KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) – More than 50 senior students from the University of Kansas School of Medicine have asked to graduate early to participate in the Kansas Pandemic Volunteer Health Care Workforce.

The program will deploy the doctors throughout Kansas as part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It allows them to serve in areas of critical need in the state of Kansas immediately, prior to their residencies, which begin July 1 at various locations throughout the country.

Students from all three of the medical school’s campuses, in Kansas City, Salina and Wichita, have volunteered.

“There is a potential for extreme stress on health care systems in urban and rural settings due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Mike Kennedy, professor and associate dean of Rural Health Education in the KU School of Medicine. “Many rural physicians are already overworked, and the addition of a surge in health care utilization could overburden these physicians to the breaking point.”

There are 34 counties in Kansas that have only one or two physicians for the entire county. There are also many rural practices and health care systems that are under significant financial strain and may be insolvent by the end of the pandemic unless help is provided.

“This all-volunteer program will provide assistance where it’s needed in Kansas, including rural Kansas where the need may quickly outpace the available physicians,” said Dr. Jeff Colyer., former governor of Kansas, a clinical associate professor at the KU Medical School and chair of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services (NACRHHS). “It could be a national model for how recent medical school graduates can help meet critical rural needs.”

Fourth-year medical students who wish to volunteer in this capacity will be immediately granted the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the university and will be eligible for a special permit to practice medicine from the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.

Their early graduation has been approved by the national accrediting body, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

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