"Father" of Medical School to Receive Chancellor's Medal

  On the previous page, Diastole's Kiva lecture room, an in-the-round style hall inspired by Native American meeting lodges. At left, Dimond addresses a gathering in 1973 for the groundbreaking for Truman Medical Center, which was attended by a young Edward "Ted" Kennedy, foreground at right.

When visitors tour Diastole, at 2501 Holmes, they often leave in awe of its architecture, spaces and artwork. From the modern building's front walk, they can also peer down Holmes and see the UMKC School of Medicine, which in only 40 years has grown into a national showcase. And that elegant white-haired gentleman working in the garden? That's just the man whose dream made this all happen.  

Many see E. Grey Dimond as the "father" of the UMKC School of Medicine, one of the nation's first six-year medical school programs that accepts students out of high school. In just 40 years, he has seen his dream flourish into a nationally recognized program and a medical school building joined by other UMKC health sciences facilities. Nearby sits his prized claim to modern architecture -- the stately townhome he built in 1976. Following his wife's death in 1983, Dimond created a non-profit organization, which now owns and operates Diastole, whose mission is to support the university. In fact, Dimond has gifted his estate for the continued funding of Diastole operations into perpetuity.

Diastole, (officially The Mary Clark and E. Grey Dimond Scholars' Center), named by Dimond -- a cardiologist -- for the heart's at-rest phase, is not as it appears to passersby. From the outside, many might not even notice the structure. But inside, its beauty comes to life as visitors peer at its artwork, curving staircase and its unique kiva, an in-the-round theater inspired by Native American meeting lodges. Today, Diastole is available for a wide variety of UMKC and community functions. 

Dimond is much like Diastole. People visiting the School of Medicine or Dimond's former residence might not even notice the gracious gentleman walking around the grounds or along the sidewalks. But that unassuming man is Dimond.

Dimond to Receive Chancellor's Medal
On April 27, Dimond will be honored for his ground-breaking work at the 2011 Alumni Awards luncheon, where he will receive the Chancellor's Medal, UMKC's highest non-academic honor. Dimond joins other past recipients, such as Thomas Hart Benton, Henry Bloch, Tom Watson, Mr. and Mrs. Ewing Kauffman, and Homer Wadsworth and Nathan Stark, who with Dimond are often recognized for the re-birth of Hospital Hill.

See past Chancellor's Medal recipients here

Read about the 2011 Alumni Award recipients here

In a 1995 profile, a Kansas City Star reporter describes Dimond and his Diastole (Sun Room at left). "Rooms flow together. Shelves of books are everywhere, as is artwork, including bronze sculptures by his daughter, photographs by his wife and his own wood sculptures. One room is patterned after a kiva or Indian meeting room and used as an auditorium. Another is called the Omar Khayyam room with its many editions of the Rubaiyat." At about that time, Dimond donated his residence "replete with eclectic mementos of a stimulating and successful life, as a community haven devoted to group meetings and retreats."

Birth of the Six-Year Medical Program
The founding of the UMKC School of Medicine wasn't without controversy. Dimond's dream of a Kansas City medical school involved financial, political and professional risk, but as the Star pointed out 25 years later, "The risk paid off."

At Dimond 's insistence, the school ignored the traditional curriculum of four years of premedical undergraduate education plus four years' medical training and replaced it with an intensive six-year program.

"I formed the idea that we were too late,” said Dimond, who first thought of the new medical education model while at the University of Kansas. "I watched and saw these darn good kids from Kansas – they were serious kids – and four years in college had slowed them down. Now many kids need that vast liberal arts experience, but I thought for some we could offer medical education and liberal arts at the same time.” 

Today, this program is a national model and its students work nearly year-round, and they have contact with patients from the start. In 1974, the university constructed its current medical school building and Truman Medical Center came soon after. 

When civic leaders Nathan J. Stark (see obituary) and Homer C. Wadsworth recruited Dimond in the drive to build a medical school, Stark recalled one of those early conversations that sold him and Wadsworth on Dimond: "The thing that really convinced both of us was what he told us right away -- 'If you're looking to develop the traditional medical school, forget about me. If you're looking for something innovative in the way medicine ought to be practiced and taught, I'm interested.''' 

Among the legacy of the Medical School, the Edgar Snow Fund and the relationship with China and the landmark that is Diastole, of what is he most proud?

"The whole thing,” he says with a wry smile. “I was 48 or 49 when I came here. I didn’t mean for this to become the next 45 years of my life, but I have no regrets. It’s consumed so much of my life that I’d be a miserable man if I did!”

Dimond Highlights

  • At 28, after World War II ended, was chief cardiologist for the American Far East Command and was based in Tokyo
  • At age 33, was named chairman of medicine at the University of Kansas
  • Established the Heart Institute at Scripps Medical Center, La Jolla, Calif., at age 43
  • Emeritus faculty status at UMKC
  • Was married for 15 years to Mary Clark Dimond, who died in 1983. She was the daughter of distinguished lawyer, Grenville Clark.
  • In 1971, was one of a few physicians invited inside Communist China
  • Friend and colleague of Edgar Snow; has made many trips to China
  • Turned 92 on Dec. 8. He has lived his four-word prescription for health: “Stay Skinny; Don’t Smoke!”
  • The Edgar Snow Memorial Fund is also housed at Diastole; founded by Mary and dedicated to promoting friendship between the people of China and USA.

  • Back to this issue of e-Roos

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