Pitt State doctor recognized at highest level 

Dr. Kathleen Sandness doesn't see herself as anything special. The American College of Physicians would say otherwise: the organization has designated the Pittsburg physician with “Mastership” — the highest level attainable that recognizes outstanding and significant career accomplishments. 

Not bad for someone who never intended to be a doctor. 

“I always wanted to be a rancher – that's what I do in my spare time. Horses, cattle, that sort of thing,” she said. 

A chance conversation put her on the path to medicine, and she enrolled in the Biology Department’s pre-med program at Pittsburg State University. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1983, she went on to graduate with her medical degree from the University of Kansas and has been in practice in Pittsburg ever since. 

Today, she directs the Bryant Student Health Center at Pitt State and is an internist at Ascension Via Christi hospital.  

“My phone number has always been listed, so I’ve literally treated people who show up in my driveway,” she said. “It’s who I am, it defines me, and I’m a physician 24 hours a day. What a gift to be able to do that — my world has never been 8 to 5, and I’m happy with that.” 

“And Pitt state prepared me." 

Dr Sandness

Since residency, she has gone to every national meeting of the ACP with the exception of 2020-2021. She’s active in the state chapter of the ACP, completes a self-assessment program every three years, and looks to the organization with the highest regard. 

To earn Mastership, a physician is voted on by their peers. 

“To me, this is not something I deserve – these are for the icons of internal medicine, for internationally known people,” she said. “It’s a wonderful honor and completely undeserved – I'm a little person in a small town just showing up each day.” 

She is quick to rattle off names of other Pitt State graduates who practice medicine here and have had a significant impact on the quality of life, as well as those who have gone on to prestigious positions elsewhere. 

“People like Dr. Steve Starr (cardiologist named one of Kansas City’s top doctors by Ingram’s Magazine) and Dr. Brian Armstrong (cardiologist who trained at Duke),” she said. “They graduated from here and are phenomenal.” 

“And then you have locally these amazing physicians from this program," she said." 

  • Dr. Tammy Battaglia, pathology - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Dustin Bonzo, family medicine - Frontenac
  • Dr. Mark Brown, emergency medicine, Freeman - Joplin
  • Dr. Neil Bryan, emergency medicine, Labette Health - Parsons 
  • Dr. Mark Carlson, internal medicine - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Megan Carlson, OB/GYN - Joplin
  • Dr. Megan Clark, hospitalist, internal medicine, Mercy - Joplin 
  • Dr. Holly Cranston, family practice - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. David Dawson hospitalist, internal medicine, Freeman - Joplin 
  • Dr. Brett Dunbar, surgeon, Ascension Via Christi - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Katie (Merando) Falk, family practice/hospitalist, Ascencion Via Christi - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Michael Fenech, OB/GYN, Ascencion Via Christi - Pittsburg 
  1. Dr. Matt Grounds, emergency medicine, Freeman - Joplin
  • Dr. Jessilyn Humble, pediatrics - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Eric Hunn, surgeon - Parsons 
  • Dr. Zach Krumsick, emergency medicine - Pittsburg/Fort Scott 
  • Dr. Jesse Niederklein, anesthesiology, Ascension Via Christi - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Jackie Orender, family practice - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Ryan Sorell, Freeman – Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Rachel Stevens, family practice, Girard 
  • Dr. Chad Stewart, family practice - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. William Sullivan, internal medicine - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Joshua Sweaney, neurosurgery - Freeman 
  • Dr. Emily Walters, anesthesiology - Joplin 
  • Dr. Titus Weller, emergency medicine - Pittsburg 
  • Dr. Mike Zafuta, orthopedics, Freeman - Pittsburg 

Dr Sandness with patient

Dr. Darilyn Moyer, executive vice president and CEO of the American College of Physicians, wrote this about Sandness: 

“In making decisions about each candidate’s suitability for Mastership, the Awards Committee considered qualities such as strength of character, integrity, perseverance, leadership, compassion, and devotion, as well as clinical expertise and commitment to advancing the art and science of medicine. As an MACP, you embody these qualities and inspire others to seek excellence in our cherished specialty of Internal Medicine.” 

And university administrators have credited her for her leadership of the health center and for her role in guiding Pitt State through the pandemic. 

“To say that I am honored to be elected to receive my Mastership from ACP would be an understatement,” Sandness said. “In my life, the Masters of ACP have been icons and models of the best of the best internists and were to be revered.” 

“I can honestly say that my love and joy in being an internist for the last 35 years has never diminished,” she added. “I have never been more proud to be a general internal medicine physician trained in the art of diagnosis and treatment than I have now in this time of often fragmented delivery of health care.” 
"Hopefully one patient at a time, I’ve done my best." 

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