OSU President Shrum looks back at lasting legacy at OSU-CHS
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Dr. Kayse Shrum has blazed a lot of trails on her way to become president of Oklahoma State University. She was the first female dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, the first woman to lead the OSU Center for Health Sciences, and in 2021 became the first woman to lead the entire OSU system.
Not bad for a softball player from Coweta, Oklahoma.
“In high school, my motivation to go to college was to keep playing softball,” Shrum said. “When you grow up in a rural area, you don’t think about careers that you’re not exposed to, so medicine wasn’t on my radar. It wasn’t anything I had thought of for myself.”
In fact, it was softball that pushed her out of her comfort zone and gave her the confidence to move away from home and become a pitcher for Connors State College.
While in college, one of her science professors encouraged her to think about medical school, and after touring OSU-COM, she knew it was where she was supposed to be.
After graduation, Shrum chose to go into pediatrics and completed her residency at OSU Medical Center, the university’s teaching hospital, and then practiced in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
“I wanted to practice medicine in a community and be part of a community, but what I found when I got there was, I really missed the teaching aspect. As a chief resident I spent a lot of time teaching interns and students,” she said.
So, she became a clinical professor at her alma mater and eventually dean of the medical school.
Shrum said it was a big, and difficult, decision to stop actively practicing medicine, but she knew she could have a bigger impact on future generations of medical students and how they practiced medicine as an administrator.
“I’ve always felt OSU Medicine is a really special place and it hadn’t yet reached its full potential. There was so much it could do for the state of Oklahoma and beyond,” she said. “That is what really motivated me to take a more administrative role at the OSU Center for Health Sciences.”
That vision of what her alma mater could be is Shrum’s lasting legacy as president of OSU-CHS.
During her tenure, which started in 2013, Shrum saw from her office windows the construction of the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Medical Academic Building, the Kern-Headington Student Center, Cowboy Park, and the start of construction on North Hall, the newest building on the west Tulsa campus.
“When you see a campus, you develop an idea of its quality based on what you see. I think with the look of the campus now, it matches the quality of education that we offer,” she said.
In 2022, OSU-COM celebrated the 50th anniversary of the school’s founding. During her almost 10 years as president, Shrum worked to realize the mission that the medical school was founded on — to meet the growing health care needs of rural and underserved Oklahoma. Growing up in a small, rural town, she knew firsthand how vital doctors are in a community.
“We have a shortage of physicians in rural Oklahoma, and we have these kids in rural Oklahoma like me. They appreciate the rural lifestyle and want to give back to their communities, but they’re not going to think about medicine unless we direct them that way,” she said.
“We have a shortage of physicians in rural Oklahoma, and we have these kids in rural
Oklahoma like me. They appreciate the rural lifestyle and want to give back to their
communities, but they’re not going to think about medicine unless we direct them that
“We have a shortage of physicians in rural Oklahoma, and we have these kids in rural Oklahoma like me. They appreciate the rural lifestyle and want to give back to their communities, but they’re not going to think about medicine unless we direct them that way.”
The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation, which opened in 2020, is the culmination of Shrum’s two passions as OSU-CHS president — improving rural health care in Oklahoma and growing the medical school.
Shrum and her leadership team approached former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker with an unprecedented idea to partner together to build a medical school on tribal land that already included the Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital and the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
“Chief Baker was very forward thinking in recognizing that if you put a medical school there, you can grow residency programs and you have more physicians right there taking care of Cherokee people,” she said. “You also have kids who are Cherokee citizens getting medical care nearby and they see the medical school, they’re seeing students they can relate to, and they think ‘I can do that too.’”
One of the last major projects that Shrum was instrumental in getting started in her OSU-CHS presidency — and one she continues to be a part of as system president — is the development of the Academic Medical District in downtown Tulsa.
Plans for a new mental health hospital near the OSU Medical Center were already underway when talks of a new veterans hospital in Tulsa started to come into focus thanks to federal funding from the CHIP-IN Act.
“Both those projects fit into our mission of serving the underserved,” Shrum said.
Through partnerships with the Veterans Administration; the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; the State of Oklahoma; the City of Tulsa; the Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation; and other local philanthropists, the Academic Medical District is becoming a reality.
“All of these projects, you see them on paper, or you have an idea of how they will turn out, and years go by and then there it is. It’s really exciting,” she said.
Those projects include improvements, renovations and future expansion of the OSU Medical Center and a new biotech research facility.
Looking back over her 20 years at OSU-CHS as a faculty member, dean and then president, it wasn’t an easy decision to leave, but when faced with the opportunity to become president of OSU, she encountered similar feelings from her past.
“It really made me think about the impact I could have on students, the impact I could
have on the state, if I were in that leadership role for the system. I felt like the
medical school, the hospital and OSU-CHS were in a really good place and there was
an excellent team of people in leadership roles that if I ever wanted to lead at a
higher level, that was the moment,” she said.
“I feel like I left it in a better place and positioned for continued growth.”