You have probably heard the news that Bridget McCandless has been named as the new CEO of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. This is great news for our Eastern Jackson County Community, our larger metro community and particularly good news for those who do not have access to healthcare.
I am convinced there is not a better person to serve in this key community leadership role because of McCandless’ passion for providing high quality health care to the uninsured in our community, her understanding of our very complex health care system, and her strong leadership abilities.
The Shared Care Free Health Clinic (formerly known as the Jackson County Free Health Clinic) was formed in April 2000 as a special project of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation after our needs assessment identified the increasing number of medically uninsured in our Eastern Jackson County community.
Today the clinic serves approximately 700 patients, most with several chronic diseases who otherwise would only be receiving care when they ended up in the emergency room at the hospital (our most wasteful and ineffective form of health care). McCandless’ approach to medical care stresses the responsibility of the patient to be an active participant in their own care, keeping a medical journal, faithfully taking their medications, and modifying their diet and exercise. Her patients describe her at the same time as tough and caring. For the first 10 years of the clinics operation, McCandless served as the clinic’s medical and executive director as an unpaid volunteer.
I have had the pleasure of serving on the Shared Care Free Health Clinic board and witnessed the incredible partnerships that McCandless’ leadership has helped to forge, all with a focus on serving her patients. Centerpoint Medical Center has been a strong partner providing free space for the clinic and more than $300,000 of donated lab services on an annual basis. The UMKC School of Pharmacy has also been a key partner and under the leadership of Dr. Cameron Lindsey developed a program to provide donated medications to patients valued at $1 million on an annual basis. Students at the School of Pharmacy also serve a practicum at the clinic with close to 200 graduates over the life of the clinic.
Midwest Open Imaging donated radiology services over 13 years. A network of specialist physicians provides their services on a pro-bono basis. There are many more partners too numerous to mention here. The point is that McCandless’ leadership brought all these players together around the common goal of serving uninsured patients. She obviously understands the power of partnerships in our very complex medical system.
McCandless will be recognized as the Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year at our Sept. 7 Toast to Our Towns Gala, and was selected to receive this honor prior to her being named as the new CEO of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. She has made a tremendous impact in the lives of the uninsured in our Eastern Jackson County community and I have no doubt she will make an even greater impact in her new leadership role. Thank you Dr. McCandless. We are very proud of you.
Phil Hanson has been the president of the Truman Heartland Community foundation since January 2010. Raised in the Raytown area he went to Rockhurst University for his undergraduate and UMKC for his MPA. He lead the fundraising staff for the United Way in Kansas City where he served for 23 years and later was with the American Lung Association for 3 ½ years.