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KU Med Breaks Ground For New, $75M Training Facility

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When Dr. David Zamierowski was training as a physician in the 1960s, he tried out his new skills on living patients.

“I am so grateful to those poor souls, who knew it was my first time, but graciously allowed me to practice on them,” Zamierowski said Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Kansas Medical Center’s new health education building.

“But in the back of my mind, I always knew there had to be a better way, and when I first saw simulation, I realized that this was the answer.”

Zamierowski did his residency at KU Med and went on to a 25-year career in plastic surgery in the Kansas City area before retiring a dozen years ago.

His fealty to KU Med and his zeal for simulation are what brought him to the outdoor ceremony Thursday. He was joined by university and elected officials, including Gov. Sam Brownback, as earth was turned for the $75 million building at the corner of 39th Street and Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas.

The Zamierowskis were among private donors who kicked in a total $37 million, including $25 million from the Hall Family Foundation.

Other funding comes from $25 million in state bonds and $15 million from KU Med itself.

Construction is expected to begin next month and to be completed in summer 2017.

The 171,000-square-foot building will enable KU to train 50 additional medical students each year at its combined facilities statewide. KU now graduates 211 medical graduates annually at its three campuses across the state.

Ninety of the state’s 105 counties are medically underserved, according to the university. Current estimates project that 30 percent of the state’s physician workforce will retire or leave their practices within the next decade.

The construction gets underway just as a new patient tower for KU Hospital is rising at the corner of 39th Street and Cambridge streets, immediately east.

The education building “expands the important role that KU Medical Center plays in ensuring that Kansans have access to highly trained doctors and nurses,” Brownback said at the ceremony.

“We are going to train the next generation of physicians for this state and for this nation that are going to be fabulous, there are going to be more (of them), there are going to be more in rural areas … and it’s going to be a fabulous gift to the people of Kansas,” he added.

The building replaces an outdated facility that was built in 1976 and no longer suits the demands of current medical training. It will also enable a new type of medical education stressing interdisciplinary training in which physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other trainees learn together.

Some of that joint training will involve law students, said Dr. Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of KU Med.

Fourth-year medical student Kirsten Devin, 26, of Omaha, said she and fellow students were elated when they heard a new education building might be in the offing.

“For as long as I have been here, and I suspect much longer than that, students on this campus have dreamed of a collaborative education with peers from all different professions and the place where this could effectively occur,” she said. “It is our dream that this building will become a place where future generations of brilliant Jayhawks come together to explore each other’s minds and also to enjoy each other’s company.”

Mike Sherry is a reporter for KCPT television in Kansas City, Mo., a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

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