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KU seeking more funding for Wichita medical school

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The University of Kansas is asking the state for an additional $4.5 million to increase class sizes and fund physician faculty at its School of Medicine in Wichita.

The request comes months after the Kansas Board of Regents cut the university's overall budget by $4 million, which had prompted Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little to suggest in April that the university might reduce the Wichita school to a two-year program and eliminate a medical school in Salina.

Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor for the University of Kansas Medical Center, said Wednesday those concerns arose at a time Kansas House members were proposing greater cuts than those that were eventually enacted. He said the university will not close the Salina program.

If the extra funding is approved, the Wichita school would expand to include 56 first- and second-year students. The campus opened in 1971 to train third- and fourth-year medical students and was expanded in 2011 to a four-year campus, The Wichita Eagle reported ( ).

"We're obviously excited by the opportunity to increase our capacity to provide doctors for Kansas," said Denice Bruce, spokeswoman for the Wichita school.

Overall budgets at the Wichita and Salina campuses will still be reduced and deans at both campuses are determining how to absorb those cuts without affecting enrollment. The Wichita campus had an allocation of $14.9 million in general use funds for fiscal year 2013 and its budget was decreased by about $500,000 for fiscal year 2014.

Some of the additional funding being requested also would go toward faculty physicians at the Wichita school, which has more than 900 volunteer faculty, although the school does not expect to add a large number of faculty if the funding is approved, Bruce said.

But Girod said if the class sizes increase, the school can't expect more from volunteer faculty based only on their goodwill.

"As more and more physicians are working in health systems, they have less flexibility with time and the margins are tighter in health systems," he said.