Academic Societies at Kansas University School of Medicine


This year the University of Kansas School of Medicine marks its 16th year as an institution fostering Learning Communities, known on-campus as Academic Societies. In the beginning, our leaders drew inspiration and design from Harvard Medical School with an original intent that holds true today – to facilitate mentoring relationships between faculty and students. Initially, seven societies, six at the Kansas City campus and one at the Wichita campus, were established. In 2011, the Salina campus opened, which initiated our 8th society’s creation. Each society’s namesake memorializes a former campus leader dedicated to students and medicine. The eight societies are: Mahlon H. Delp, MD,  Thor Jager, MD,  Barbara P. Lukert, MD,  Ralph H. Major, MD,  Franklin D. Murphy, MD,  Thomas G. Orr, MD,  Harry R. Wahl, MD, and  W. Clarke Wescoe, MD.

In 2013, the Academic Societies partnered with the University of Kansas Medical Alumni Board, resulting in today’s name, the Medical Alumni Academic Societies (MAAS).

Program Goals

  • Enhance student-faculty interaction
  • Enhance student-student interaction, particularly across classes
  • Provide a structure for student advising
  • Promote a sense of community for students and faculty
  • Encourage the development of professional attitudes and behaviors among student


The administrative support for the MAAS is provided by the Office of Student Affairs. The Associate Dean for Student Affairs serves as the Executive Director, and two members of the OSA office provide administrative support. Each Society Director holds the title of Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. Since there are three campuses, our Society Directors, student leaders and administrative staff meet monthly via ITV to discuss programming, plan events, and collectively share ideas for the betterment of the MAAS.

The organizational structure of each society is as follows:

  • Society Director
  • 2-3 Associate Directors
  • Second year student leaders i.e. Presidents
  • 40-60 faculty advisors from the clinical and basic sciences
  • 20-30 medical students from each class, with the exception of the Salina Campus, whom have 8 students in each class.

Advising Programs

  • Dean of Admissions places each student in a society.
  • Director of each Society assigns each student, based on a 3-item survey, to an advisor within the society.
  • Year 1 and 2 students: meet with their assigned advisor a minimum of once a semester.
  • Year 3 students: meet with their advisor a minimum of once a semester, while being encouraged to seek out a mentor. The mentor could be their Academic Society advisor, a clinical preceptor or another faculty member. Students are encouraged to transition their advising relationship from an arranged pairing to a mentoring relationship.
  • Year 4 students: encouraged to continually develop their mentoring relationship.

From 1999-2012 our Academic Societies were funded by the Office of the Executive Dean for the KU School of Medicine. In 2013, the Academic Societies partnered with the KU Medical Alumni Board. Annually, the Alumni Board provides a $100,000 gift to the Medical Alumni Academic Societies endowment fund. This gift is proportionally distributed to the three campuses based on student enrollment. Funds previously budgeted for the Academic Societies are now used to provide a yearly stipend for the Directors and an annual scholarship to each President.

Curriculum Connection
For selected small group activities, groups are determined by society assignments. In the future, we anticipate students will be assigned by Academic Society for all curriculum small group activities. In addition, Academic Societies will have their own learning space in our new medical education building to be completed in 2017.


  • Executive Director, Mark Meyer, MD, Professor, Family Medicine
  • Director of Delp Society, Leigh Eck, MD, Associate Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Director of Jager Society-Wichita, Garold Minns, MD, Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Director of Lukert Society-Salina, Christopher Owings, MD, Assistant Professor, Family Medicine
  • Director of Major Society, Jana Zaudke, MD, Assistant Professor, Family Medicine
  • Director of Murphy Society, Shelley Bhattacharya, DO, MPH, Associate Professor, Geriatric and Family Medicine
  • Director of Orr Society, Tomas Griebling, MD, MPH, Professor, Urology
  • Director of Wahl Society, Isaac Opole, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Director of Wescoe Society, George Enders, PhD, Associate Professor, Anatomy and Cell Biology

Activities Showcase

Professionalism Initiative
Society Directors developed and lead a Professionalism initiative. Small group sessions have been strategically integrated throughout our four-year curriculum. For first and second year students, small group sessions focus on readings of critical incident reports written by senior medical students at our institution. Common themes are patient-centered care, clinical uncertainty, empathy, and humanistic medicine. This summer, a new Professionalism session was developed for Orientation to medical school. Small group sessions focused on readings of critical incident reports written by second year students at our institution. Common themes for this session were separation from family, academic difficulty, academic misconduct and professional identity in social media.

White Coat Ceremony-cloaking and presentation of pins, Art Fair, welcome back events, regular monthly lunch meetings, Jaydoc Free Clinic volunteer nights, and a tri-campus picnic.

The Student Recognition Ceremony is a tri-campus event recognizing those who exceled in basic science courses, clinical rotations, and leadership and service to the campus and community.

A Society Cup is awarded each year to the Academic Society that has had the most student and faculty event participation. The winning society has their name engraved onto the trophy, and the trophy is displayed prominently in the Office of Student Affairs.


Wilkes M and Zaudke JK. Student Reflections on Empathy: Incorporating Student Voices into Medical Education. 2014 Learning Communities Institute, Nashville, TN, September 26-28, 2014.

Zaudke JK et al. Immunizing our Young: Second Year Medical Student Reflections. AAMC Conference, San Francisco, CA, November 3, 2012.

Early Experience with Academic Societies at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, AAMC Conference Poster Presentation, Washington, D.C., Sonnino R, Calkins J, Greenberger N, Meyer M, Minns G, Rawitch A, Varghese G, Calkins D, Powell D. , November 2000

Lessons Learned

  • Faculty advisors receive contribution hours to be used for Promotions and Tenure.
  • Society Directors send advisors an annual appreciation letter that also asks if they will be continuing their service. These letters can be included in Annual Faculty Evaluations.
  • Society Directors are provided a $5,000 stipend for their service, which secures a leadership base interested in scholarship and service.
  • Our annual advisor feedback survey revealed a desire for a variety of meeting times. We added alternative meeting times like morning breakfast sessions and evening social events to increase faculty participation.
  • In order to better engage third year medical students, social hours were integrated immediately following some of the Issues in Clinical Medicine courses.
  • Requiring students to provide copay for certain society dinners, apparel, and other events has helped to ensure participation and decrease wasteful expenses.
  • Our current funding model has allowed the Academic Societies to host more events and provide further educational opportunities.
  • Strategically partnering with other student groups for certain activities has increased student participation and enhanced the impact we’re able to have on the students.


View this YouTube link to learn more about Academic Societies at KU School of Medicine