Knowledge Center

Banking on KC – Bob Theis of Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center

 

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. With us on this episode is Bob Theis, the CEO of the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center. Welcome, Bob.

Bob Theis:

Hello. I hope everyone's doing well.

Kelly Scanlon:

Bob, the Sam Rodgers Center provides public health services. Give us an overview of how you carry out that mission.

Bob Theis:

Kelly, we serve the most vulnerable populations in the Kansas City metropolitan area. 85% of our patients identify as a minority. 92% of our patients are at or below 100% of the poverty federal guidelines. That means if you're an individual, you're making less than $12,000 a year. And so we wrap our arms, help guide people through the system, hold their hand and help them get insurance, help them get to their appointments with transportation, help them get utility assistance, any other thing that they may need. We hold their hand through the whole process and we take care of the whole person. One of the things that we do is we provide proactive preventative healthcare, and so we keep you out of the emergency room. We give you the tools you need to stay healthy and thrive.

Kelly Scanlon:

The name of the center, the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, carries the name of the founder. Why did he start the center and what was his vision?

Bob Theis:

Dr. Rodgers had a true passion for people. He believed that healthcare was a right and not a privilege. He would follow his dad around visiting people in Mississippi at their farms, and they would pay them with eggs or chickens or any way they could possibly pay. So Dr. Rodgers from a young boy looked up to his father and saw how his father was taking care of the population and that's what he wanted to do. So he wanted to provide healthcare for all.

Kelly Scanlon:

How did he make his way to Missouri and eventually open the Samuel Rodgers Health Center?

Bob Theis:

In the South, African American providers weren't typically allowed to practice, so in order for him to practice medicine, he came to Kansas City. He established one of the first multi-practice specialty for African Americans at 31st and Prospect. And so he had to come to an area where he would be accepted. And so Dr. Rodgers came to Kansas City. It was such a huge event that University Health has it on their timeline of important events in Kansas City along with the civil rights and all this other wonderful stuff on their timeline.

Kelly Scanlon:

And remind me of that timeframe again, what year are we talking about here?

Bob Theis:

He came to Kansas City around 1950.

Kelly Scanlon:

And he opened the center shortly after?

Bob Theis:

So he opened the first multi-specialty practice and then he opened Samuel Rodgers Health Center in 1967. He went back and forth to Washington DC to establish the fourth federally qualified health center in the nation. Today, there are 1400 federally qualified health centers throughout the nation, and we take care of 10% of the population.

Kelly Scanlon:

It has now grown tremendously. You have more than one campus, correct?

Bob Theis:

Right now we have four operating sites. Two are north of the river, one is at Cabot Westside on the west side of downtown, and we're on the east side of Kansas City.

Kelly Scanlon:

You mentioned the preventative services, the wellness services. Talk with us about some of those specific services that you provide and how you provide them.

Bob Theis:

We provide prenatal care for our pregnant moms. We typically see around 1200 pregnant moms a year. We help them get signed up for coverage, we provide their transportation. We provide WIC services, and our WIC program is amazing. 92% of our moms initiate breastfeeding, is amazing to the child and increases their IQ by seven points. We also provide preventative well visits for children. We help people with chronic diseases. So I'm going to say around 10% of our population, of the patients we serve, have diabetes or hypertension, and they need a little extra help. So many kids did not seek care during COVID that they fell behind on their vaccines. And so we need to get kids caught back up on the vaccines so they don't run into problems later down the road.

Kelly Scanlon:

You also have introduced telehealth.

Bob Theis:

So you know what? Not everybody feels like they can get out of bed and start their day off and make a trip somewhere when they may not have transportation. So our behavioral health program is the main area where telehealth is taking off. COVID pushed us to do a lot of things a little bit differently, and so it was part of the COVID response. So if someone did not feel like coming into a health center at the time of COVID, we could provide services over the phone, they could pick up their cell phone and we could interact with them.

Kelly Scanlon:

What you said is really interesting, meeting people where they are, It sounds simple, but it's something that is a major principle that you operate from. So expand on that. When you say meeting people where they are, maybe they can't come in, so you meet them via the phone or the internet in order to take care of their healthcare needs. What are some of the other ways that you meet people in the community where they are?

Bob Theis:

So during COVID, we actually took out our mobile unit and some people were a little bit hesitant to get the vaccine, and we partnered with the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Missouri. We went to people's houses, knocked on doors and asked them if they had any questions. And if they did have questions, we would answer those questions and offer the vaccine. So it was pretty cool going door to door and providing people that service that they weren't necessarily expecting.

Kelly Scanlon:

Was this the first time a lot of people found out about what you do?

Bob Theis:

And that's a great question. Some people have known about Samuel Rodgers Health Center for 50 years. Some people are just learning about it. And so however you hear about us, we want to make sure that you know that we're a trusted organization that provides high-quality, compassionate, and affordable healthcare.

Kelly Scanlon:

You've recently received some very prestigious recognition from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Congratulations on that. And I believe there were four recognitions given, and one of those was for your COVID work. So tell us about what these recognitions are and what it is you did to earn them.

Bob Theis:

So one of our awards was the silver tier health center quality leader. That means that Samuel U. Rodgers is in the top 11 to 20% of all fairly qualified health centers in the nation, related to quality care of services. So that's for dental, medical and behavioral health. Another one was advancing health information technology. So what that means is we leverage all of our resources to make data-driven decisions to work with your family, to contact you, however we can, via text if you want services, via your telephone. We can work and use all of our systems to provide that health information technology that you need to thrive. Another word that we won was addressing social risk factors. So we have 15 community health workers who ask you different questions about your situation, whether you have housing security, whether you need utility assistance, whether you need food. With that knowledge, we can reach out to our partners and make sure that you're well taken care of, no matter your social factors.

Kelly Scanlon:

So you are really getting to know the people that you are serving and not just one part of their lives, but all of the different circumstances that may have a bearing on the health issues that they're presenting with.

Bob Theis:

There are so many things that have a bearing on our health and it's access to high-quality food, it's access to transportation, it's access to someone who you can just talk to. Another award that we received was our patient-centered medical home. So we've been a patient-centered medical home for several years now, but what that really means is that we're patient-centered, we're culturally appropriate and we take a team-based approach to providing care. We ask questions when you're in for a physical, how are you feeling mentally? And so if there are any questions, if we have any doubts or have any feeling that you're depressed, we're going to get a behavior health specialist in and talk to you in a safe environment.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have several campuses. On your downtown campus, something very exciting happened this year. It's broken ground on the Sam Rodgers Place. The Sam Rodgers Place is part of your founder Sam Rodgers' original vision of holistic community wellness. We've heard you talk about the individual people and how you approach their healthcare from a holistic standpoint, but what does holistic community wellness mean?

Bob Theis:

Dr. Rodgers founded this health center in a housing project, the Wayne Miner Housing Project, and that's where he initially said, "Let's go to where the people are." He always knew that housing and healthcare were so important and they went hand in hand to taking care of the whole person. If you don't have a place to store your medicines, how are you going to take them on the appropriate schedule?

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. So the Sam Rodgers Place, tell us about it and what is your vision for it? What will it solve?

Bob Theis:

Sam Rodgers Place is a way to get back to Dr. Rodgers' original roots, having healthcare and housing right next to each other. So some of our partners, HUD, City of Kansas City, Brinshore, United Way, Missouri Housing Development Commission, all these organizations came together to partner and actually bring mixed-income housing right next door. So there are going to be 62 units of mixed-income housing, 70% of which will be income based, that it's a way of making sure that people have a safe, reliable place to live and that they can walk to receive their healthcare. So there's going to be 62 units from one to five bedrooms.

Kelly Scanlon:

So you're going to be serving a wide range of people.

Bob Theis:

We'll be serving a wide range of people, and we'll be an anchor to the community of healthcare. This early childhood education, I'm looking at the building right across the street. We're going to provide community education so people learn how to bank, so people know the importance of receiving healthcare. We're going to house happy bottoms in the Sam Rodgers Place area. So Brinshore will actually own all the buildings. We're going to partner with them every step of the way.

Kelly Scanlon:

You've been in various roles at the Samuel Rodgers Health Center for the last 15 years, Bob. What is your background and what drew you to the center?

Bob Theis:

So I'm a CPA. I started out in public accounting. I moved to a local hospital and worked at a local hospital for a few years. Then a friend of mine called me up and she goes, "Bob, we need you to come to Sam Rodgers and be our controller." And so I came to Same Rodgers, I was the controller. She eventually left it and took over the vice president of finance role at the National Association of Community Health Centers, which is a national role in DC, Washington DC. And so I was moved into her position, which was the CFO. And then as I grew as the CFO, I eventually moved into the chief operating officer role. Eventually, I moved into the interim CEO role, and now I am the CEO of Samuel Rodgers and I'm so proud to help carry the legacy of Dr. Rodgers forward.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have seen Samuel Rodgers Health Center from a variety of different roles. You've been there long enough to see that growth. Where do you see in public health in general, whether it's at the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center or elsewhere, what do you see as the greatest need in public health right now? Is it funding? Is it educating people about health? Is it trying to find people to work in this industry? What is the biggest challenge facing public health right now?

Bob Theis:

I really think education is one of the biggest problems and opportunities. I need everyone to understand that preventative proactive care is the way to go. If we can prevent someone from having diabetes, 20% of all healthcare dollars are spent on diabetes. So when we prevent one person from having diabetes, we save a whole lot of money to the whole system. But it's also allowing them to live a healthy life. It's teaching them to eat right. It's teaching them to exercise. It's teaching them to take care of themselves so they can take care of others because we really can't take care of others until we take care of ourselves. So education is the primary key to everything. We need people coming back for vaccinations, physicals, and mammograms. We want to catch cancer at the earliest stage possible. And so we need those preventative screenings to actually do what they're supposed to. To catch things early so people don't end up in the hospital. And so long story short, we need to educate our community on the importance of healthcare.

Kelly Scanlon:

You talked about being very proud of being able to carry on Dr. Rodger's legacy. What gives you the greatest satisfaction with the work that you do day in and day out there at the center?

Bob Theis:

Seeing the relief on someone's face. So I'm just going to give one example. During COVID, I met a guy who brought his wife who was suffering from early dementia, and he goes, "Bob, I worry about so many things. The last thing I want to worry about is her getting COVID." And so I like to see the relief on people's faces when they know that things are going to be okay, at least this thing will be okay. Dr. Rodgers said, "Being poor is tough. Being sick is tough, but being poor and sick is really tough." And so we just want to be here to support anyone who needs our high-quality, compassionate, and affordable healthcare.

Kelly Scanlon:

What you said earlier too about, so they don't have to worry at least about this thing. We can't always fix everything, but sometimes you can fix one thing, it still makes a difference. And on that note, I'm going to ask you if our listeners are interested in working with you in this cause, what are some of the ways they can get involved?

Bob Theis:

We have two events coming up. One is a Friendsgiving event that will be held on November 16th, and what we'll do is we'll provide food and sit and help package some food up so we can send it home so everyone has a healthy, successful Thanksgiving meal. The other one is we do an annual toy and gift drive that will be held on December 14th. And so we make sure that kids have an opportunity to open up a present underneath that Christmas tree. We need volunteers to help package the food and get our gifts together and help us hand all those things out. We need food and toy donations with that, cash is also a wonderful thing to give towards those so we can go out and buy turkeys if we need to.

Kelly Scanlon:

And then, as you say, volunteers to help with packaging things up, getting it distributed and making sure that everybody has a nice and healthy holiday. Throughout the year, other than these two events, these two important events that are coming up, throughout the year, what are other ways that our listeners might engage with you?

Bob Theis:

I just want people to be connectors to services. So you might know someone out there who might need our services. If someone's pregnant and doesn't know what to do, they can come to Sam Rodgers and we can help get them all the support they need to have a healthy baby and a healthy baby is so important because I am a financial guy at heart. So a low birth weight baby costs the system in the first year of care, $50,000. A healthy birth weight baby only costs the system $5,000. It's that golden rule that our parents always taught us, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So if you hear this, I want you to hear that we can help people get the resources they need for healthcare and other items to help them thrive in what is not always an easy time.

Kelly Scanlon:

So be messengers. Be messengers, spread the word that these services are available, send people your way. And then I think on your website you do have a button where people can go and find ways to engage, to volunteer, to donate, to help with these annual events that you talk about. What is your website?

Bob Theis:

It's samrodgers.org.

Kelly Scanlon:

Okay. So samrodgers.org, go out there, you can read more about the services, you can read more about the population that is served, and you can find ways to engage if that is something that would interest you. Bob, thank you so much for all that you and your team are doing for the community. Thank you for taking the time for being with us today to tell us about it and be part of spreading that word. We really appreciate you being here on this episode of Banking on KC.

Bob Theis:

Thank you Kelly for helping us get that word out.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Bob Theis for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. The Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center was built upon Dr. Samuel Rodgers' belief that healthcare is a basic right, not a privilege. What's more, he believed families are the foundation of our communities. So he insisted on locating his centers within easy access of parents and their children so he could treat the entire family. Never doubt the ability of just one person to make a difference. 50 years later, Dr. Rodgers' vision is still guiding the work of the center, providing high-quality, compassionate, and affordable healthcare. The efforts of the center's leadership, staff, and medical professionals ensure the best possible outcomes for patients so they can live healthy, fulfilling lives, thereby boosting the overall health of our communities. Thanks for tuning in today. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank member FDIC.

 

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