After 12 years of serving as dean of the UMKC School of Medicine, Betty Drees has made the decision to leave the position in 2014.
UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton has asked Drees, M.D., F.A.A.C., to continue leadership at the School of Medicine until a search can be conducted and a new dean appointed. After transitioning from the dean’s position, Drees plans to work on patient safety and health policy programs as well as teaching and community service.
“When the time comes, I will leave the deanship with tremendous pride in all that we have accomplished together since I first took on this role in 2001. But it is precisely because of our joint success that it is a good time to transition the school to new leadership,” Drees said. “In fact, Dr. Dimond’s (founder of the UMKC School of Medicine) practice of changing professionally and personally every 10 years went through my mind as I made this decision. It is healthy for the individual and the institution. Now is the perfect time to bring in fresh leadership for the School of Medicine to carry on the extraordinary work here at UMKC.”
Drees’ leadership in medical education has provided tremendous benefit for students and their families, and their patients as they become physicians, said UMKC Provost Gail Hackett.
“Because of the high quality education School of Medicine graduates receive, she has made a difference in improving the health of many people in the community and across the country,” Hackett said.
UMKC School of Medicine’s accomplishments during Drees’ deanship:
- Fiscal strength. “We’ve been able to strengthen the financial position of the school, despite holding tuition increases to a minimum. The improved finances allow us to increase scholarships, recruit faculty and upgrade facilities.” The new Skills Lab is opening in January and the docent units are beginning renovations. There are plans for new classrooms and labs for the school through a capital appropriations request of $48 million.
- Collaboration. “We’ve strengthened our partnerships with other schools at UMKC and our clinical affiliations.” Examples include the Vision Research Center in partnership with the School of Pharmacy, the Master of Health Professions Education in partnership with the School of Education, and the Master of Bioinformatics in partnership with the Schools of Biological Sciences and Computing and Engineering.
- Student success. “We have graduated more than 3,100 physicians since our founding, and celebrated our 40th anniversary in 2011-2012,” Drees said. “These graduates provide excellent medical care in our own community, and are also highly successful in academics and community service. The past two years, alumni from the School of Medicine were the university-wide alumni award winners, Dr. Catherine Spong and Dr. Mark Ediger.” The school sponsors more than 40 residency and fellowship programs that continue to grow and now include more than 500 physicians in post-graduate training. About half of these physicians remain in the region to practice medicine.
- New education programs. New graduate and certificate programs in bioinformatics prepare students for clinical research, computational analytics and genomics. In order to meet health care needs, there are new master’s degree programs for students to become anesthesiologist assistants and physician assistants.
- Research. The school is building on its partnerships and affiliations to build research programs based on collection, analysis and application of data —bioinformatics, an emerging specialty that will drive better patient outcomes and personalized medicine. Areas of research strength include brain and behavior, women and children’s health, chronic diseases, injury and cardiac patient outcomes. “We’ve established research centers in Vision, Lung Diseases, Shock/Trauma, Women’s Health and Health Insights. The Center for Health Insights is the newest center and will create a strong foundation for clinical research.”
The school has 22 endowed chairs and professorships, the most of any academic unit in the University of Missouri System. Seven of these chairs and professorships were funded during Dr. Drees’ tenure as dean. The most recently filled endowed Chair is the Vijay Babu Rayudu Endowed Chair in Patient Safety.
“This chair fits well with our strength in clinical care, clinical education and clinical research,” Drees said.
Overall, the School’s faculty publications are approaching 700 manuscripts, monographs and book chapters each year.
Drees came to the UMKC School of Medicine in 1998 as associate dean for academic affairs. Previously, she was on the faculty at the University of Kansas Medical School, where she received her medical degree and trained in internal medicine and endocrinology.
Drees is a practicing physician with hospital privileges at Truman Medical Centers, Saint Luke’s Hospital and the Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She is an endocrinologist who sees patients with bone and calcium disorders, diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease and other general hormone conditions.
At the UMKC School of Medicine, Drees has served as a docent, a faculty mentor for students in the last four years of their medical education.
“Because of the shortage of physicians and in an effort to ease the burden of tuition costs, medical education across the country is again evaluating accelerated programs,” Drees said. “Fortunately, we’ve had 40 years of success in this kind of innovation in training physicians for the future. The quality of our students who are accepted in the medical education program is exceptionally high. They are phenomenal people who become outstanding physicians. We also have wonderful faculty, residents, fellows and staff. We have an excellent group of leaders in our department chairs, deans and program directors who will carry the school forward.”