A closer look at KCU-COM Joplin Campus Dean Kenneth Heiles, DO

Kenneth Heiles, Osteopathic Medical School Joplin Campus Leader

Students at KCU-Joplin began the 2022-23 academic year with new leadership at the helm after Kenneth Heiles, DO, was named Joplin campus dean for the College of Osteopathic Medicine in June 2022. Heiles has a distinguished career as both a practicing physician and a leader in the field of osteopathic medicine.

His experience in rural medicine and deep sense of community make him an ideal choice to lead a campus focused on training primary care physicians to serve areas that need them most.

Fresh out of residency, Heiles moved across the country to fulfill his commitment as a National Health Service Corps scholarship recipient. His assignment took him to Star City, Arkansas, a rural community with a population of less than 2,000. There, he learned overnight to trust his instincts. “I had my medical education, my license to practice family medicine, and my office open for business. But I was on my own in a community where I knew no one,” said Heiles.

His first patient, an 11-year-old girl, came to the office with severe abdominal pain. Heiles suspected acute appendicitis, a diagnosis that would require surgery. As a newcomer to the community, he had to rely on his resourcefulness to get his patient the care she needed. He called the local hospital, explained who he was, and asked them to page the surgeon. “When the surgeon came to the phone he asked me if I was the new doctor in town, to which I replied, ‘Yes sir, I am!’ I told him about my patient and he said he would be waiting for us at the hospital,” said Heiles. “Five hours later, the surgeon called to tell me they successfully removed an acutely inflamed appendix.”

Heiles stayed in Star City for three years but continued to make a difference for underserved communities through academics. An opportunity to develop and direct a medical education program moved him to nearby Pine Bluff, where he served as director of Medical Education and Family Practice Residency, a post he held for 19 years. Later, he became associate dean of Graduate Medical Education at Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee, followed by an appointment as founding dean of the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

He began his tenure at KCU in 2019 as associate dean of Graduate Medical Education and professor of Family Medicine. “Since joining the KCU team as associate dean of Graduate Medical Education and professor of Family Medicine, Dr. Heiles has been a consistently motivated, collaborative, and engaged leader. He has demonstrated his commitment to the KCU community as a whole and has made significant contributions to the continued success of the Joplin campus,” said W. Joshua Cox, DO, executive dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and vice provost for Medical Affairs. “His established connections and relationships in the region and vast administrative experience in osteopathic medical education will ensure KCU’s continued success with COM initiatives.”

Heiles earned his Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. A fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, he served as the organization’s national president from 2010-2011. In October 2021, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) elected him to serve as the inaugural chair of the Assembly of Council Leaders, a role in which he acts as the point of contact between the Assembly of Council Leaders and AACOM executive leadership.

His primary responsibilities at KCU-Joplin include managing and directing the daily operations of the medical school as well as ensuring the well-being and academic success of students. He also serves as a member of the KCU-COM dean leadership team, committed to the seamless integration of the two medical school campuses.

Throughout his career, Heiles has been, and remains, dedicated to training physicians to serve underrepresented and rural populations.