KANSAS CITY — The Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences is in the first phase of a $60 million, five-year expansion plan.
It's a step forward for a university that is recovering from controversy that began in 2009, when then-president Karen Pletz was fired and several administrators resigned. Pletz was later charged with embezzling more than $1.5 million, engaging in money laundering and falsifying tax returns. The university sued Pletz and she countersued before she committed suicide in November 2011.
All litigation involving the school and Pletz has been settled, The Kansas City Star reported.
The new construction "demonstrates that we are committed to move forward," said Marc B. Hahn, the osteopathic medical school's president and CEO. "The only thing that we can control is what we do now. We have a great story to tell."
Work began two months ago to convert Weaver Auditorium into an academic center, and the administration building is being renovated. Other upgrades, which have not been fully detailed, are planned for the Strickland Education Pavilion and classrooms in Smith Hall. And in the future, the clinical training center at Kesselheim Hall is expected to be replaced by a 33,000-square-foot medical simulation building and clinical training facility.
Hahn, who began his job last July, said he also plans to improve the university's relationship with the city, particularly in the northeast area where the university has been located since 1916.
The university recently agreed to allow seven of its professors to treat patients at the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, a clinic for low-income residents, said university spokeswoman Lisa Cambridge. Faculty and medical students also work with neighborhood residents to tend a community garden that produces 2,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables a year.
With nearly 1,000 medical students, the university is the 14th largest medical school by class size in the country. It is the largest in Missouri or Kansas and is the second leading producer of primary care physicians in the two states.
The university also hopes to increase its enrollment by 50 percent or more through its two bioscience master's programs, additional bioscience programs and the possible opening of satellite campuses.
"As we do well, so does the neighborhood," Cambridge said.