Kleins committed to the healthcare pipeline
Kurtis and Sally Klein know how to “carry the bag.” It’s a term often associated with the sales profession, but in the case of the Kleins, let’s broaden the reference. These two retired health professionals understand that preparing for and working in the health professions can be like carrying a heavy bag—at times, a long, challenging journey. In retirement, their healthcare bag is mostly on the shelf, and they now want to lighten the load for others picking up the bag to pursue health careers. They have generously created funds with KU Endowment for that purpose.
“The world needs pharmacists, and the world needs nurses,” said Kurtis Klein. “It’s a tough road to get that education, especially with today’s costs, and if we can help in a small way, then we are extraordinarily happy to do that.”
After graduation, Kurtis took his 1981 KU School of Pharmacy degree to Methodist Central Hospital in Dallas, where he was a decentralized pharmacist on a cardiac care unit. After practicing for a year in Dallas, Kurtis got a chance to join Marion Labs where he began his pharmaceutical industry career by carrying the sales bag. During his time with Marion, he held numerous positions, including sales, sales management, and marketing, before being recruited by Alcon Laboratories of Fort Worth, Texas. At Alcon, he held numerous senior sales and marketing leadership roles, eventually reaching the position of vice president of corporate strategy and business development, with responsibilities for all corporate strategic planning, as well as mergers and acquisitions.
Sally graduated from nursing school at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, not far from the Boston area where she grew up. Her nursing career took her to the same Dallas hospital where Kurtis worked as a pharmacist. After getting married and joining Marion Labs, they spent 10 years in various cities, including seven years in Northern California. They then moved with two young children to work at Marion’s corporate office in Kansas City.
In KC, Sally pursued a master’s in nursing education at the KU School of Nursing. Her KU graduate education was disrupted when Kurtis accepted the opportunity at Alcon where he spent 13 years. After raising their daughters, Katie and Jordan, and helping them launch into successful careers, the Kleins are now focused on providing opportunities for others to enjoy some of the success that they have had.
“When you reflect on your career and you realize how lucky, how fortunate you have been, and that you were given a very good education at a very good university and how that directly translated into our success, we just always felt like it was important to give back,” said Kurtis.
It was so apparent to Kurtis and Sally that the pandemic put a premium on healthcare professionals. “Pharmacist’s scope of practice,” Kurtis said, “is now going beyond the tradition role of filling prescriptions and providing information. They are now delivering healthcare, such as COVID and flu shots. And what a great role that is.”
Similarly, their appreciation for nurses has never been greater. “Ninety-nine percent of the care in hospitals is delivered by nurses,” Kurtis said. “The nurse is the one who is there and takes care of you and watches over you.
“We want to make sure that whatever we contribute is going to something that is targeted, is impactful and that we believe will really deliver an outcome for society. I can’t think of much more directed and impactful than helping create more frontline healthcare professionals—especially knowing the important role both pharmacists and nurses play.”
The Kleins continue to “carry the bag”—supporting healthcare and its future providers through endowed scholarship funds to both the School of Pharmacy and the School of Nursing. Additionally, they established a $50,000 unrestricted fund to recruit the best and brightest students to the School of Pharmacy. This fund is “geared totally at helping the dean and School of Pharmacy go out and attract that top notch student, so that we can keep the reputation of KU at a high level,” said Kurtis. “We believe in KU, and we wanted to do what we could to support continuing to deliver high quality healthcare professionals to the state of Kansas, as well as society at large.”