Thanksgiving is only a few days away, which means many of us will be making trips to visit family and, in the case of our students, get a home-cooked meal and a short break before finals begin.
Many of those trips will take place in Kansas, a state that I have greatly enjoyed getting to know over the past year and a half. I've had the opportunity to meet with prospective students, alumni, community leaders and many of the Kansans who benefit from the work we do at KU.
Kansans are proud of their communities and want to see them thrive. But many of those communities, particularly in rural areas, face serious challenges when it comes to the availability of health services. There often aren't enough health professionals to deliver the level of care that a community needs to attract new residents and businesses.
That's why the expansion of the KU School of Medicine is so exciting and so important to the future prosperity of our state.
KU has always had a commitment to training doctors and health professionals who will go on to practice in rural and underserved areas. In fact, the School of Medicine was this year recognized as among the best in the nation in this area and half of Kansas' physicians have received medical education from KU.
The expansion of the School of Medicine-Wichita to a four-year program and the creation of a four-year medical program in Salina will enable us to educate even more physicians for Kansas.
The School of Medicine-Wichita already has an impressive track record, with graduates serving in 102 of the state's 105 counties. And the Salina expansion will build on the existing Rural Track program that provided clinical training in the city for students preparing to serve rural areas.
Both programs will benefit from strong community partnerships and from the commitment of the faculty and staff of the KU Medical Center to serving the entire state.
This expansion is part of KU's ongoing work to educate the students who will fill crucial workforce needs in Kansas. For example, expansion of the School of Pharmacy, which will welcome its first Wichita class next fall, will help address the state's pharmacist shortage. And the Board of Regents' Kansas Commitment proposal would help KU meet workforce needs in engineering and nursing, among other areas.
The work we do doesn't just change lives of the students we educate and those who benefit from our discoveries. It also improves the lives of countless people who visit a KU-educated doctor, are inspired by a KU-educated artist or who benefit from the expertise of the hundreds of thousands of KU alumni working in innumerable fields around the world.
Regardless of where your Thanksgiving travels take you, you will always have stories to share with family and friends about how the work of this university changes the world.
Safe travels and have a great Thanksgiving!