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Kyle Gunnerson, M.D., '91

Nine hundred miles stand between Assaria, KS, and Ann Arbor, MI, and the gap seems even wider when considering the difference between a farming town of 400 people and a city of nearly 114,000 that is part of metro-Detroit, with a population numbering in the millions. The difference for Dr. Kyle Gunnerson was Kansas Wesleyan University and the education that launched his medical career. The journey has taken him to the cutting edge of research in critical emergency care. Today he is considered a pioneer in his field.

Dr. Gunnerson serves as chief of the newly-formed Division of Critical Care in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. He is also associate professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, and Internal Medicine.

He grew up on his family’s 300-acre wheat and soybean farm in Assaria, a town 17 miles south of Salina. Kansas Wesleyan was his top choice. He wanted to stay close to home and play football and baseball, and he knew KWU had a strong acceptance rate to medical schools with its excellent biological sciences program.

Gunnerson finished his medical degree from the University of Kansas in 1996. His professional training included studying the newest approach for combating sepsis, a fast-moving bloodstream infection that can cause paralysis and death, from the aggressive therapy’s pioneer, Emanuel P. Rivers, vice chairman of Emergency Medicine
at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

“There once was a 45–50 percent mortality rate, and he cut that by a third or more,” he said. “It takes a lot of effort. You just roll up your sleeves and go to work.” he said.

Gunnerson followed his five years of training in Detroit with a two-year fellowship in Multidisciplinary Critical Care at the University of Pittsburgh. He became associate professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Anesthesiology at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, and stepped up to chief of Critical Care, building the program and setting new standards.

He has been very active in the growth of the Emergency Critical Care field, and is a member of the Critical Care Subspecialty Committee of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).

In 2013, he was recruited by the University of Michigan to oversee the new Critical Care Center. The center is unique in that it is located within a Department of Emergency Medicine.

“It is almost as big as an in-house ICU,” said Gunnerson. “We are building something from scratch. We’ll be able to learn from our mistakes and capitalize on our successes. This is such a wonderful research opportunity. It’s going to help hospitals everywhere save more lives.”