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Academy aimed at plugging state brain drain

Nyasha Maforo from Winfield (right) and Soo Bum Kim from South Korea were part of the second class to attend the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science, where students finish their last two years of high school while taking college courses at Fort Hays State University, such as chemistry from professor Dr. Steven Donnelly.

Nyasha Maforo from Winfield (right) and Soo Bum Kim from South Korea were part of the second class to attend the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science, where students finish their last two years of high school while taking college courses at Fort Hays State University, such as chemistry from professor Dr. Steven Donnelly. by Phil Cauthon

Morgan Murray is too young to have any idea who Doogie Howser is, but the 16-year-old from Shawnee is cut from a cloth similar to the prodigy doctor in the '90s TV show.

Even while finishing high school and getting a jump on college, Murray finds time to be flown across the country several times a year to help teach doctors twice her age how to perform challenging tracheal intubations, a procedure to get oxygen to patients with blocked airways.

"It's a very high-stress, very time-oriented procedure," said Murray. "I am helping teach the doctors how to intubate using high-fidelity simulators. I act as their nurse, getting them anything they need. Then I help debrief and tell them what they can do better."

Murray came into the teaching opportunity while sitting in on classes, which were taught by her mother. Two years ago, the instructor in the nurse role was out sick, and Murray seized the opportunity to fill in.

Now Murray is seizing another opportunity to get a jump on her career at the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science.

The two-year program is a sort of fast-track boarding school at Fort Hays State University. Each year, up to 40 high school juniors from across the state move into a campus dorm and complete their last two years of high school coursework while also taking college math and science courses.

Murray said that the academy — often called KAMS by students — provides an environment where staff and other students drive each other to set goals high.

"I've been wanting to pursue medicine since I was in third grade," Murray said. "KAMS has pushed me to do even more than I thought I could. I've done more in this semester than I thought was even possible."

Plugging the brain drain

Murray is one of 68 students currently enrolled in the academy. Another 53 students have graduated from KAMS since the first class in 2009.

The Kansas Legislature founded KAMS in 2006, in part to give students like Murray a learning opportunity in Kansas that would challenge the state's most talented students, said director Ron Keller.

"The academy was formed to keep the students here in the state — to keep intellectual capital from leaving Kansas, to keep from losing our best and brightest kids," Keller said.

Continue reading on khi.org.

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