If 2020 was all about the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2021 was still about the COVID-19 pandemic, what was the general sentiment for 2022 at the University of Kansas Medical Center?
Robert D. Simari, MD, executive vice chancellor, may have hit on the right phrase. “This fall, we return to what will likely be our new normal,” he wrote in an end-of-year email. “While each of us may have a different work pattern, the focus of our mission—to improve the health of Kansans and educate the next generation of healthcare professionals—is the same.”
So how was this “new normal” reflected in the 2022 KU Medical Center news? We’ll see.
Since fiscal year 2017, the amount of federal money spent on research at the KU Medical Center has increased by nearly 70%, according to Peter Smith, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research and graduate education at the School of Medicine. from KU.
“We have seen increases in basic and clinical research activities and funding, and have had several major centers and training programs recently receive new or continued funding,” Smith said.
In fact, KU Medical Center has reported steady double-digit growth in research dollars for the past seven years, according to Smith, and despite setbacks caused by the closure of many research facilities due to COVID-19, has managed to maintain a strong position in the competitive world of research funding.
“Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, our research community has remained engaged and innovative,” he said. “He has been able to continue and even increase his successes in revealing and treating the underlying causes of disease to the benefit of Kansas and the nation.”
Also in 2022, Russell Swerdlow, MD, director of the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, received international recognition for his research on mitochondria and Alzheimer’s disease. He was one of the 10 Oskar Fischer Prize winners in the world.
Akinlolu Ojo, MD, Ph.D., MBA, Executive Dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Elected to the National Academy of Medicine. The prestigious NAM has approximately 2,200 members worldwide, with current members electing new members who have made significant contributions to medicine.
And, after spending decades researching the role of fatty acids in infants and pregnant women, including a recent discovery of the power of DHA to decrease the likelihood of preterm birth, Susan Carlson, Ph.D., AJ Rice professor of nutrition in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, she won the 2022 Chancellors Club Career Research Award.
KU Cancer Center Earns Comprehensive Designation from NCI
Restrictions put in place to keep COVID-19 at bay were eased somewhat in 2022, allowing groups to meet in person again. Supporters of the University of Kansas Cancer Center had great reason to celebrate on July 7, 2022, when it announced its new status as an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center.
This designation from the National Cancer Institute is the gold standard for cancer centers and gives researchers greater access to federal funding. “Comprehensive designation is a crucial milestone in our journey to conquer all types of cancer,” said Roy Jensen, MD, director of the KU Cancer Center.
To commemorate the momentous achievement, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly proclaimed September 2022 “Comprehensive Cancer Center Awareness Month” and signed the proclamation during a ceremony on the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City.
“NCI’s comprehensive designation means we’re in the same league as the best cancer centers in the country. And we could not have achieved that milestone without the unwavering bipartisan support of the Kansas legislature and governor,” Jensen said.
Students at all three KU Medical Center campuses (Salina, Wichita, and Kansas City) were able to observe some important educational milestones in person in 2022. Pandemic concerns led many ceremonies to a virtual platform in 2020 and 2021, but the Day Party celebrations, graduation recognition ceremonies, and homecoming ceremonies like the KU Medical School white coat ceremony were all IRL (in real life).
Programs within KU’s schools of Health Professions, Medicine and Nursing earned top 25 rankings from US News and World Report’s annual college and university rankings. For the second year in a row, the KU School of Medicine was ranked among the top 10 medical schools in the country for primary care.
Also ranked in the top 10 for public schools were KU’s School of Health Professions graduate programs in speech-language pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy and audiology. Its nursing and anesthesia program ranked 14th.
In undergraduate rankings, KU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing was named 22ndNorth Dakota among all public universities and 29the among all schools. It was also ranked 11th best nursing and midwifery graduate programs among public institutions. “This reflects the hard work of all of our faculty, staff, and students. Now more than ever, it is important to focus on our mission of producing nurses to enter the demanding field of healthcare,” said Sally Maliski, Ph.D., FAAN, dean of the KU School of Nursing.
Another highlight of 2022 was the creation of the KU School of Nursing digital campus. As part of Meta’s Immersive Learning Project, “Metaversity” will allow students to interact with an innovative virtual reality replica of the campus. But they can also travel, virtually, inside a human heart.
“Instead of spending three hours listening to a lecture on the respiratory system, you can listen to a shorter lecture and then spend 30 minutes of virtual reality inside the body,” said Kesa Herlihy, Ph.D., clinical associate professor and director of the Simulation Education Program at the KU School of Nursing. “It’s a totally different method of instruction. We have the potential to revolutionize nursing education.”
Outside agencies also highlighted KU Medical Center’s dedication to excellence, such as the prestigious Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education which awarded accreditation to KU’s master’s program in health informatics. The program became only the 23rd accredited program in the United States and Puerto Rico. In addition, the National League for Nursing redesignated the KU School of Nursing as center of excellenceone of 16 American programs.
To help reduce or eliminate health disparities in rural Kansas, the KU School of Medicine created the Kansas Rural Health Center in 2022. The center is located on the Salina campus of the KU Medical Center, and Robert Moser, MD, dean of the KU-Salina College of Medicine and professor of population health, serves as executive director.
“The center will work with physicians, providers and rural health systems to improve access and support quality health care for rural Kansans,” Moser said.
Children were the focus of outreach efforts in 2022, from getting bikes for kindergartners to teaching high school students science to winning a $9 million grant to improve children’s mental health in southeast Kansas.
Other outreach efforts also gained traction. The KU Cancer Center called for an increase in lung cancer screening, and a $1.2 grant from the National Cancer Institute enabled KU Medical Center researchers to increase targeted cancer treatments for rural cancer patients. “My goal is to make sure that the care that is provided in rural communities is as good as the care that is provided in larger communities,” said Shellie Ellis, Ph.D., associate professor of population health and awardee of the grant.
Students participated in Community Service Day for the first time since 2019, and researchers helped us learn what to eat and drink for better health.