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Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine set to open its doors next week

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Rose Conlon
/
KMUW

Classes at Wichita’s new osteopathic medical school begin Monday. School officials hope it'll help train more physicians for rural Kansas.

Students will begin classes Monday at the new Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in downtown Wichita.

A ribbon cutting for the school’s new building near Douglas and Broadway was scheduled for Friday. The 116,000-square-foot building includes state-of-the-art simulation labs, an osteopathic skills training center, large lecture halls and small group study rooms.

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Hugo Phan
/
KMUW

The $30 million renovation of the former Finney State Office Building also helped upgrade part of Wichita’s downtown core area. The city supported the project through a series of tax incentives.

The school’s first class of 91 students has spent this week in orientation. They will graduate in 2026.

The incoming class size will grow to 127 next year and 170 in following years.

Most of the students will become primary care physicians.

David Ninan, the interim dean and chief academic officer, said the goal of the college ”is to increase the supply of physicians to Kansas, particularly in the underserved areas.”

The Kansas Health Science Center, the nonprofit behind the medical school, says on its website that 92 out of the 105 counties in Kansas are medically underserved due to a lack of physicians. It says the state ranks 40th in practicing physicians per capita.

Ninan said part of the school’s mission will be to work with students to get them to consider working in rural parts of the state that lack medical care.

“WSo we do that by … incorporating faculty who practice in those types of areas, by setting up student rotational experiences,” he said. “So they're working in those areas, they're building relationships and friendships.

“We have early contextual learning opportunities where they're out in the community and volunteering … So really to kind of build and foster that empathy, which is a really important component of being a physician. And within that we hope to inspire them to want to serve and give back.”

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In addition to classroom learning, students also will spend time working with lifelike mannequins in simulation labs and with real people playing the role of patients.

“As soon as possible, we want people to be thinking and training, like they're going to be actually in practice,” Ninan said. “Hence a heavy emphasis on simulation, patient actors, simulating these types of situations … that they'll be practicing in.”

Osteopathic medicine is a field that takes a “whole person” approach, aiming to treat each patient holistically rather than just addressing symptoms. Students will focus on preventative care, with the intent to help patients change their lifestyles to treat and prevent illness.

There are currently 38 accredited osteopathic medical schools in the United States. Wichita’s school has received pre-accreditation and will receive full accreditation in 2026 after the first class graduates.

About 25 percent of medical students in the U.S. are studying at osteopathic schools.

Rose Conlon is a reporter based at KMUW in Wichita, but serves as part of the Kansas News Service, a partnership of public radio stations across Kansas. She covers health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.