The art of gratitude and giving back

Nov 27, 2023
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In life, after the bustle of raising children, the day-to-day of patient care and a few decades pass, you look back and feel proud of what you’ve achieved. For Kansas City University alumnus Michael Schrenko, DO (COM '74), this realization didn’t happen all at once, but over time.

Reflecting on what led to his success, Dr. Schrenko knows he did not achieve those goals on his own. He believes it was his solid undergraduate education as a biologist and scientist, his KCU education, outstanding instructors and early clinical opportunities from the emergency room to pathology that prepared him for becoming a caring osteopathic doctor.

While he was still practicing, Dr. Schrenko, a self-proclaimed science nerd, decided to embrace a new skill and hobby. Over a decade ago, he received a starter painting kit as a Christmas present. This kit launched Dr. Schrenko into the world of art. After a few painting lessons and some artistic experimentation, he was hooked. As his skill evolved so did others’ appreciation of his work. He started to display his artwork in his office. Not only were his paintings a conversation starter, but they were also an opportunity for his patients to see another side of him.

Throughout his medical career, Dr. Schrenko saw many advances in technology, from the computed tomography (CT) scan to the electronic medical record (EMR). However, his strong KCU foundation allowed him to welcome the innovative technology as a support, not as a lead in the diagnostic process. He appreciates the solid examination and clinical training he received. Knowing the doctor-patient relationship is most effective when it is a partnership, his patient interactions always included a great deal of listening and empathy.

KCU helped him refine the art of those physical examinations and to listen to patients. “The patient will tell you; their body will tell you what you need to know. You must listen and touch them. By doing a thorough physical exam, you sometimes find pathology you didn't expect to find. Even with today's advanced diagnostics, the patient history and physical is still critically important in establishing a diagnosis. Patients will appreciate a physician who is thorough in his/her exam and who listens and understands them.”

As animated as Dr. Schrenko is about his patients, practice and painting, he is equally enthused about and quite proud of the growth and success of KCU. The university has come a long way from a single 100-year-old building to two sprawling campuses with multiple programs. He sees the deep value of expanding the programs to service the increasing health care needs, but the real value he sees is that everyone can find their space and create their own path to make a difference. “The campus is quite beautiful. They have smartly expanded to include the Center for Medical Education Innovation (CMEI), the recent opening of the dental school, and the different tracks of the clinical psychology and biosciences. I am very proud of how it's grown,” Dr. Schrenko said.

Dr. Schrenko was inspired to establish a named scholarship through a blended gift of annual giving and a provision in his estate because of KCU’s commitment to keeping pace with state-of-the-art medical education advancements while remaining grounded in the transformative power of the doctor-patient relationship. He is in the process that will culminate with his final gift from his estate. That sense of purpose that we all achieve with the help of others has been a catalyst throughout his professional practice and will continue helping KCU students through his scholarship gift.

The art of the physical exam and the doctor-patient connection is like blending colors with a paintbrush and palette knife. It’s often the unexpected confluence of symptoms, patient responses and physical exam that reveal the diagnosis. Be it a reflex hammer, stethoscope, paintbrush or palette knife, the tools may be different but the artistry is parallel, preserving the health of the body and creating a masterpiece of art.

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