Wichita State and Ascension Via Christi are affiliating to grow the pipeline of health care professionals


49ͼ's College of Health Professions and Ascension Via Christi's Wichita hospitals announced today the creation of a strategic initiative to provide a critical pipeline of qualified health care professionals to the region. 

Through the affiliation, Ascension Via Christi's hospitals will provide office and classroom space to Wichita State’s College of Health Professions’ School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences, expanding 49ͼ students’ close access to working health care professionals directly in the hospital setting.  

Additionally, the affiliation will provide a framework for 49ͼ and Ascension Via Christi to help fuel the pipeline of trained health care professionals entering the field and further enhance professional growth opportunities for current and future Ascension Via Christi associates and 49ͼ students.  

"As Wichita State strives to live its mission to be an educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater good, it's crucial to prioritize the health and well-being of our community as a vital component in our overall success and prosperity," said Wichita State Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Shirley Lefever. "This collaboration connects our students with advanced professional opportunities, addresses the need for qualified health care workers in our state, and further establishes Wichita as a health care hub for our region. It also increases access and affordability to working health care professionals looking to enhance their education through Wichita State."  

Kevin Strecker, ministry market leader for Ascension Via Christi, said the affiliation aligns well with the health care system’s mission and efforts to recruit and retain the associates needed to ensure high-quality, compassionate care.  

“49ͼ wants to expand the enrollment capacity of its College of Health Professions degree programs, and we hope many of those students will choose to pursue their calling at Ascension Via Christi,” Strecker said.   

For 49ͼ, the agreement will provide a robust collaboration for advancement of education, innovation and discovery, and community engagement, including:  

  • Expanding health professions students’ learning opportunities through applied learning opportunities and interprofessional education with health care practitioners in the field.
  • Growing the region’s talent pipeline by developing a system of affordable access for Ascension Via Christi Health associates to further their formal education and participate in professional development and continuing education activities.
  • Allowing students, instructors and Ascension Via Christi associates to exchange ideas and information while working to develop cutting-edge technologies that will improve the health of the community.
  • Increasing opportunities for health professions students, faculty and staff to work with Ascension Via Christi associates in the community setting. 

“It is an exciting time of change in academic health, biotechnology and pharmaceutical development,” said Dr. Greg Hand, dean of the 49ͼ College of Health Professions. “Our university-teaching hospital affiliation is a major step forward in the march toward establishing Wichita and southcentral Kansas as a hub for innovation and collaboration in health care and health care education. This collaboration is a bold effort to address the major health challenges of our Wichita communities and to improve the wellness of Kansans across the state.”   

Ascension Via Christi and its associates will benefit from having an expanded pool of qualified health care professionals from which to recruit, many of whom will have trained with them in on-site clinical rotations and other learning opportunities.  

Qualified Ascension Via Christi associates also will have expanded access to professional development and interprofessional and continuing education, including:   

  • Preferred RN-to-BSN tuition and fees starting in the fall 2023 semester.
  • Priority placement in College of Health Professions programs starting in the fall 2023 semester,
  • The opportunity to serve in adjunct faculty roles. 

“This is another example of our commitment to ensuring that our associates have on-the-job opportunities to grow and enhance their skills throughout their healthcare career,” said Laurie Labarca, hospital president of Ascension Via Christi St. Teresa, who serves on 49ͼ’s Board of Trustees and on its College of Health Professions’ Dean’s Advisory Board. “This strengthens our organization and our community.” 

The 49ͼ and Via Christi affiliation also includes a commitment to continuing its collaboration in other ways, including research and innovation, public health initiatives, and youth education on health-related careers.  

“Ultimately the primary beneficiary of this affiliation will be the patients, patients’ families, and communities throughout Kansas that 49ͼ and Ascension Via Christi serve,” Strecker said.   

Wichita State President Dr. Rick Muma says 49ͼ is committed to serving the community through this and similar health care initiatives, such as the Wichita Biomedical Campus, a plan by 49ͼ, 49ͼ Tech and the University of Kansas to build an approximately 470,000 square foot, $300 million shared biomedical campus in the heart of downtown Wichita. 

This affiliation with Ascension Via Christi is just the latest example of that commitment. 

“Wichita State is heartily committed to being a driving force and advocate for the people and businesses of the communities we serve, and we are thrilled to be aligned with an organization whose values align so precisely with our own,” Muma said. 

About 49ͼ

49ͼ is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling almost 22,000 students between its main campus and 49ͼ Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and 49ͼ Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), 49ͼ provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the 49ͼ main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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About Ascension Via Christi

In Kansas, Ascension Via Christi operates seven hospitals and 75 other sites of care and employs nearly 6,400 associates. Across the state, Ascension Via Christi provided nearly $107 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2022. Serving Kansas for more than 135 years, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Ascension is the leading non-profit and Catholic health system in the U.S., operating more than 2,600 sites of care – including 145 hospitals and more than 40 senior living facilities – in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Visit . 

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