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.
Phyllis Gilmore's appointment is drawing heat from some families of foster children.
Parents and grandparents of children who’ve been in the state’s foster care system are urging their senators to vote against confirming Phyllis Gilmore as secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
“We need a person in that position who’s above reproach,” said Marlene Jones, a Wichita woman whose grandson was removed from her daughter’s home in 2005.
Jones said she and other parents and grandparents have been sending emails to their senators.
The emails were mentioned several times during Gilmore’s confirmation hearing Monday before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“We’ve all received these emails,” said Sen. Kelly Kultala, a Kansas City Democrat.
The emails accused Gilmore, a former executive director at the state Behavioral Science Regulatory Board, of not having done enough to investigate parents’ and grandparents’ complaints that social workers had lied in court or conspired against their families.
Gilmore said the complaints were misguided, noting that the decisions not to act on the complaints were not hers to make but were made by the board.
“I was not a decision-making person as it related to the board,” she said. “I carried out the board’s wishes and worked with licensees in that capacity.”
Social workers are licensed by the regulatory board.
Gilmore also told the committee that decisions to remove children from their homes are made by the courts, not by social workers or SRS.
In other testimony
Gilmore, a former Kansas legislator, also said she was comfortable with a recent policy change that led to more than 1,000 children being dropped from the state’s food stamp program.