Join Us for Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, Swope Health will host a series of community discussions, featuring Black leaders in Kansas City.


All events are free, online, and open to all. Please plan on joining us. 


Each event will feature a presentation by the speaker, followed by a brief question and answer section. Please plan on joining us.

Alvin Brooks, Noon, Wednesday, Feb. 1

Brooks attended Dunbar Elementary School, R.T. Coles Vocational High School, and Lincoln Junior College. He went on to receive his B.A. degree in history and government in 1959 and his M.A. degree in sociology in 1973, both from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

From 1954 to 1964, Brooks served as a district police officer and later a detective with the Kansas City Police Department. In 1964, he left the police department and joined the Kansas City School District as a home school coordinator in the department of pupil services. After one year, Brooks joined the staff of the division of urban education as coordinator of parent, student and community interpretation.

In 1968, after Kansas City’s riot, Brooks was appointed to organize the first Kansas City Human Relations department and became the first Black department director in Kansas City government. Brooks served as human relations director until 1972, when he was appointed assistant city manager, where he served until 1991.

In 1977, Brooks founded the grass roots, community-based organization the AdHoc Group Against Crime (AdHoc) in response to violent crimes in the African American community, where he became director in 1991. Brooks was later appointed by President George H.W. Bush to a three-year term on the President’s National Drug Advisory Council.

In 1999, Brooks was elected to the Kansas City council representing the 6th District At-Large and was appointed mayor pro-tem. He was re-elected in 2003. In 2010, he was appointed to the Kansas City Police Department’s Board of Police Commissioners, and served as president for two years, before being elected as a director on the Hickman Mills C-1 School Board.


Gwendolyn Grant, at noon, Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Gwendolyn Grant is the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. In addition to providing leadership, oversight and direction for the advancement of its programs and mission, Ms. Grant is actively engaged in a variety of civic and community organizations, including the Executive Committee of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative Board of Directors, President of the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) Buildings Corporation Board, KCPS Superintendent’s Business/Economic Development Advisory Council, Kauffman Foundation KC Scholars Implementation Committee, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Diversity Committee, Urban Summit Education Committee, and more. The first female leader in the 97-year history of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, Ms. Grant has devoted her entire career to working in the nonprofit sector, which has afforded her the opportunity to work every day towards making a difference in the lives of people in need.

She is a strong advocate for social justice and economic empowerment for African Americans.

Eric Wesson,  noon, Wednesday, Feb. 15:


Wesson grew up in Kansas City in the 1960s, thumbing through his parents’ copies of The Call in a neighborhood called Vineyard Gardens, just off 47th Street. It was a tight-knit black, middle-class neighborhood where people knew each other, and if you got into any trouble, someone else’s parents wouldn’t hesitate to let your parents know about it. He says that if it takes a village to raise a child, that’s exactly how he was raised.

After serving in the Marine Corps, Wesson went to Morehouse College, an all-male, historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia, on the G.I. Bill. He studied political science, and found the curriculum demanding.

After a few years as a teacher, Wesson got distracted by what he calls a “walk on the wild side” — meaning drinking, drugs, and partying — followed by a “state-funded vacation.” That is to say, time in prison. He came out of prison with a renewed interest in helping young black men, resulting in a hotline for ex-convicts to help, and a 501C3 non-profit to offer guidance and mentoring to at-risk men and boys.

He explains his focus on men and boys by citing imprisonment statistics, and also a dwindling number of male heads of households. It was also in prison that he started making plans to turn his life back around. With plenty of time on his hands, he sent letters to the editor and commentaries to The Call. That ended up setting the stage for his career as a journalist for that very newspaper.

Eric Wesson stepped into a long tradition of black journalism when he joined the Kansas City Call staff 12 years ago. Wesson investigates the daily concerns of Kansas Citians and weighs in on national discussions, all part of his concept of advocacy journalism. In 2021 Wesson became the Managing Editor and Publisher of The Call newspaper influencing policy and elected officials.


 Bridgette Williams, noon, Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Bridgette Williams, a respected force in the region’s construction industry, is the President and CEO of the Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City.

Williams’ experience with and connections to the area’s labor community go back to the 15 years (1995 to 2010) she spent as the first African American, and first female President of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO. She pledged that she and the Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City will continue to advocate for fair and prevailing wages on area job sites, and challenge unfair right-to-work legislation.

In addition to her work in labor relations, Williams’ experience in the industry and involvement in the community includes working extensively on issues related to economic development, transportation, and workforce development. She currently serves as chairwoman of the Economic Development Council of Kansas City, a not-for-profit organization working to promote economic development, facilitate redevelopment and provide business retention services in Kansas City, MO.

The Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City is a highway-heavy utility chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.  Founded in 1950, the Heavy Constructors Association has been in the forefront of transportation, public works, infrastructure issues and campaigns in the Greater Kansas City Area, and in the states of Kansas and Missouri. The Association’s members have built most of the highways, bridges, streets, airports, dams and clean and waste water systems in both Kansas and Missouri.


You can help prevent the spread of the flu

We are in the midst of flu season in Kansas City and the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there have been 24 million illnesses nationwide, with 260,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths from the flu.

The best way to fight the spread of the flu is by taking the influenza vaccination, say experts nationally and at Swope Health, where flu vaccinations are available at all clinic locations.

“We encourage everyone from 6 months old and up to get the annual flu vaccine,” said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer at Swope Health. “Vaccination can help prevent the infection and it can also lessen the impact of the illness if you do get sick. Most importantly, it can help prevent the infection from spreading throughout the community.”

The flu is a respiratory illness that spreads easily. The influenza virus infects the nose, throat, and lungs, and it can be spread when infected people cough, sneeze, or speak in close contact with others.

The flu can cause serious complications in people with certain chronic health conditions. Those with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, as well as those older than age 65 are at higher risk of developing complications from the flu.

For people in those categories, Dr. Jamal said, it is especially important to decrease your risk of severe illness by getting vaccinated.

“A flu shot is one safe and simple step you can take to protect yourself, your family and your community,” said Dr. Jamal.

Other steps to prevent the spread of the flu

The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick and maintaining the habit of frequently washing your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

These precautions sound familiar, as they are also recommended to prevent to the spread of COVID-19, which is still circulating across the nation.

To take action, call Swope Health at 816-923-5800 to make an appointment for a flu vaccine. You can also make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination or booster.


One on One with Swope Health: Judge Ardie Bland

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, featuring Ardie Bland, Veterans Law and Municipal Court Judge for the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri – Kansas City Municipal Division. Judge Bland presided over Missouri’s first Veterans Treatment Court.

Eric Wesson, managing editor and publisher of The Call, hosts the show’s conversations with Kansas Citians about issues of importance to the community’s health and wellbeing.

Judge Bland is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, who attended Lincoln Preparatory Academy, Truman State University and then Drake University Law School. After law school, he returned to Kansas City to practice law and serve as the law clerk for the Honorable Thomas H. Newton. He worked as a decision writer for the Office of Hearings and Appeals in the Social Security Administration.  While with the Social Security Administration, he became passionate and knowledgeable of the physical and mental health diagnoses and their impacts on an individual’s ability to function in society.

In 2015, he became presiding judge over the Kansas City, Missouri, Mental Health Court, where he was able to help individuals with mental illness connect with mental health service providers, obtain treatment, and stay medicated without being incarcerated in an attempt to reduce police interaction and harm to the individual or the community.  Judge Bland currently serves as a Veterans Law Judge for the Veterans Administration Board of Veterans Appeals.

In this conversation, Judge Bland describes his call and passion for serving the community, especially in the area of mental health. He talks about the need for more education and understanding about mental health and treatments and therapies, to remove stigma and fear.

He notes that Black men have an issue in being seen as vulnerable, which he says is arguably tied to the experience of slavery. In slavery, men who were seen as hurt or weak were devalued. Even now, there’s great pressure to raise Black boys to be tough – but he argues, being tough should include being able to face problems and seek help.

Judge Bland also speaks on the relative scarcity of Black men in professional mental health roles – medical doctors, therapists, counselors – calling for greater understanding and appreciation of the profession. He also talks about the need to help young Black men and boys “find their voice” and understand themselves.

With examples from his years on the bench in mental health court and truancy court, Judge Bland shares practical tips on helping young Black males and their families.

You can also read Judge Bland’s article in the recent special edition of Our Health Matters, titled Black Men Speak: Health, Strength and Hope. The edition is available for download:

One on One PodcastListen to the podcast:




Swope Health advertising campaign honored with Telly award

Swope Health’s campaign, This is What Healthy Feels Like, was honored with a Silver Telly Award for creative excellence in local/regional advertising.

The campaign was produced with Dobies Health Marketing, a Kansas City-based marketing and branding firm focused on healthcare. The television spot and integrated campaign were designed to communicate the Swope Health promise and how we deliver on it by making care visible and accessible for everyone.

The Telly is the premier award honoring video and television across all screens, with winning entries selected among thousands by leading video and television experts in advertising, publishing and more. Receiving more than 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents, Telly Award winners represent work from some of the most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies and publishers from around the world.

Winners are chosen based on the content of their piece and entries are judged against a high standard of merit. The 2022 awards were announced in December.

Dobies Health Marketing is celebrating national and state recognition in 2022 for several of its clients’ campaign initiatives. The company also won Aster awards and Healthcare Advertising awards – for which they were selected among thousands of entries from across the country – as well as Emerald awards for advertising in Kansas.

“Our creative work informs, motivates and connects people – and at its best, it inspires people to achieve the extraordinary,” said Julie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer of Dobies Health Marketing. “We draw our inspiration from our clients first and foremost, who are doing the work every day to create and sustain healthier communities. It’s an honor and privilege to work with each and every one of them.”



About Dobies Health Marketing

Since 1992, Dobies Health Marketing has offered highly specialized expertise in strategy-first marketing for health companies. The Kansas City-based company serves the marketing and branding needs of the entire health industry, from hospitals, health systems and payers to technology firms, medical device manufacturers, associations and certifying boards. With a promise to always engage strategy first, their mission combines strategic marketing with creative communications to create healthier brands.

One on One with Swope Health: Gwen Grant

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, with host Eric Wesson interviewing Gwendolyn Grant, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.

Grant is a native of Kansas City who has long been recognized as a passionate and strong voice advocating for social justice and economic empowerment for African Americans and women. She is the first woman to lead the KC Urban League in its 100-year history. She is the recipient of numerous honors including the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young Leadership Award for Advancing Racial Equity, William Jewel College Yates Medallion for Distinguished Service, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Community Service Award, and the National Urban League Association of Executives Academy of Fellows designation.

The Urban League publishes the State of Black Kansas City, a collection of articles and commentary on key points from the Black/White and Hispanic/White Equality Indexes. The every-other-year publication spotlights the gaps in Education, Employment, Health, Social Justice and Civic Engagement in Kansas City. The most recent report from 2021 is titled “Charting the Path Forward: Is Equity Enough?”

In this interview, Grant describes her earliest moments of civil rights advocacy, recalling how her mother instilled in her a sense of duty to work for change. At the time when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, there was a march called Solidarity Day in Washington, D.C., and Gwen, as a pre-teen, decided to go. It was a watershed moment, she recalled.

Early in her career, she worked for the YMCA before joining the Urban League, where she found her home.

She speaks on the civil right struggle then vs now, on today’s political climate with policies and practices that hold back Black people. She talks about the steady roll-back and erosion of rights, the ongoing threat to democracy.

“We have not achieved equality,” she says. “We are not free. Our slavery has just taken on a different form.”

Considering Urban League’s work in health disparities in Kansas City, Grant notes “Systemic racism is a public health issue.” To address health issues, Grant sees the need to address racism in all factors – education, housing, crime, and especially, the black-white wealth gap. She also describes the Urban League’s efforts in education on COVID-19 vaccinations, flu vaccines and other the importance of access to healthcare, including mental healthcare.

Listen in to the conversation and her comments on reparations, economic advancement, guns in society, and racism in the criminal justice system and policing.

“It’s time to galvanize all who are for inclusion and equal rights for everyone.”






New podcast: One on One with Ruth Ramsey

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, with host Eric Wesson interviewing Ruth Ramsey, publisher of Our Health Matters™, a monthly health publication focused on Kansas City.

Ruth is an entrepreneur, founding her business Ramsey & Associates Design in 1989. She launched the print and digital magazine in 2005, as she became increasingly aware of the sharp health disparities facing African Americans and other minorities. There is strong evidence showing how hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other diseases are much more prevalent among Blacks. Ruth determined she could help the community by offering information on how to take care of themselves and get preventive screenings.

Our Health Matters appears five times a year and is distributed free at 100-plus locations throughout the Kansas City metro area and via mail subscriptions.

In this interview, Ruth describes her Kansas City roots and upbringing, and her journey that led to launching Our Health Matters as a way to bring beneficial impact to the community. With the special issue “Black Men Speak,” members of the community offer personal stories of strength, health and hope.

The issue offers frank tales of racism, prejudice and discrimination, lack of access to employment, housing and employment, and those traumatic impacts on health. As an example, Ruth describes an interview with a 16-year-old young man. When asked how he is perceived by society, he said without a moment’s pause, “They think we’re criminals.”

What can we do better for black men and boys? That’s the reason for the special issue. Authors bring expertise from fields of economic development, health, education, housing, employment, social justice, public safety and government. The magazine serves as a resource to the community, providing guidance, inspiration and references for driving positive change.

This issue takes a step to broaden the perception of black men in the community. “We need to look at and support our community of black men and boys,” Ruth says.





Coming soon: Black Men Speak: Health, Strength, Hope

Our Health Matters Launches Special Edition Focused on Black Men

Our Health Matters (TM)  announces a special edition titled “Black Men Speak: Health, Strength, and Hope” available on November 19, 2022.

Jeron Ravin, J.D., President and CEO of Swope Health, joins Our Health Matters as a lead sponsor and Editorial Director to ensure that this body of work sets precedents.

“I’m happy to support this extraordinary project focused on Black men,” he said. “Swope Health has more than 50-plus years of providing quality healthcare services, as well as leading conversations on better ways to serve the healthcare needs of all.”

A notable awardee of the Kansas City Medical Society’s 2021 Friend of Medicine award, Our Health Matters is a pivotal voice of reasoning on health and societal issues.

“Black Men Speak: Health, Strength and Hope recognizes the benefit of promoting increased consciousness, empathy, and support for the needs of Black men who are key to influencing the wellbeing of children, families, and neighborhoods,” explains Ruth Ramsey, founder of Our Health Matters.

“We elicit Black men to share their honest perspectives on equity and inclusion that encompass healthcare, education, socioeconomic status, physical environment, employment, and social support networks. More importantly, we identify partnerships that can contribute to solutions,” she said.

Through creative and thought-provoking imagery and storytelling, Our Health Matters will feature numerous Black men and boys whose diverse backgrounds reflect the complex and rich diversity found within the community. Their stories will touch on a wide range of topics—healthcare challenges, obstacles that have been overcome through resilience, and the recognition of significant milestones.

They will also share their vision to move the needle forward for themselves, their families and the communities in which they live, learn, work, worship and play.

Congress recently passed Federal House Bill 1636 COMMISSION ON BLACK MEN AND BOYS that established a 19-member Commission to examines the social disparities that disproportionately affect Black males in America. By bringing awareness to the importance of the state of Black men, Our Health Matters seeks to improve men’s health literacy and build bridges to much needed resources.

For information contact Ruth Ramsey: or call 816-456-4189.

Food, family essentials giveaway – Saturday Nov. 5

Swope Health will host a free giveaway of family essential items and foods, including Thanksgiving turkeys while supplies last, from 9 am to noon on Saturday at Swope Health Central.

The event will provide household cleaning supplies, toiletries, blankets and socks, and food boxes. The event is a drive-through giveaway, providing for up to two families in each car.

In addition, participants can receive a COVID vaccination or flu vaccination.

The event is sponsored by Swope Health and partners: Total Man, Heart to Heart, United Way, Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, United Auto Workers Local 249, Harvesters, Eastside  Forward, Community Builders KC, State Sen. Barbara  Anne Washington, Brass Pinnacle Group, McCownGordon Construction, Black Nurses Association, SunFresh Market, Urban League of Kansas City, Home State Health and The Links Inc.

One on One with Dr. Jennifer Collier

In the latest edition of the Swope Health podcast, One on One with Swope Health, host Eric Wesson interviews Dr. Jennifer Collier, the interim superintendent of the Kansas City Public School District.

Dr. Collier has served as an educator in the KC Public Schools for more than 23 years, as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. She also served as the Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief of Staff, and Deputy Superintendent before her latest appointment as interim superintendent following the departure of Dr. Mark Bedell.

She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree from Avila University, as well as an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership and doctorate in education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In the podcast, Eric Wesson, the managing editor and publisher of The Call, reviews her background and professional career, including her first job as a substitute teacher in the KC Public School District.

Dr. Collier talks about the “laser focus” on literacy that she brings to the school district, while dealing with kids struggling with homelessness or a lack of stability in housing. While the district has made strides in literacy, she calls this a time to “roll up our sleeves and do better.”

She notes high levels of anxiety and stress throughout society and increasing social-emotional support for staff, teachers, principals, and students. “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” she explains.

Eric and Dr. Collier talk about the importance of reading and explore the socio-economics of learning, how those differences show up in test scores. Additional topics include early learning, teacher shortages, family-school partnerships, and addressing violence with conflict resolution training and more.

Learn about her passion for elevating education, her commitment to quality education for Kansas City students, and her focus on building community engagement and support.

Listen to and watch the the conversation:




One on One with Qiana Thomason

Swope Health announces a new edition of its podcast, One on One with Swope Health, featuring Qiana Thomason, President and CEO of Health Forward Foundation.

Eric Wesson, managing editor and publisher of The Call, hosts the show’s conversations with Kansas Citians about issues of importance to the community’s health and wellbeing.

Health Forward Foundation is a nonprofit organization working to fund initiatives that “support and build inclusive, powerful, and health communities characterized by racial equity and economically just systems.”

Qiana joined Health Forward as president/CEO in 2020. She previously served as vice president of community health and health equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC). Prior to her tenure at Blue KC, Thomason spent eight years at Swope Health as the director of clinical operations for behavioral health and program manager of the multi-municipality Mental Health Court. She also served as deputy director and health and human services liaison for United States Senator Jean Carnahan.

In this discussion, Qiana discusses how her family molded her and “planted a seed” in her for community activism and advocacy.

Qiana says she is most troubled by health injustices in the community – she doesn’t like the term “health disparities” because it sounds so non-humanistic and injustice is the more fitting description. Injustices speak to policies and how decisions at the ballot box shape our experience, including access to quality jobs, schools, broadband internet. These shape health outcomes almost more than the foods we eat, she says.

She emphasizes the importance of thinking more broadly about health, encompassing housing, social conditions and voting. On the importance of voting, she recalls a long wait for the Missouri legislature to take action on Medicaid expansion and ultimately, how the issue was forced by the will of voters who approved the Medicaid expansion because they wanted greater access to healthcare.

Beyond Medicaid expansion and ensuring all who are eligible are signed up, she focuses on public health issues. She notes that public health offices have been stripped of their authority and are not adequately funded to manage health issues like COVID or the current syphilis outbreak in Kansas City. She raises concern that Missouri and Kansas are ranked 50th and 49th respectively in per capital funding on public health – making our communities the least prepared to respond to issues.

Health is about our community conditions, beyond our health behaviors like foods we eat and how physically active we are. Housing, education, employment, civic engagement are all important factors Health Forward Foundation addresses.

Listen to the conversation: