Get to Know Our Chief Medical Officer: Dr. Kenneth Thomas

immunizations (1)Dr. Kenneth Thomas is the Chief Medical Officer of Swope Health Services. A native of Kansas City, KS, he received his medical degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE.

He completed a pediatric residency and a pediatric emergency medicine fellowship at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Board-certified in pediatrics (and for a time, in pediatrics emergency medicine), he has worked in children’s health care in the Kansas City area for more than 20 years.

He joined Swope Health Services in January 2015 as Director of Pediatrics and in April 2016 was named to his current post leading all medical services at SHS.

We caught up with him recently to ask a few questions…

When did you know that you wanted to be a doctor?
I knew as early as high school that I wanted to be a doctor. I was fortunate to participate in programs that gave me a chance to shadow doctors in clinics and confirm that it was right for me.

How did you choose pediatrics as your specialty?
I’ve always been interested in taking care of children. Somewhere during my medical training, it dawned on me that I was happiest on the pediatric rotations. You get to play with kids — who wouldn’t love that? For a while, I thought I might want to be a pediatric surgeon, but I realized I wanted to work in primary care, in family-based preventive care and wellness, not cutting something out of a child’s body.

What led you to join Swope Health Services?
I spent 20-plus years at Children’s Mercy, taking care of special needs patients. I decided I wanted to do pediatrics closer to the community, so I moved to Truman Medical Center-Lakewood. I was working in-patient and out-patient and in the community-based nursery.

In the fall of 2014, I got a call from Swope and I initially said no, but I listened. It was an opportunity for leadership in a community-based pediatrics clinic. That’s where my interests are: providing quality care a needy population and becoming more deeply entrenched in the community, not a hospital. To be able to come here and lead that effort, that attracted me.

What are the key things you hope to accomplish in your new role?
There are a thousand things. I want to make sure that we are providing the highest standards of care to our patients. Too often, our patients get just enough to get by, but not really what’s needed. The disparity is so great. I want to give not just the standards of care, but quality care, as efficiently as we can.

I want to find that sweet spot between quality, efficiency and cost. A point where all three are optimized. I want to find that middle where quality is present, efficiency is present and the cost won’t break the bank. I want our patients to be happy and I want our providers to be happy. I want to be a model for other federally qualified health centers.

What is your favorite characteristic in yourself?
I don’t take myself too seriously.

Least favorite?
I could be more patient at times.

What book is on your nightstand?
I’m mostly reading on this thing (tapping his computer) or other electronics. But I’m more of a classics guy, so if there’s a book on my nightstand, it would be Homer, The Odyssey.

What’s the one thing you wish you could change about your patients?
To understand the importance of keeping appointments for your children. We have so many people who don’t come in for their appointments. People have problems and they don’t come in for care, they just bounce from crisis to crisis.

Things happen, I understand. But you can still call us. Who knows, maybe we can help you keep the appointment. I want to teach our patients to be proactive and preventive. Come in for well-child visits, get vaccinations on time. Respect those appointments.

What else you would like our readers to know about you?
My approach is: I don’t micromanage. I’m looking for leaders here in our departments. I don’t pretend to know everything, but I know we can sit down together, research and definitely figure out a solution. I strive for the best. I don’t want mediocrity. I don’t want anyone to tell me it can’t be done.

Do you have a question for Dr. Thomas? You can leave your question or comment in the box below. Or call 816-923-5800 to schedule a well-child appointment or check-up for your children.  Same day appointments are available, just call!  

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