississippi, was the only black physician in a nearly 100-mile radius. Thompson watched him and learned about commitment to patients and community. She saw the endless drive for excellence and the longing to provide patient care where it was sorely needed.

Her father, in the midst of the Civil Rights Era, was among the first black physicians to enter the integrated obstetrics/gynecology residency program at Kansas City General Hospital. As she grew older, Thompson accompanied her father to the hospital, and during her high school years she worked in his Kansas City, Kansas, practice. She was even one of the early graduates of the UMKC School of Medicine’s Summer Scholars pipeline program for area high school students.

Now, Thompson is a third-generation African-American physician who embodies those same family characteristics, the drive for excellence and a thirst to assure access to medical care for those in need. Those traits also made her a natural for the School of Medicine’s 2020 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award winner.

Thompson delivered this year’s Take Wing lecture online to a School of Medicine audience on May 19.

Thompson serves as the Lauren D. Holinger Chair of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and a professor of otolaryngology head and neck surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Working in Chicago, where the population is diverse and ranges across socioeconomic backgrounds, Thompson is on a personal mission to educate others about the unintended consequences of bias in health care delivery.

“At this point in my career, I think that’s what I’m most passionate about,” Thompson said.

After graduating from the School of Medicine, she completed her residency in otorhinolaryngology head and neck surgery at the Mayo Clinic. She followed that with a fellowship in pediatric otolaryngology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where she trained under the pioneer of pediatric airway surgery, Dr. Robin Cotton.

Throughout a 23-year career in academic medicine, Thompson has become a leader in pediatric airway and swallowing disorders. Her landmark research in laryngomalacia made her a world authority and transformed the medical and surgical management of the condition, the most common cause of infant stridor, a high-pitched wheezing caused by disrupted airflow.

Thompson spent most of her career at the Mayo Clinic, where she became the inaugural chair of the division of pediatric otolaryngology.

“What an opportunity that was – at age 32, to build a program from scratch and create a service line at a world-class organization,” she said.

The experience also helped her understand that she wanted to have the same sort of impact in an urban setting at a major academic children’s hospital. So, when the opportunity arose to lead the division of otolaryngology at Lurie Children’s Hospital, Thompson made the move.

Now a surgeon and administrator, she also serves as vice chair of the Department of Surgery and executive director for the hospital’s ambulatory practice.

Much of her work in the operating room involves highly specialized, complex, high-risk surgeries on children with obstructions in the upper airway. With the onslaught of the coronavirus, the procedure is of particular high risk for transmission of the virus to health care workers. As a result, Thompson has been busy helping the hospital and her surgical teams adjust to new, safer ways to provide such patient care.

“We’re taking different processes in the operating room in terms of protecting our team with personal protection equipment, while assuring a safe environment to deliver care to children in need,” she said. “We’ve even changed some minor details of how we ordinarily do surgeries to prevent virus aerosolization during surgery. It’s rapidly changing and evolving. We’re going to have a whole new way of doing things.”

School of Medicine’s 2020 humanities magazine available online

The 2020 issue the UMKC School of Medicine publication, Human Factor, is now available online. Human Factor celebrates the connection between art, humanities and the practice of medicine.

The publication showcases the creativity, imagination and talent of our students, alumni, residents, faculty and staff. All of the printed words and images featured in this publication make the important link between an appreciation of art and compassionate patient care — illustrating the significant role of medical humanities.

This year’s issue features poetry, short stories, photos, drawings and and other original artwork including the cover image created by fifth-year medical student Rachana Kombathula.

Watch for a call for submissions to the 2021 edition of the Human Factor early next next fall.

Thirty Million Words initiative founder presents annual Sirridge Lecture

Dana Suskind, M.D., presented the 2019 William and Marjorie Sirridge Lecture on Sept. 19.

One of the best things parents can do for their young children to help them succeed in life is to talk to them. A lot.

Dana Suskind, M.D., has spent much of the past nine years advocating for early childhood development by focusing on the importance of language and the power of parent-talk and interaction to build children’s brains. The 1992 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine discussed her career path at the 2019 William and Marjorie Sirridge Lecture on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the School of Medicine.

A professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Chicago and director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implantation, Suskind is founder and co-director of TMW (Thirty Million Words) Center for Early Learning + Public Health. The program offers evidence-based interventions to optimize brain development in children from birth to five years of age, particularly those born into poverty. It combines education, technology and behavioral strategies for parents and caregivers to enhance the verbal interactions with their children.

As a cochlear implant surgeon, Suskind realized vast differences in her patients after undergoing the implant. Some grew to talk and communicate well while others didn’t. The gap resulted not only in some children having a much smaller vocabulary, but also impacted their IQ and test scores in the third grade.

While cochlear implants brought sound to a child’s brain, Suskind found that something else was needed to make that sound have meaning.

“I came to realize that during their first three years, the power of language is the power to build a child’s brain,” she said.

Suskind pointed out that most of the organs in the human body are fully formed at birth. That’s not so with the brain, which doesn’t fully develop for many years after birth. She said the brain is particularly active and rapidly developing during the first three years, making it important for young children to grow up in a language-rich environment.

“At no other time in life will brain development be so robust and active,” Suskind said.

In 2014, she wrote Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain. The book describes her study of how children develop communication skills and how those who thrive live in households where they hear millions of spoken words. Her book reached the number one spot on Amazon’s best-seller’s list for parenting and family reference.

Following medical school, Suskind completed her residency at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and a fellowship at Washington University Children’s Hospital.

She has received many awards for her work including the Weizmann Women for Science Vision and Impact Award, the SENTAC Gray Humanitarian Award, the LENA Research Foundation Making a Difference Award, the 2018 Chairman’s Award from the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the John D. Arnold, M.D., Mentor Award for Sustained Excellence from the Pritzker School of Medicine.

The Sirridge Lecture is named for William T. Sirridge, M.D., and his wife, Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., two of the UMKC School of Medicine’s original docents. The Sirridges viewed the humanities as an essential part of students’ medical training. In 1992, they established the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Bioethics to merge the humanities with the science of medicine. Today, the school recognizes their dedication, compassion and advancement of patient care and medical education in Kansas City with the William and Marjorie Sirridge Lecture.

Physician quality and outcomes expert Arif Kamal receives 2019 Take Wing Award

Dr. Arif Kamal, a 2005 graduate, received the 2019 UMKC School of Medicine E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award.

Arif Kamal, M.D., ’05

For Arif Kamal, M.D., ’05, physician quality and outcomes officer for the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina, research is as much about solving a problem as it is discovery.

“Sometimes we face a problem and have no idea how to solve it,” said Kamal, winner of the 2019 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award. “We have to discover the solution, and that may require performing foundational basic science research, or conducting a big clinical drug trial. Or we may discover that we have a solution, but it hasn’t been implemented because of cost or other barriers, so we have to innovate and collaborate to make the solution accessible and affordable.”

Kamal received the School of Medicine’s prestigious alumni award on May 20 at the annual Take Wing lectureship and award ceremony. The honor is given to a graduate who has demonstrated excellence in his or her chosen field and exceeded the expectations of peers in the practice of medicine, academic medicine or research.

After giving the noon lecture and accepting the award, he also spoke to faculty, students and their families at the 2019 graduation ceremony at the Kauffman Center.

Kamal describes his approach on conducting health services research as being “agnostic at the outset toward what’s needed to solve any particular problem.”

Kamal’s desire to broaden his skills and the ways he can approach a problem led him to earn a master’s in health science in clinical research in 2015 and a master’s in business administration in 2016. Besides his Cancer Center post at Duke, Kamal is an associate professor of medicine, business administration and population health science.

Kamal distinguished himself in palliative care, developing innovative ways to find out and provide what’s really important to patients at the end of their life. His desire to research and improve palliative care stemmed from his own mother’s battle with breast cancer, when he saw very personally how her care could have been better.

He started Duke’s outpatient palliative care program for cancer patients seven years ago, and the Cancer Center’s “total pain approach” has helped develop and administer therapies for long-term relief of distress that affects patients with a serious illness. The focus is on identifying and addressing physical and emotional drivers of distress well before the end of life, when people historically have thought of palliative care.

Now, Kamal’s team is working on smartphone apps to engage patients with serious illnesses and their caregivers in their own care, day to day. One such app would monitor opioid use.

“We fundamentally believe that patients don’t want to be addicted, that they want to responsibly use opioids and that clinicians want to responsibly prescribe them,” Kamal said. “But there’s not actually a way, for example, to monitor what people are doing at home. So, we’re creating an app to record how and what they’re using and how that corresponds with pain scores, to make sure they’re getting the right amount, and not too much or too little.”

And to put that app into people’s hands takes a team.

“We’re working with some commercial payers and several parts of the university, from data science to graphics and programming, to our addiction and pain management experts, to palliative care and patients and caregivers, to identify what the right characteristics for the app will be.”

Kamal, originally from Warrensburg, Missouri, said his appreciation for teamwork was fostered by the UMKC School of Medicine’s docent system and frequent clinical exposure to the many types of medical practice.

“And I got my start in research there,” he said. “My first published paper was with Dr. Agostino Molteni,” in Nutrition Research in 2004.

Kamal and his wife, Jennifer Maguire, M.D. ’07, have two small children, and Kamal said they enjoy returning to the Kansas City area frequently. That included a return to receive the Take Wing Award.

While the award recognizes career excellence, individual achievement and public service, in Kamal’s case, it also honors a vision for future innovations to reduce suffering and bring healing.

“I think what we’re fundamentally seeing is a reimagination of what it means to be a researcher in medicine,” he said. “Certainly that’s the path I’ve taken.”