Alex Smith

Health Reporter

Alex Smith is a health reporter for KCUR. 

Alex began working in radio as an intern at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. A few years and a couple of radio jobs later, he became the assistant producer of KCUR's magazine show, KC Currents. He became health reporter at KCUR in January 2014.
 

Ways to Connect

Alex Smith / KCUR

Stinson Dean, an entrepreneur from Independence, Missouri, is used to risks. He buys Canadian softwood framing lumber to sell to lumberyards in the US and says coping with the ups and downs of the market is an inevitable part of doing business.

But when he started the company about a year and a half ago, he laid down a firm rule.

“One of the things I wasn’t willing to risk was the health of my family,” Dean says.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains plans to offer abortion services at two more clinics in Missouri, the organization announced Monday, bringing to three the number of abortion providers in Missouri.

Planned Parenthood’s midtown Kansas City clinic has received an abortion license and will now offer medication abortion services.

The organization anticipates its Columbia clinic will offer both medication and surgical abortion services in the coming days.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The Affordable Care Act marketplace will be a mixed bag for Kansas consumers seeking health insurance for 2018.

Some will pay more for coverage, some less. And some will purchase new plans for which there is no price-point comparison.

In Missouri, insurers are proposing some hefty rate hikes.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

In the cooler section of any Whole Foods store or maybe the cup holder of your crunchy neighbor’s VW bus, you can find Kombucha, the yeast-fermented tea sold with some pretty over-the-top marketing claims.

Alex Smith

The large majority of the questions about plans for a new airport that Kansas City Mayor Sly James fielded at a public forum on Wednesday evening came down to one thing: money.

From the stage of the Gem Theater, James seemed at times challenged to avoid repeating himself as he answered variations on the same questions about how the new airport would be paid for, what it would cost taxpayers and the amount of economic boost it would create.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Many health care advocates breathed a sigh a relief after the Senate’s recent efforts to scrap the Affordable Care Act failed in late July.

But local and national participants in a rally at Kansas City’s City Hall Wednesday afternoon had a message for those concerned about the fate of healthcare: Don’t let up.

Amie May

Tammy Wilson loved the outdoors and was happy to spend her days working at Meramec State Park in the central part of Missouri.

Her family often stopped by to see her, most recently at the end of May

“My mom had two seed ticks on her hip – I believe it was her right hip,” says Wilson’s daughter, Amie May of Bonne Terre, Missouri. “And my sister pulled them off. A couple days later, mom said she just wasn’t feeling herself.”

Corbis / Flickr — CC

A lawsuit alleging the Missouri Department of Corrections systematically denies medical treatment to prisoners with chronic hepatitis C has taken a big leap forward after a judge certified it as a class action.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Ever since the Rock Island railway ceased operations in the 1980s, the town of Belle in central Missouri has been an isolated pocket, far from any city or major highway that might bring business through town.

“You’ve heard the term ‘one-horse town’? We’re pretty much there,” says Richard Huse, who grew up in Belle and is now a town alderman. “We’re 1,500 people. And like all the small communities around here, we struggle.”

Broch Slabach

The health care plan unveiled last month by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate met with fierce opposition from hospital, doctor and patient advocacy groups. Among them was the National Rural Health Association, which is based in Leawood, Kansas, and represents doctors, nurses and hospitals in rural areas nationwide. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

State health officials say a Missouri resident has tested positive for a rare virus spread by ticks, and they are encouraging people to protect themselves.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) that the resident tested positive for the Bourbon virus, according to a DHSS news release.

Paul Sableman / Creative Commons-Flickr

Insurance is all about predicting the future, so with the future of the Affordable Care Act in flux, uncertainty about what’s going to happen has made 2017 a tricky year for insurance companies.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Twenty-four-year-old Kalee Woody says that when she was growing up in Bronaugh, Missouri, she saw the small town slowly fading, as businesses closed, growth stagnated and residents had to drive to other places to see a doctor.

Rob Jefferson

Can you imagine what it would be like to regain your sense of hearing after years of silence? Regaining the ability to hear isn't as simple as flipping a switch. Hear what  Rob Jefferson heard as he relearned to hear with cochlear implants.

Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play and Stitcher.

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences

Joplin city leaders and school officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Kansas City University of Medicine and Bioscience campus on Tuesday.

Built near the site of what was the parking lot of the old Saint John’s Regional Medical Center, which was destroyed in a 2011 tornado that killed 161 people, the new medical school was described as a “phoenix rising from the ashes.”

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

By the time Stephenie Hashmi of Lenexa, Kansas, was in her mid-20s, she had achieved a lifelong dream: She was the charge nurse at one of Kansas City’s largest intensive care units. But even as she cared for patients, she realized something was off with her own health.

“I remember just feeling tired and feeling sick and hurting, and not knowing why my joints and body was hurting,” Hashmi says.

Hashmi was diagnosed with systemic lupus, a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs.

UMKC

Some of Kansas City’s largest health organizations announced on Friday the launch of a collaboration centered on Hospital Hill.

The “UMKC Health Sciences District” includes the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, Truman Medical Centers, Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, among other partners.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Inside a yoga studio in midtown Kansas City, Ayurvedic medicine practitioner Sarah Kucera does a consultation for a client.

In some ways, the consultation isn’t that different from a regular doctor’s checkup. Kucera asks about the patient’s health history, diet and exercise regimen while typing notes on a laptop.

But there are differences. The Ayurvedic remedies that Kucera prescribes are mostly plant-based – things like herbs and oils which are thought to be beneficial to various parts of the body.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Pretty Prairie, Kansas, population 680, had a moment in the spotlight during the confirmation hearings for new Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran mentioned Pretty Prairie as an example of a community that’s struggling because of EPA regulations that Pruitt could ease.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Medical researchers have made a lot of progress developing artificial versions of organs like the heart, lungs and kidneys, but one thing has stumped them: artificial blood.

Pixabay — Creative Commons

Prisoners from Jackson County have been removed from the Johnson County Jail in Missouri following an outbreak of violence in the facility on Thursday evening.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Many millennials now launching into adulthood have their hands full — jobs, homes and partners. But 33-year-old Ford Inbody already is thinking about a time when he won't be able to work.

He has Parkinson's disease.

Every night after work, he and his wife, Cortney, walk their two dogs through their neighborhood in Overland Park. These days, going out for an evening's stroll is easy. But many of their evening conversations revolve around a time they know is coming — when these walks will be more difficult.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Bryan Sheppard, who was convicted for the explosion that killed six firefighters in 1988 and was given a life sentence without parole, was resentenced Friday afternoon to 20 years, meaning he will soon be a free man.

As U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. pronounced the sentence in the federal courthouse in downtown Kansas City, family and friends of Sheppard’s began weeping audibly. Sheppard lowered his head.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

You don’t have to drive far in Missouri to see billboards offering help to pregnant women. They’re part of the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program, which has seen a big increase in public funding in recent years.

This year’s legislative debate on the program focuses on a new question: What kind of information should these centers provide to women?

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

The Olathe bar shooting survivor being hailed as a hero on Tuesday joined the chorus of people calling on President Trump to denounce the targeting of two men because of their race.

Ian Grillot, 24, who tried to stop a gunman when he opened fire at Austins Bar & Grill last Wednesday, says he believes the shooter singled out the two Indian victims because of their ethnicity and hopes President Trump will address the incident.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Anti-abortion groups in Missouri helped boost many Republican candidates to victory in November, and they’re now eagerly waiting to see how those lawmakers advance their cause.

Missouri legislators have filed dozens of restrictive abortion bills, including two that would outlaw abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy rather than the current 21-weeks and six days.

Supporters say late-term abortion bans protect the unborn, but opponents say they create undue hardships for women. One such opponent is a Missouri woman who had to leave the state to end her fraught pregnancy,

Wikimedia Commons

Echinacea has become one of the more common natural remedies for colds, but the herb has deep roots across many cultures in the Great Plains, used at times to treat everything from burns to toothaches to snake bites.

questdiagnostics.com

When Amanda January was growing up in Gardner, Kansas, regular doctor’s visits weren’t a regular thing at all.

“When I was a kid we almost never went to the doctor,” January says. “I was rarely sick. My siblings were rarely sick. We just didn’t go.”

She’s now a dancer and Pilates teacher who works hard to manage her health, but she’s still skeptical about doctors.

“Some doctors might care more about paying off their student loans than their patients,” she says.

On a chilly winter morning, dozens of truck driver trainees file into a classroom at the headquarters of Prime Inc., a trucking company based in Springfield, Mo.

At the front is Siphiwe Baleka, an energetic former swimming champion in his mid-40s. He delivers grim news about trucker health to the new recruits.

"If you haven't started to think about this, you need to start right now," Baleka says. "You are about to enter the most unhealthy occupation in America."

Tom Schroeder / Kansas City Wildlands

It took bee expert Mike Arduser about seven months to discover all the bee species living in two small patches of nature preserve in Kansas City.

But with a net and a lot of patience, he found something unexpected: 89 different bee species – including two never before seen in Missouri – pollinating flowering plants.

The surprising diversity is good news for conservationists because many of the bees evolved to fill narrow niches and serve vital roles in pollinating specific native plants.

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