The Long View: Time to Take Care of Your Eyes

Glaucoma: Take Care of your Eyes

Dr. Vincent Parsons, right, demonstrates a glaucoma screening on Norma Owens. Norma is an optometric assistant at Swope Health.

January is the month designated to raise awareness of glaucoma, one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness.

Seeing that clean, new calendar makes it a good time to schedule an eye exam and learn more about taking care of your eyes.  At Swope Health, you can call for an appointment with our optical team at 816-923-5800.

Facts About Glaucoma

Vincent Parsons, O.D., Swope Health’s director of optometry, shared some facts about glaucoma:

  • More than 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma. Half of the people who have it don’t know they have it.
  • Glaucoma is usually associated with seniors who are age 60 or older, but it can affect anyone at any age.
  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. It’s also prevalent in Hispanic populations.
  • There is no cure for glaucoma, but early identification can slow the progress of the disease.

According to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma actually refers to a group of diseases that affect the optic nerve in the eye. The optic nerve, a bundle of more than a million nerve fibers, connects the retina of the eye with the brain.

“Throughout most of the disease, there are no symptoms and you can’t tell if you have it,” Dr. Parsons said. “That’s why it’s important to have a glaucoma exam.”

The disease is detected through a visual field test, to see if you have lost side vision or peripheral vision. The optometrist also will use a magnifying glass to look for damage to the optic nerve.  Finally, the optometrist will use eye drops to numb your eyes, and perform a test to measure your eye pressure and determine the thickness of your cornea.


If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, you may be treated with medicines to lower the pressure in the eyes. These medicines may be in the form of eye drops or pills, and need to be taken regularly to be effective in preventing the disease from progressing. In some cases, surgery is recommended to lower pressure in the eyes.

In advanced or very advanced stages of glaucoma, you gradually lose your peripheral vision – it appears as if you are looking through a tunnel.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of blind and visually impaired people in the U.S. will double by 2030 as the population ages. Taking care of vision health with a visit to the optometrist can help reduce that number and improve health, wellness and quality of life.

“Glaucoma can occur at any age,” Dr. Parsons said. “If you haven’t had an exam by age 40, it’s a good time to start.”

Why wait? Start now with an eye exam: call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment. 

New Year, New Look!

By Michelle Keller, Vice President, Community Engagement, Development & Outreach.

50th AnniversaryHello!  Do you see something different here today?

We have created a new look for Swope Health, at the same time we celebrate 50 years of service to our community.

The leadership team and Board of Directors agreed a new look would be an excellent way to kick off our next 50 years.

Why a new look?

As we reflected on our years of service, we also evaluated how we perform – our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

We identified four pillars to define our service to the community, and we re-imagined how we could show you our commitment, starting with our name. The new look should guide us into the future.

Appointment CardsFirst, the four pillars of our service:

  • Understanding: We relate to you, no matter where you are in your healthcare journey.
  • Invested: We’re committed to the communities we serve and the people who need care.
  • Accessible: Our knowledge, services and caring providers are available to everyone.
  • Skilled: Our staff delivers high-quality, expert care at every moment.

We worked with a professional branding firm, Native Digital, whose team challenged us with a question: If Swope Health was a person, what kind of person would we be?

We came up with three ideas: We would want you to think of us as a friend, counselor and advocate.

As a friend, we listen, care about you and work hard to have mutual trust. We speak your language.

As a counselor, we drive you to better understand yourself and to become the best you can be, through empathy, guidance and wisdom.

As an advocate, we are invested in your success and we boost you up so you can achieve your goals. We’re with you on your path to health.

Swope HealthAnd it’s that idea – a path leading to a healthier, happier life – that sparked the change to the logo.

We widened the bottom of the “S” to make it look more like a path, the flowing start of a journey. We also simplified the look of the lettering and made it less formal, more friendly.

Then finally, we jazzed up the colors! We want to be clean, bright and fresh.

You’ll see vibrant colors throughout our presence: pink and maroon, dark blue and light blue, dark green and light green.

All of this comes together in our new look. I hope this gives you a peek into our thinking and I hope you will see us in a new light.

Let us know how we’re doing in meeting our pillars and serving as your friend, counselor and advocate.

Comments always welcome – use the text box below or send an email to

You Can Reduce Holiday Anxiety – Here’s How

Carla Lee

Carla Lee, SHS Patient and Community Education Specialist, offers tips to take control and avoid stress and anxiety during the holiday season. Start with a plan, and focus on what’s important to you, she says.

Yes, it’s the holiday season.

It’s a time for giving and sharing, laughing and loving, and gatherings with family and friends.

For many people, it’s also a time filled with stress-inducing scenarios. Do you cringe at the thought of…

  • Dealing with crowds at malls and stores?
  • Finding the right gifts and being able to afford the right gifts?
  • Overeating and gaining weight?
  • Traveling, near or far, with so much traffic and bad weather?
  • Going to that Holiday party or event, or meeting with relatives – especially the ones you can’t stand?
  • Missing a loved one?
  • Managing all this along with the normally hard-to-balance workload and family life?

Carla Lee, SHS Patient and Community Education Specialist, has some tips to help anyone who answered “yes” to any of those situations.

“It all starts with a plan,” she said. “Plan, plan, plan.”

She added: “Make sure you set realistic goals. Set your own expectations and boundaries. It’s OK if you don’t get everything done. Just say ‘Oh well,’ and don’t beat yourself up.”

Carla also emphasizes the importance of self-care. “If you don’t have self-care,” says Carla, “You can’t take care of anyone else.”

Here are some of her other tips for dealing with other stressful scenarios.

Plan, Plan, Plan!Gift-giving: Establish a budget and stick to it. Use cash, and when you’ve run out, you’re done. Consider: Does everyone need a gift? She notes that when her favorite nephew had a baby, she opted to give a gift only to the baby – not to the adult nephew. She also suggests having a few small spare items on hand – holiday cards with a gift card to a coffee shop, restaurant or movie theater tucked inside – in case you need something quickly.

And when money is an issue, time is the best gift of all. Offer to help out with wrapping gifts, cooking, or just visit with a loved one.

Gaining weight: Focus on eating healthy throughout the day and drink lots of water. Get up and move around regularly. Maybe even start a series of little exercises you can do anywhere, such as the Neila Ray Office Workout.

If you are going shopping, park in the far lot and walk in. You’ll avoid some of the traffic and get some exercise on the way.

Travel: Plan ahead! Coordinate with others and pick the kind of travel that works for you. If you don’t like to drive, consider taking a plane, train or bus. If you have to drive, map out your schedule and pick times to avoid maximum traffic.

Or, think about using technology to be with a loved one without traveling. Use your smartphone, tablet or computer to have a Facetime or Skype session. You can even watch a movie together!

Balance: Remember, it’s OK to say “No.” You don’t have to agree to everything. It’s OK to skip a party or limit your commitments. It’s also OK to ask others for help. You can say “No” without guilt.

Missing a loved one on the holiday: For this special kind of grief, Carla suggests allowing yourself to remember while also starting a new tradition. It might be hanging a special ornament on the tree, lighting a candle, or gathering with others to reminisce with you.

Breathe. That’s right…just breathe. Deep, intentional breathing can help calm you down when the stress levels rise. A simple step is to use box breathing as a calming tool: inhale, pause, exhale, pause.

“The most important tip — the one that works in dealing with all of the holiday stressors — is self-care,” said Carla. “Make sure you laugh throughout the day. Stay in the moment, and be thankful for what you experience, whether that’s sitting near the tree and appreciating the evergreen aroma, playing with a pet, praying, stretching or just breathing.”

“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” she says. “Take care of yourself. Self-care is an act of self-love.”

If stress or anxiety are beyond what you can handle, please call to schedule an appointment with Behavioral Health at 816-923-1070.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Finding Creativity and Inspiration: “We Can Uplift Other People”

Bird artThe next time you visit Swope Health Services Central, take a stroll through the main corridor of Building C, where you’ll find the hallway transformed into a mini art gallery.

The walls are lined with art in many forms and styles, all of it created in an adult day program directed by Carolyn Graves, Community Support Specialist, Adult Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program.

The program encourages creativity and expression as another tool for dealing with Life’s challenges.

“When you’re looking for your creative self, it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult,” says Carolyn. “You find out you can do something you didn’t think you could do. It’s an awesome coping skill.”

Carolyn finds projects that start small and have possibilities to grow. One of the first projects, for example, was coloring. There’s good reason adult coloring books are best-sellers (more than 12 million sold in 2015) and the practice has swept the country.

“It focuses attention,” Carolyn said. “You get to truly be the artist. No two pages are the same.”

Carolyn uses the coloring as an exercise to see different abilities in program participants– some are stronger with color selection, others with line and balance, while others see possibilities beyond the design on the page.

Carolyn teaches different techniques – three-dimensional coloring projects, Zentangle design method, decoupage, painting furniture and other items, for example – giving participants opportunities to find their favorite method of expression.

Art Program Corridor

A view of the corridor at Building C, where Brenda, left, and Angel, display some of the products of the art program.

Two participants at a recent program, Angel and Brenda, talked about how they use their new skills beyond the day program.

“My most favorite thing to do is to color,” said Angel. “It keeps me calm. That’s one of the reasons I come. They say, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ It’s true. I used to think about suicide. I tried a couple of times.”

She continued: “I used to question myself: Why am I here? What good am I? But now, with my art, I get so focused. There’s no room to think about suicide. I can keep focused on something other than myself. I bring it up in my mind as a coping mechanism. I have become a mastermind, thanks to Carolyn.”

The skills Angel learned have given her a new attitude. “I can look in the mirror and see myself as beautiful. I might be having a bad hair day,” she laughs, “but I’m still beautiful.”

Brenda notes that she’s still working toward that level of self-acceptance, but she is proud of the progress she has made. “Sometimes, I’ll leave a little imperfection in my work,” she said.  “I know it’s there, but nobody else can see it. It can still be beautiful.”

Carolyn describes the art as a coping mechanism–a way of focusing your feelings into something positive. “That’s the point,” she says. “You can take this with you. Use it when you need it or use it when you feel good.”

SHS Holiday Mart

From left, Angel and Brenda show an elaborately decorated chair, which will be part of the items offered for sale at the SHS Holiday Mart in November.

For example, a recent project involved painting small stones with affirming messages such as “I hope you dance;” “Stay strong;” and “Love.”

Then the participants placed the stones out into the world, in areas near the Country Club Plaza and at Loose Park.

Said Artist Brenda, “We saw people get so excited, taking pictures when they found them. We saw kids shouting that they found special rocks.”

That the artists could be responsible for bringing such excitement and joy to others was empowering.

“After you understand why you’re doing this, how it could make someone else feel…,” said Angel. “I love it. We can uplift other people. This is for anyone who needs it.”

If you’d like to support our art therapy program with donated art supplies or funds to purchase supplies, please contact Michelle Keller, VP-Community Engagement, Development and Outreach at or 816-599-5556.

Art for Sale

Raising the Bar for Patient Safety: New Sterile Processing Department


As part of their training, SHS associates visited the Sterile Processing Department at North Kansas City Hospital. Here they are in the Decontamination Room where full Personal Protective Equipment (called PPE) is required to minimize the risk of exposure to hazards. From left, Debbie Meads, Program Manager; Veronica Sosa, Medical Assistant; Chris Roseberry, Clinic Manager; Sherry Rider, Medical Assistant

Swope Health Services has launched a state-of-the-art sterile processing area at Central and Wyandotte locations.

The new Sterile Processing department is similar to centers housed in large hospitals.

The purpose is to assure patient safety in the decontamination of all reusable instruments used in medical and dental procedures.

“We’re raising the bar for community health centers,” said Debbie Meads, program manager, who directed the construction of the department.

The project involved changes to the Central clinic environment, water and air handling, as well as to the transportation and storage of instruments.

The project also included an education plan for all associates who work with reusable instruments and special training for about 10 associates in proper disinfection and sterilization of reusable instruments.

These associates now serve as sterilization processing technicians.

“Other than handwashing, sterilization is the next most important thing to consider in infection control,” said Kenneth Thomas, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and a practicing pediatrician.

“It is vital to make sure our instruments are sterile, and how we handle and clean contaminated equipment is just as important. It’s important to the safety of our patients, associates and families.”

Prior to the development of the Sterile Processing areas, equipment was sterilized in autoclaves or small steam chambers in various clinics.

The new department creates greater efficiency and assures consistent practice in the decontamination and sterilization of all materials, under the same standards, every day.

“Our program is important in delivering excellent patient care,” said Dr. Thomas. “It demonstrates our commitment to reducing and controlling infection.”


A peek inside the new Sterile Processing Department on the second floor at SHS Central where, from left, Jaleeah Jones and Flora Wooster, Sterile Processing Technicians, are preparing reusable instruments for sterilization. This is a special room with its own heating, cooling and ventilation system. It is pressure-controlled, with special air exchange capability to completely exchange all the air in the room 10 times an hour, 24 hours a day. This secure room with these special capabilities assures that no contamination – pathogens or germs – can enter or escape from the processing units.

Swope Health Services wins five federal Quality Improvement Awards

NCHWSwope Health Services was honored with five Quality Improvement Awards from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration last week.

The awards cap off the annual celebration of National Community Health Center Week, highlighting the critical role community health centers play in providing high-quality affordable healthcare.

SHS was recognized with Quality Improvement Awards for:

  • Achieving status as a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH).
    This is a program focused on coordinated organization and delivery of primary care, emphasizing access to quality and safety in comprehensive care services.
  • pcmh-badgeEnhancing Access to Care.
    This award recognizes health centers that increased the total number of patients served and the number of patients receiving comprehensive services between 2016 and 2017.
  • access-enhancer-badgeAchieving Clinical Quality Improvement with an increase in Clinical Quality Measures.
    This recognizes health centers that achieved at least a 10 percent improvement in one or more Clinical Quality Measure between 2016 and 2017. These clinical measures assess the care given to patients and show how the organization performs, leading to improved care.
  • hit-badgeAchieving Clinical Quality Improvement through the use of electronic health records data.
    This award recognizes health centers that use electronic records to report and manage all clinical quality measures for all patients.
  • Advancing Health Information Technology for Quality.
    This award recognizes health centers that used IT systems to increase access to care and advance quality of care.

“Here at Swope Health, we are proud to be a perennial recipient of HRSA quality awards and recognition,” said Kenneth Thomas, M.D., SHS Chief Medical Officer.  “Last year, we worked especially hard to identify areas for improvement and this most recent award validates our efforts and teamwork.”

Dr. Thomas emphasized that the awards are the result of a team effort, across the entire organization, to focus on quality care.

“These awards should show our patients that we value quality and safety,” he said. “We are creating innovations to make their experiences better, safer and of the highest quality.”

Wael Mourad, M.D., Associate Chief Medical Officer, noted the awards show a focus on patient outcomes.

“We look forward to building on this success to propel Swope Health as a quality leader amongst Community Health Centers in not just Missouri, but in the entire Midwest region,” he said.

Swope Health was one of 29 award-winners in the state of Missouri, according to the HRSA Awards report. Along with the recognition, SHS received $137,000 in award funds, which will be used to further develop quality programs, said Dave Barber, President and CEO of Swope Health.

“We are honored to receive these awards,” he said. “This demonstrates that our commitment to quality to every patient is making a difference.”

Mark Your Calendars! Join Us As We Celebrate National Health Center Week 2017*

National Health Center Week

Click on this image for more information…

Swope Health Services invites you to celebrate good health as we celebrate National Health Center Week. Mark your calendars now for a week of fun as we salute our patients and staff for their efforts in building a healthier community.

National Health Center Week is sponsored by the National Association of Community Health Centers with the goals of enhancing the visibility of and generating support for community health centers.

This year’s theme is “Celebrating America’s Health Centers: The Key to Healthier Communities.”

National Health Center Week Events

Here’s how you can join in the celebrations:

  • Friday, Aug. 11, 2017

Test your healthcare knowledge at the 3rd Annual Burgers & Brainteasers Trivia Night. (Click here for more information!)

6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6 p.m.)

Westport Flea Market

817 Westport Road

Kansas City, MO 64111

$25 per person includes all-you-can-eat burgers, drink specials and trivia.

Purchase tickets at

  • Monday, Aug. 14, 2017

Start the day with a healthy dose of gratitude…and snacks!

SHS and UnitedHealthcare are teaming up to provide SHS patients good-for-you snacks and a chance to write Thank You Notes to their SHS providers. Look for the Gratitude Group at all SHS locations throughout the week.

  • Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Gratitude Group strikes again! Today, we’re in Independence and Belton. Tonight, we’ll be at Lord of Love Lutheran Church’s Community Dinner, letting people know about the great benefits of this community health plan and the medical services offered at SHS Belton.  Also, look for HomeStateHealth in the lobby at SHS Central .

  • Thursday, August 17, 2017

We’re on the road again as we take The Gratitude Group to SHS Northland in the morning.

  • Friday, August 18, 2017

Bill Colby

Bill Colby

We may be accused of saving the best for last (but we like to think the whole week was “best-worthy!”)

2017 SHS Community Luncheon featuring author/speaker Bill Colby, General Counsel, Truman Medical Centers. Mr. Colby is the author of two books, Long Goodbye: The Deaths of Nancy Cruzan and Unplugged: Reclaiming Our Right to Die in America.

The Kauffman Foundation

4801 Rockhill Road

Kansas City, MO 64108

11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at

*Schedule subject to change without notice. Check our website and Facebook page for the latest updates, including NEW events that might be added after the publication date of this blog.

**Tentative, based on the anticipated delivery date of our new MMU.

Renovations and Expansions Are Coming to SHS!

renovation (3)Swope Health Service is making progress on numerous renovations and expansions begun in 2016.

Here’s an update on some of the newest changes you’ll see – and a sneak peek at what’s coming next:

  • On March 13, the Green and Yellow clinics were merged into a single clinic, Adult Health Services. You can find it at the former yellow clinic door.
  • The Blue Clinic has also been renovated and now is home to Community Outreach Services.
  • Starting April 1, the largest portion of the renovation gets underway. In this phase, SHS will begin construction on the renovation and expansion of Pediatrics and OB/GYN to support patient needs.

Debbie Meads, Program Manager at SHS, reports that the phased construction will last throughout the year.

renovation (1)The SHS Central OB/GYN department will increase to 25 treatment rooms, up from 10 today. Pediatrics will expand to include 15 treatment rooms, up from 11 today.

The renovations and changes are part of a two-year plan funded in part by a $1.26 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

Part of the plan included converting a former staff conference and training room into a new Specialty Clinic.

“This shows our commitment to quality and excellence in healthcare,” said Kenneth Thomas, M.D., Chief Medical Officer. “We’re expanding and adding services to better care for our patients’ needs.”

Watch for new signs and additional changes coming to SHS Central. Despite the changes, we’re open for service as usual. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule your visit.


renovation (2)

Renovations Continue To Make Swope Health Services Better for You

Debbie Meads

Debbie Meads, SHS Program Manager, checks details on blueprints for the renovations at SHS Central.

Did you notice? Last year was a time of many changes at Swope Health Services, including refreshing many clinic lobbies with paint, flooring and new seating.

And the dust hasn’t quite settled yet! The renovations and changes are part of a two-year plan, launched in 2016, as part of a $1.26 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

Debbie Meads, Program Manager at SHS, keeps close tabs on all the moving pieces. At any given time, she’s shifting one department, demolishing another, while renovating elsewhere. She juggles the departments to keep services intact throughout the construction to improve our facilities and capabilities.

Part of the effort involves creative use of limited space, she said. For example, SHS has adopted the practice of using open seating, which allows staff members to use any available workspace. Staff members have private lockers for storing personal items, but are free to use office space or open suites for meetings with patients or colleagues.

Shared space opens up possibilities for more clinic exam rooms and more patient services, she noted. Providers also get new breakrooms and lounges in certain areas.

The most significant changes will be in the OB/Gyn and Pediatrics area, to support patient needs. The SHS Central OB/Gyn department will increase to 25 treatment rooms, from 10 today, she said. Pediatrics will grow to 13 rooms from 11 today. These changes will be complete in 2017.

construction sign -swopeHere’s a summary of the main changes at SHS Central:

  • Outreach, Infection Control, Health Care Home, and the new Smoking Cessation program offices moved to newly renovated offices in Building C and on the second floor.
  • Blue Clinic medical staff will move from their west side offices to newly renovated space on the east side of the clinic.
  • Adult Health Services, formerly identified as Yellow and Green clinics, will be merged into space that’s next up for renovation. The renovation and moves are scheduled to be complete in March.
  • Once that’s complete, the former Green clinic space will be modified into the new OB/Gyn expansion.
  • The renovations also converted a former staff conference and training room into a new Specialty Clinic.

It’s all part of the plan to keep SHS growing to meet your needs.

Watch for new signs and additional changes coming to SHS Central. Despite the changes, we’re open for service as usual. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule your visit.

Extra! Extra! SHS Newsletter Coming Soon!

newsletter signupYou may not have noticed, but there’s an option for you to sign up for news from Swope Health Services, just on the right side of your screen.

This is a great time to sign up because we are getting ready to launch a new monthly newsletter called Swope Health News. It will be delivered via email once a month to all subscribers.

Inside the e-newsletter, you’ll find links to news and features from SHS, including photos, videos, guest blogs, healthcare news and invitations to our community events, among other items.

Signing up is as easy as 1-2-3:

  • fill in your email address in the “Sign Up For Our Newsletter” box
  • look for the confirmation email we’ll send (If you can’t find it, check your spam folder and then be sure to add us to your “safe sender” list.)
  • click the link to confirm your subscription.

That’s it — you’re all set! We promise that your email will not be sold and you have the option to stop receiving the newsletter at any time by clicking on the link at the bottom of every newsletter sent.

Sign up today so you won’t miss a single issue.

The first edition of the new SHS newsletter will appear in July. You can always opt out of future deliveries. Have questions? Let us know in the comment box below, or when you come visit us. Call first — same-day appointments available — at 816-923-5800