University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine (UMKC)
Nestled in the heart of Kansas City, the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine (UMKC) is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of individuals and populations across all aspects of its mission. By fostering enduring and trustful relationships, UMKC has been “leading with heart” to build healthier communities since its establishment in 1971.
UMKC’s approach to community engagement goes beyond outreach and focuses on creating sustained efforts through community collaboration and shared leadership. Under the administration of Dean Mary Anne Jackson, UMKC has fostered longitudinal relationships with community leaders, collaborating side by side to solve community-identified concerns using an interprofessional approach. Through strong bonds with more than 60 organizations across multiple sectors, including businesses, faith groups, neighborhood organizations, youth groups, and other nonprofits, UMKC has developed and sustained a “community infrastructure that allows ongoing efforts to address health disparities in our metro area,” notes Dean Jackson.
The impact of UMKC’s efforts is evident in its outcomes. For example, in 2021-22, Our Healthy KC Eastside, a UMKC-partnered initiative, provided more than 12,000 COVID-19 vaccines and helped more than 4,000 individuals access health services in historically marginalized zip codes within the Kansas City metro area. Due to the program’s ongoing success, the Jackson County legislature awarded $5 million to expand offerings to include additional health services to address community-identified health concerns, including cancer and infant mortality.
A remarkable aspect of UMKC’s approach is its use of community-based participatory principles. Community partners have a voice in every phase of designing research, programs, and initiatives, which enhances acceptability, feasibility, and sustainability. By actively involving the community and recognizing its unique assets and health needs, UMKC ensures its initiatives are tailored to the local context. For over a decade, the KC Faith Community Action Board, co-led by UMKC and Calvary Community Outreach Network, has played a crucial role in implementing a number of NIH-funded projects, providing thousands of residents with health screenings and prevention services. Rev. Eric D. Williams, executive director of the Calvary Community Outreach Network, says that UMKC is “the epitome of a true partner and continues to expand on addressing community-identified health concerns hand-in-hand with community partners.”
Community engagement at UMKC has a profound impact on learners, helping them to become more compassionate practitioners. When sharing his experience with the Community Health Research Group and the Health Equity Institute, led by Dr. Jannette Berkley-Patton, fourth-year medical student Alex Geyer notes, “Engaging with the community face-to-face, outside of the clinical setting, will help me be a physician worthy of my patients’ trust and can serve as a role model for future budding physicians.”
UMKC leaders have demonstrated exceptional dedication to positively impacting the health and well-being of the Kansas City community, standing as a true exemplar of community engagement and the value of academic medicine to benefit the lives of so many.