PALMYRA, Mo. — The University of Missouri System is reaching out to communities in Marion County and across the Show-Me State in health, education and economic growth with new initiatives and a revised mission statement, UM System President Mun Choi said during the Marion County Extension Annual Meeting on Tuesday in Palmyra.
A crowd of dozens of council members, family, friends and alumni from the University of Missouri gathered for a meal prepared by the Zion Lutheran Ladies and Choi's presentation describing enrollment growth at MU and research efforts, along with initiatives for increased broadband internet access and precision health care initiatives geared toward closing the gap between Missourians who live in urban areas residents of rural areas like Marion County and surrounding communities.
The NextGen Precision Health Institute will encompass research and clinical trials across the UM System's four universities, including the animal sciences program and the MU Research Reactor. Choi said new precision health procedures will use science-based research, genetic study and new testing involving pigs in comparison with mice that are usually used when testing out a treatment.
Choi said the precision health goals go hand-in-hand with MU's plans to help expand broadband access to the homes, schools and businesses of rural Missourians, stressing that rural electric cooperatives are an excellent partner for making the last-mile internet connection for more residents.
MU and Siemens are partnering for a new MRI program dubbed Cockpit, and it would allow partner hospitals in rural areas to work with MU and Siemens, allowing a technician in Columbia to conduct an MRI scan at a location hundreds of miles away, at any time of day. Also, Choi stressed that lifesaving surgeries, like placing a stint in a patient's brain after a stroke, could be performed remotely from the NextGen Precision Health Institute.
Four cancer medications have been researched and developed at the MU Research Reactor, Choi said, and new research is moving forward every day. Dr. Raghuraman Kannan is working on stronger chemotherapy medication that is less toxic for patients, resulting in medicine that more effectively attacks tumors instead of harming a person's body. Choi said researchers across the UM System's four campuses are working every day to "change the world" and work for new ways to treat diseases like lung cancer, breast cancer and diabetes.
Enrollment is up at the University of Missouri, and Choi said recruitment management representatives visit every high school in the state. The school is also focused on new e-learning opportunities to reach students from all demographics, including the 800,000 Missourians Choi said have some college education but haven't yet attained a degree. MU also has a program that covers tuition costs for Pell grant recipients -- the university also covers room and board costs for students who meet honors college requirements.
Choi said the UM System's new mission statement encourages students to immerse themselves beyond their chosen career path by encouraging "intellectual pluralism" and "freedom of expression." For the 2019-2020 school year, 5,400 first-time college students came to MU, and the rising enrollment is expected to continue with projections for the next school year calling for 5,600 to 5,800 first-time students and about 1,200 transfer students.
"We're going to have about 7,000 new students coming to the university, and that's a great thing," Choi said. "Because when they come to our university, they're going to be educated -- not for specific professions -- they're going to be educated on how to think, and I think that's very critical."
Choi commended members of the Marion County Extension Council for their dedication in MU Extension provide community services like continuing education programs for emergency responders, agriculture and natural resource programs and youth clubs and programs like 4-H.
Vice Chairman Michael Powell announced that Don and Kathy Nicholson were the 2019 Leaders Honor Roll recipients, and he led attendees in a moment of silence to remember the late Glenn Wagner. Community Engagement Specialist in Community Economic Development Chris Kempke recognized the 2019 Century Farms: the Drebes Family Farm, 1919; Sunset Valley View Farm, 1918; Wayne F. Lucke's farm, 1918; and W.H. And Edna Wagner's farm, 1911.
Kempke also recognized outgoing council members Michael Powell, Dan Delaney and Denise Damron. Judge John Jackson swore in newly-elected members for 2020: Nancy Goellner, Wyatt Miller, Marcia Bross, Wesley Tuley, Alexis Hudson, Mack Ellis and Drew Ward.
Choi emphasized the importance of the MU Extension's role in spreading education and resources through Marion County, and he said he is constantly inspired by the "work ethic" and "resiliency" displayed by Missourians who faced floods, trade uncertainty and other recent challenges.
"You've done it, and you've done it with a smile on your face, and I really, really do appreciate it," Choi said. "It makes me want to work harder through our university to provide more value to citizens like you throughout the state."