RICHARD “RICK” D. MUMA – university administrator, physician assistant, academic physician assistant, higher education advocate, public health researcher and educator, gardener and early-morning riser – was born in Wichita, a middle child with two sisters, but raised in Houston, Texas. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston, a master’s degree in community health from the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, and a PhD in higher education administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Meet Richard D. Muma, Wichita State provost and professor, who has been called on to serve as the university's acting president while WSU President John Bardo recuperates from illness.
When he was named Wichita State’s provost in 2018, Dr. Muma brought with him to the position 30 years of experience as a professor/administrator and physician assistant in internal medicine and infectious diseases. Immediately before assuming his duties as provost, he was senior associate vice president for academic affairs and strategic enrollment management. Before that he was associate vice president for academic affairs, an administrative post he took up in 2011. Also during his 15 years at Wichita State, he has served as associate provost for quality assurance and accountability, a post that focused on assessment of learning, accreditation, program review and strategic academic planning. In addition, he has carried lead roles in the College of Health Professions, serving as chair and professor in two of the college’s departments, public health sciences and physician assistant, as well as overseeing workforce and diversity initiatives and winning large grants for the college’s teaching programs and student scholarships.
In 2004, while an associate professor and serving as PA department chair, he was primary author of the university’s program report submitted to the Kansas Board of Regents. The report begins with an overview – “the only PA program in Kansas, developed in 1972 and graduated its first class in 1975” – and includes an explanation of how the program then fit into the university’s overall mission by striving “to equip both students and the larger community with the educational and cultural tools they need to thrive in a complex world, and to achieve both individual responsibility in their own lives and effective citizenship in the local, national, and global community.” Prior to joining the WSU faculty in 1994, Muma was chair of Saint Louis University’s department of PA education and an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston, Department of PA Studies.
As Wichita State’s provost, Muma serves as the university’s chief academic officer and provides academic leadership for WSU’s priorities, which include enrollment, applied learning, funded research, and regional economic development. It’s a wide swath of educational territory Muma oversees, but he has embraced the challenges and especially enjoys “working with faculty and staff to improve the student experience, whether that be a new degree program, facility, or service,” he says. “That’s the most rewarding part of my job.” He adds, “I’d like to see more funding for higher education, beyond raising student tuition and fees. This is the most challenging part of the job, trying to balance the needs we have at the university, and what’s realistically possible to move forward.”
Prior to assuming administrative roles at Wichita State, Muma was active in reshaping health profession education at WSU. Most notably, he was responsible for developing undergraduate degrees for paramedics and health science majors, a master’s degree in physician assistant studies, and for reorganizing the public health sciences department to include undergraduate degrees in health management and health science and a graduate degree in aging studies. Muma also continues to be involved in research on healthcare issues, with a current project focusing on human health outcomes of rapid energy exploration. He has published his research in a number of notable journals, including The Journal of Physician Assistant Education, and has edited four books, two on HIV infection and two others on patient education, including Patient Education: A Practical Approach, published by Jones & Bartlett.
Before joining academia, Muma worked as a physician assistant in hospitals in the Houston-Galveston area – his early interest in anatomy and physiology having led him to the profession, which was still a relatively new option in career choices in 1985. “I started my career not as an academic,” he says, “but as a PA in Texas, where I spent the first 10 years of my career caring for HIV patients. I was one of the first PAs in the country to develop this expertise at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.”
Often described by his colleagues as “calm,” “collected,” “caring” and deeply commited to Wichita State and its students, faculty and staff, Muma was named acting WSU president in early January 2019 as President John Bardo recuperates from a chronic lung condition. Muma, who rarely works less than 14-hour days, arises early to attend to his many and varied responsibilities as provost and acting president – and to carve out some time for himself. “Every morning at 4:30, I go to the gym to do a cardio workout,” he says. “It keeps me sane. I also spend time gardening at home and at our church community garden.”