UMKC School of Medicine: 50 years of excellence in medical education

Graduation has always been a special celebration for docents and their students at the UMKC School of Medicine.

Fifty years ago, the University of Missouri-Kansas City launched a bold experiment in educating the medical leaders of the future.

After years of planning, more than $8.8 million in federal funding and a charter class of 18 students, the doors of the UMKC School of Medicine opened in 1971.

Fifty years later, that bold experiment is a cornerstone of Kansas City’s medical community.

This month, the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine is kicking off its yearlong observance of the 50th anniversary. A new logo, a special website and many special events will highlight the celebration. Among the key events:

  • A series of distinguished guest lectures, including:
    • Nov. 5: Roger Bush, M.D., from University of California-San Francisco, speaking on rural health inequities.
    • Nov. 17-19: Silvio Inzucchi, M.D., from Yale, sharing research linking type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and cardiovascular complications.
    • Dec. 2: Harriet Washington, medical ethicist from Harvard Medical School, speaking on medical apartheid.
    • Dec. 9: Kenneth Churchwell, M.D., from Boston Children’s Hospital, speaking on pediatric critical care (Noback-Burton Lecture).
    • Feb. 11: Geeta Swamy, M.D., from University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill and Duke University, speaking on maternal vaccines, COVID pregnant women, preterm delivery interventions.
  • Special signage around the SOM campus and 50th-anniversary themed touches for Match Day, Commencement and other signature academic occasions.
  • A Gold Jubilee 50th anniversary gala, set for June 4, 2022, at the Loews Hotel in downtown Kansas City.

Today as in the past, UMKC’s School of Medicine is making a difference the health and wellbeing of Kansas City communities and beyond. Long known for its innovative research, humanities-focused education and unique medical programs – namely the accelerated BA/MD program where students enter medical school straight from high school and complete their degrees in six years – UMKC continues to graduate future leaders in health care. The school has been instrumental in founding Kansas City’s UMKC Health Sciences District, where it continues to play a primary role.

“This is an exciting time for the UMKC School of Medicine, as we celebrate half a century of history and traditions,” said Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., ’78, dean of the medical school. “As our nation’s health care profession has evolved, so has the School of Medicine. We are bringing new technologies and innovations to the forefront that continue to solidify our standing as a leader in today’s medical education.”

Since 1971, nearly 4,000 physicians and health care professionals across the United States have received their degrees from the School of Medicine. Through the years, additional programs added include master’s degrees in anesthesia, physician assistant, health professions education and bioinformatics, and graduate certificates in research and health professions education. In January 2021, the school opened its second campus in St. Joseph, Missouri, with a focus on rural medicine. But it is the school’s MD programs and its docent system of learning – where faculty physicians combine the best of apprenticeship instruction with small-group teaching, mentoring, peer coaching and other techniques – that have withstood the test of time and continue to position the school as a trendsetter in medical education.

“Fifty years speaks to the longevity of the school, not to mention we have many physician leaders across the country that are graduates,” said School of Medicine alumni association president Ralph Wuebker, M.D., ’94. “There is no doubt that UMKC is a top medical school!”

Marjorie Sirridge, M.D., one of the three founding docents and later dean of the medical school, once reflected on the early days: “I remember being tired a lot and sometimes discouraged when it seemed that we just couldn’t get it all done. But, mostly I remember the challenge and the excitement of being part of a new adventure in medical education.”

Indeed, it’s been an exciting adventure the past 50 years – and the next several months will celebrate the past, present and future of UMKC School of Medicine. Join us.