It’s Time To Think About Your Heart

heartFebruary is full of reminders about love – there’s Cupid with his bow and arrow and the color red splashed on just about everything.

There’s even National Wear Red Day, February 3, just to remind you to think about your heart.

Did you know heart disease…

  • is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year?
  • strikes more women than men?
  • kills more women than all forms of cancer – combined?

The American Heart Association estimates 80 percent of all cardiovascular disease may be preventable.

Bobby Mickens, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Director of Women’s Services, says misconceptions about heart disease, especially in women, can lead to disastrous consequences. Symptoms for women can be subtle and might go unrecognized — shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

“There are choices you can make to keep your heart healthy,” says Bobby. Here are a few of her tips and recommendations:

  • Learn more about your family’s history of heart disease. This is important because your risk for heart disease is strongly linked to your family history. Know who suffered from it and who may have passed away because of it and at what age.
  • Come in for a wellness exam. A well-woman exam includes an assessment of your physical health – your cholesterol, body-mass index, blood sugar, weight and blood pressure. Combined, those results can assess your risks of heart disease or stroke.
  • Build a “get healthy” plan with your healthcare provider. There are things you can do to improve your health, such as taking steps to stop smoking, increasing your amount of exercise, eating healthier and controlling blood pressure and diabetes.

“We have programs to help with every step of your healthcare plan, to help you achieve optimal health,” said Bobby. “Let’s work together to get healthier.”


Why not take the first step today?  Call 816-923-5800 to schedule your well-woman appointment.

Resolve to Stop Smoking: We Can Help

stopsmokingIf your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking, Swope Health Services is here to help.

SHS stands ready to help you break your smoking habit with Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists and tobacco cessation groups.

SHS tobacco cessation program is open to all with a referral from your SHS provider.

The groups are led by behavioral health associates certified as Tobacco Treatment Specialists through Mayo Clinic – Rochester and the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® program.

The Freedom From Smoking® program offers a structured, systematic approach to quitting, and its positive messaging emphasizes the benefits of better health. The program uses methods designed to help smokers gain control over their behavior.

“We know there is no single way to quit that is effective for all smokers,” said Grace Okonta, Supervisor, Outpatient Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program. “Our program has a variety of techniques – nicotine replacement therapy, medication, counseling and support.”

The curriculum also includes the latest research about nicotine replacement therapy, covering gum, inhalers, patches, lozenges and nasal spray and other smoking cessation medications.

This program was first developed by the American Lung Association more than 35 years ago. Since then, it has helped hundreds of thousands of American end their addiction to nicotine and begin healthier, smoke-free living.


Is it YOUR time to quit smoking? Contact your SHS provider to enroll – call (816) 923-5800 for an appointment.

Time to Man Up: Learn About Prostate Cancer on Tuesday, September 27th

prostateflyerSwope Health Services is hosting a free event, “Prostate Cancer: What You Need to Know,” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, in the Cleveland Room at SHS Central, 3801 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, Mo.

The event features Dan Gillen, APRN, FNP-C, who works in the SHS Adult Medicine Department. He will present the recommendations on prostate cancer screenings from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based health care.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer, the task force reports. Older men, African-American men, and men with a family history of prostate cancer have a greater risk of developing prostate cancer.

In recent years, Dan noted, the task force has revised guidelines for Prostate Cancer screening. That’s because although prostate cancer is common, in most cases it grows very slowly and does not cause symptoms.

“There were many cases of false positives, and often, the tests, biopsies and treatments would cause unnecessary pain,” Dan said. “It is important to understand and make decisions about screening and treatment, especially since most prostate cancer won’t cause health problems.”

At the event, Dan will review the two types of screenings – a blood test and a rectal exam. He’ll explain the typical steps if prostate cancer is indicated: a second blood test, an ultrasound, and if warranted, a biopsy.

A biopsy, he notes, can cause pain, bleeding or infection, sometimes for no reason. Treatment may also include radiation or surgery, which can be more risky than allowing the slow-growth cancer to proceed untreated.

“I want to applaud men for taking charge of their health with a prostate screening, and I want to make sure they know other screenings might be even more important,” he said. “Colon cancer screening can identify a cancer that needs to be removed. If you have high blood pressure, you’ve got to take your medication. If you’re smoking, you should stop.”


To participate in the Prostate Cancer event, please RSVP by calling 816-599-5715 or send an email to Free screenings are available for the first 10 people who sign up.

Men, today is a good day to take charge of your health. If you haven’t had a check-up lately, call SHS at 816-923-5800 to make an appointment.

“He Helped Save My Life. I’m Now Cancer Free.” – An SHS Success Story

Erma Billingsley felt awful. She had a pain in her stomach, and had been lying around feeling sick for several weeks, unable to care much for herself or her big cat Buttercup.

She had gone to an urgent care center where they told her it was constipation. They sent her home with a laxative.

Her condition continued to worsen. With help from her granddaughter, the 83-year-old came to Swope Health Services.

Dr. Ratnesh Kumar

Dr. Ratnesh Kumar

That’s where Ms. Billingsley saw her primary care provider, Dr. Ratnesh Kumar, who realized that she wasn’t just feeling bad. He found a serious problem – a mass in her abdomen – and sent her immediately to the hospital for emergency care.

It turned out to be a tumor. Cancer.

Ms. Billingsley was admitted to the hospital and was in surgery the following morning. Her surgeon removed both her appendix, which was leaking and damaged, and the tumor near her colon.

“I’m really pleased with Dr. Kumar,” Ms. Billingsley said.  “He helped save my life. I’m now cancer-free. I praise God that everything came out all right.”

Ms. Billingsley spent about a week in the hospital before she was released. She had a second surgery a couple of weeks later, which confirmed that she was cancer-free.

She praised Dr. Kumar for his care, as well as Research Medical Hospital and Bishop Spencer Place during her rehabilitation.

“I was in the intensive care units and I really appreciated the care I got,” she said. “And at rehab, too. Everyone – from my therapist to the housekeeper – was just great.”

Ms. Billingsley said she is grateful for the care she continues to receive from Swope Health Services and Dr. Kumar.

“Everyone is so good to me,” she said.

At SHS, we welcome new patients and want to help you be healthy. Call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment, even a same-day appointment.

Be Like Mic: Just Do It – Get A Physical Every Year

Mic Headshot Mic Johnson has a message for you: GET A PHYSICAL EVERY YEAR.

Mic, 44, works as a website guy, blogger and LinkedIn Trainer for Blue Gurus, a 7-year old company in Kansas City.

A self-described “big guy,” Mic typically commands attention when he comes into a room. He’s usually wearing a blue shirt with his company logo, and chances are good he’s also sporting a big smile while he greets you with an outstretched hand.

You can tell he’s passionate about a lot of things, including a lesson he learned the hard way: It’s important for men to take care of themselves with an annual physical.

Mic shared a personal story about how his father Pat had a persistent cough, but never had regular checkups. His father would say, ‘oh, it’s just congestion.’ But when Mic’s grandfather encouraged Pat to finally go for a checkup, they found tumors throughout his lungs. A cancer had started in his kidneys and worked its way up to Pat’s lungs.

Pat started cancer treatment and initially improved, but after about a year, he passed away in 1995 at the age of 46.

As you might imagine, the event left a lasting impression on Mic. He was 23 at the time and it’s even more surreal as he approaches his mid-40’s.

“I knew he was young when he died, but I really know just how young as I get closer to the age he was when he passed. I’ve wondered sometimes if things would have turned out differently if he had gotten regular physicals,” Mic says. “Since he passed away, I’ve pretty much gotten a physical ever year.”

Mic points out that men, generally speaking, are supposed to be driven by logic and analysis, yet not getting an annual physical flies in the face of reason.

“It takes an hour a year to see where you’re at and what you need to do,” he said. “C’mon. If you can take just one hour a year to detect something early like cancer…or even find out things in your blood work that cause you to rethink your diet or exercise….it just makes sense.”

Mic also knows that men have an false sense of invincibility. If you don’t grow up with the habit of getting annual physicals…if it’s not a trained behavior…it’s just not something you think about.

“It wasn’t for me either,” he said. “I decided I’d do it for me, for my wife Missy and for all of the people I love. It’s simply being responsible to the loved ones in my life.”

So once a year, Mic visits his doctor — something he has done every year since his father died in 1995.

Mic encourages others to do so, too. When he has his appointment, he will make a point to check in on Facebook and use social media to generate a conversation. He knows it can motivate others to take that simple step and people have reached out to him and told him they scheduled a physical of their own thanks to his encouragement.

And each time before he leaves the doctor’s office, he makes a point to schedule the next physical…12 months out.

“That way, it’s always on the calendar,” he says. “There’s just no excuse.”

Want to be like Mic? Call SHS today for your appointment — 816-923-5800. Learn more about Mic, who supports the SHS website through Blue Gurus LLC, at his Linked In site. You can also read more about Mic’s lessons from this blog post he wrote a few years ago: February 6, 1995: The Day That Changed My Life Forever.

 Why Do Men Avoid Physicals?

menIt’s Men’s Health Month in June. It’s a time to encourage men to take responsibility for their health and get regular check-ups.

It’s a national campaign because studies have shown that men typically avoid visiting doctors. They don’t think about it when they are healthy, and they tend to ignore symptoms or early warning signs. Even when they experience health problems, they often neglect to get checked.


Bob Howe talks with men every day. As a registered nurse with SHS’ Health Care Home, many men have told him that they just don’t want to accept the possibility of something that can disrupt their life.

“As men, we don’t want to admit that we are not limitlessly powerful,” he said. “We let things go,  we don’t want to make a fuss.”

Deborah Lidzy, Crisis Response Specialist in Adult Behavioral Health, notes that men are expected to be brave and courageous, to look out for others. Often that translates into being stubborn about not needing care themselves, as though it might be seen as weakness, she said.

She encourages men to accept responsibility for taking care of themselves as a requirement before caring for others. “You have to take care of yourself first,” she said.

MHM-no-date2-orange-0415Sometimes, Bob added, men just resist the experience of a physical examination.

“It can get awfully personal,” he said, “and that can be uncomfortable. Nobody likes to be poked and prodded. Especially if you’re afraid they might find something wrong.”

But, Deborah noted, it’s always better to know the truth about your health. It’s better to prevent an issue than deal with a problem. Think wellness, not illness.

“Keep the machine well oiled,” she said. Take care of yourself so you can also take care of others you love.


Men, it’s up to you. Take a positive step and show the other men in your life how to take care of yourself. Call 816-923-5800 to arrange for your physical — same day appointments are available.

Women: Men’s Health Is Your Issue Too!

annual physicalThe Men’s Health Network estimates there are 7 million men in the U.S. who haven’t seen a doctor in 10 years or more. Does this sound like anyone you know?

If so, this is your chance — help him get an appointment for a check-up. Make it part of your Father’s Day celebration. Make it a symbol of your love and concern for him. Whatever your approach, just help him break out of the cycle of ignoring his own health.

“If it weren’t for wives, some men would never come in,” notes Bob Howe, a registered nurse at SHS’ Health Care Home. “It’s often the women who can convince the men that it’s their responsibility to take care of themselves for the rest of the family. Think of the ramifications if you aren’t well.”

Another approach to encourage a physical might be to appeal to the logic of maintenance.

“If they are feeling well, most men will never come in for a check-up,” Bob said. “Yet they’ll make sure to change the oil in the car regularly. He probably wouldn’t dream of letting his car go 10 years without an oil change. Why is it OK to ignore his own maintenance?”

Women may not realize the influence they possess to help men get healthier. It can come in the form of encouraging exercise, guiding meals toward lower salt and lower fat options, and helping men stop smoking.

Women often are responsible for scheduling family activities. If that’s the case in your family, why not get the men in your life scheduled to come in for a physical this month?


Call 816-923-5800 to get your men to a doctor — bring your husband, father, uncles, brothers and sons in for a visit in June. We can’t wait to see them.

Calling All Men: Come In For A Check-Up (And wear your BLUE!)

June is Men’s Health Month. This month-long celebration highlights preventable health problems and encourages men to seek regular medical advice and treatment.

Fathers Day Celebration

SHS hosted a Father’s Day Celebration on June 15, sponsored by Aetna Better Health. The event focused on fathers, with guidance on providing support to moms and kids, including info about breast-feeding, nutrition, exercise and hands-on activities to help dads with their role in the family.

As a visible sign of the cause, The Men’s Health Network, which sponsors the celebration, is encouraging everyone to wear blue on Friday, June 17, which is the Friday before Father’s Day.

The Men’s Health Network suggests these reasons to wear blue:

  • To remind men of the importance of staying healthy
  • To become part of a national movement
  • To let men know we care
  • To keep men healthy

At Swope Health Services, we’re supporting the event by encouraging men to take action and come in for a check-up. We’ll also have a Father’s Day celebration, sponsored by Aetna Better Health and hosted by the WIC department, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 15 in the Building C community room at SHS.

The clients-only event focuses on fathers, with guidance on providing support to moms and kids, said Beatrice Henry, a peer counselor at SHS. The event includes information about breast-feeding, nutrition, exercise as well as hands-on activities to help dads with their role in the family.

It’s just one more way to help men keep their health top of mind. We know the health facts: Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death. Women live, on average, almost five years longer than men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

checkupPart of the reason is men’s reluctance to have regular checkups. The CDC says women are 100 percent more likely to visit a doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men. Men also are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior and work in dangerous occupations.

As a result, according to the Men’s Health Network, men die younger and in greater numbers than women of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and many other diseases. And more than half of premature deaths among men are preventable.

Let’s change that.


Men, it’s your turn in the spotlight — call 816-923-5800 for an appointment today. Same-day appointments are available.

May Is Blood Pressure Education Month: Go Low! Less is Better

It’s May and temperatures are rising! That’s a welcome development in terms of weather, but in some cases, like your blood pressure, lower numbers are better.

May is also National Blood Pressure Education Month, as named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s a time to think about what blood pressure readings tell us, and how to take steps to put your blood pressure in the healthy range.

What is blood pressure? The CDC defines it as “the force of blood on the walls of your blood vessels as blood flows through them.” You can think of it in the same way as water rushing through the pipes in your home — the engine pushing the water can become overworked if the pipes are clogged or damaged, resulting in a host of problems.

blood pressureHow do you measure blood pressure? It’s a simple and painless measurement. A plastic cuff is placed over your arm and inflated, then a provider or an automated device measures the pressure in the arteries when your heart beats, and also the pressure between heartbeats. It’s typically recorded as two numbers written in a fraction — the top number is higher, pressure during heartbeat, and the bottom number is lower, pressure between heartbeats.

What’s a “good” blood pressure reading? The American Heart Association (AHA) says that a normal blood pressure should be 120/80 or less — that is, 120 or less AND 80 or less.

Why is it important to measure blood pressure? If your blood pressure is high — the medical term is hypertension — it can damage or weaken your arteries. This can cause serious health issues, without you ever knowing anything is wrong. That’s why high blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer.”

Is it really a hazard? Yes. About one in three adults in the US has high blood pressure. That’s 67 million people, according to the CDC, which estimates that high blood pressure contributes to 1,000 deaths each day. It’s especially important for African Americans, who develop high blood pressure more often and at an earlier age than whites or Hispanics do, the CDC says.  Nearly 60 percent of African American men age 20 and older have uncontrolled high blood pressure (vs. 47 percent of white men). For African American women, it’s 47 percent with uncontrolled high blood pressure (vs. 43 percent for white women).

What can I do? Start by getting your blood pressure checked and talk with your provider about setting a goal for what your blood pressure should be. You can work on lowering your blood pressure with medication, diet, exercise, reducing salt intake, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. At Swope Health Services, your provider can offer specific suggestions for you.


Make an appointment at Swope Health Services by calling 816-923-5800 today. Encourage your loved ones to get their blood pressure checked, too.

Check out the following YouTube video by the Centers for Disease Control explaining high blood pressure!






National Doctors’ Day: Thank a Provider Today!

National Doctors' DayMarch 30 is National Doctors’ Day, the annual celebration of physicians, their work and contributions to the community. It’s a day to say thank you to our physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants for all that they do for us. At Swope Health Services, we’re planning to recognize them with greeting cards and cookies.

We invite all patients to join us in thanking our physicians and providers for helping us live healthier lives.

If you’d like to share a message for our providers, you can do so in the comment box below or on our Facebook page.

The cards are fitting, since the first Doctors’ Day — March 30, 1933 — was celebrated by mailing greeting cards to physicians and their spouses and by putting flowers on the gravesites of deceased doctors. A red carnation is the symbol of Doctors’ Day.

providersKansas City-based Hallmark Cards provides a history of Doctor’s Day and offers greetings for the annual observation. Hallmark Cards reports that March 30 was selected as the date because it is the anniversary of the first use of general anesthetic in surgery.  Dr. Crawford Long of Jefferson, Georgia, used ether for the first time in 1842 to remove a tumor from a patient’s neck.

Doctors’ Day was officially made a national day of celebration in 1991 with a resolution signed by President George H.W. Bush. The resolution, in part, states:

Whereas society owes a debt of gratitude to physicians for the contributions of physicians in enlarging the reservoir of scientific knowledge, increasing the number of scientific tools, and expanding the ability of health professionals to use the knowledge and tools effectively in the never-ending fight against disease;

and Whereas society owes a debt of gratitude to physicians for the sympathy and compassion of physicians in ministering to the sick and in alleviating human suffering:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That March 30, 1991, is designated as ‘National Doctors Day.’

Providers share in our deepest joys and sorrows, providing guidance, care and empathy at all stages of life. Please join us celebrating our extraordinary physicians and providers today — and every day.

Thank you, providers!

Have you been touched by a doctor’s care? Please share your story with us here. If you haven’t seen a health care provider in a while, please take time to call us to schedule an appointment at 816-923-5800 — even a same-day walk-in visit.

cookies card



SHS Provider Day