KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — More than 50 University of Kansas medical students are graduating early to participate in a program that will deploy them throughout the state to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Kansas Medical Center said in a news release that the program will allow seniors to serve in areas of “critical need" before their residencies start in July at various locations throughout the country. Students from all three of the medical school’s campuses, in Kansas City, Salina and Wichita, have volunteered.

Dr. Mike Kennedy, the medical school's associate dean of Rural Health Education, said there are 34 counties in Kansas that have only one or two physicians.

“Many rural physicians are already overworked, and the addition of a surge in health care utilization could overburden these physicians to the breaking point,” he said.

Former Gov. Jeff Colyer, a doctor, clinical associate professor at the university and chair of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services, said what the school is doing “could be a national model for how recent medical school graduates can help meet critical rural needs.”

In New York, some medical students also have been allowed to graduate early to help.

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