Alex Smith | KCUR

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

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons-Flickr

Three infants in Johnson County are among the first reported cases of measles in the United States this year.

The Johnson County Health Department said Tuesday that the three infants, all under a year old, had been at the same day care center in Overland Park.

Missouri Department of Public Safety

It’s still unclear what role technology might have played in the "nightmare" scenario that unfolded in Clinton, Missouri, this week, when an officer was killed responding to a disturbance call after 911 dispatchers gave police an incorrect address.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Alan Carter didn’t start his recent research with any deep doubts about the insulin that people buy in pharmacies. He just wanted to find out how different kinds of insulin compared. 

“We thought, well, if we can figure out if there’s very subtle differences between the two manufacturing processes, then maybe we can help determine if there is a significant issue for patients who switch back and forth because of insurance formulary restrictions and costs,” Carter says.

BigStock Images

Eric Greitens was having a rocky 15 months as Missouri governor even before being charged this week with felony invasion of privacy tied to his 2015 extramarital affair.

So far, his term has been marked by disagreements with fellow Republicans, severe cuts to higher education and a state ethics fine. Questions surround his appointments to the state board of education, the use of a secretive texting app and who’s donating to the nonprofit, run by former campaign staffers, that advocates for his agenda.

Missouri Legislature

Missouri’s general revenue spending on Medicaid has topped more than 2 billion dollars annually in recent years and its costs are rising.

That’s a problem for Republican State Sen. David Sater of Springfield. 

“It continues to be the biggest inflation that we have in state programs, and we have to do something,” Sater says.

The Springfield lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would require Missouri to seek permission from the federal government to get what’s called a global waiver, basically allowing the state to create its own rules for operating Medicaid.

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas

A major project designed to help improve community health in Kansas City, Kansas, has been put on hold, and local leaders will meet Thursday evening to discuss its fate.

The Healthy Campus project envisions a grocery store, expanded YMCA, farmer’s market and additional housing in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, and it was a top initiative of former Mayor Mark Holland.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains

The regional office of Planned Parenthood has selected a new president and CEO.

Brandon Hill, formerly executive director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health at the University of Chicago, assumed the role on Thursday.

Hill says he's eager to move from reproductive research to advocacy.

“I think we’re in a particularly critical time in this political landscape to where I couldn’t just stay in my lab," Hill says.

Missouri Foundation for Health, Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health and University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

In the last few decades, rates of premature death have been decreasing throughout the industrialized world largely because of improvements in public health. But there’s a striking exception.

Young adult and middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the rural United States have been dying in increasing numbers since 2000.  

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Entrepreneurs Keely Edgington and Beau Williams, owners of a Westport bar called Julep, say that the Affordable Care Act has been an easy, inexpensive way for them to get health insurance. 

Having insurance has been critical for the married couple. Their daughter Lula was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 when she was nine months old. Even with insurance, the family needed help from friends and family to pay her medical costs.

Marius Mellebye / Creative Commons-Flickr

A Shawnee County District Court judge has temporarily blocked an ordinance that raises the tobacco buying age in Topeka to 21.

The ruling comes after two Topeka businesses, with the assistance of the Kansas Vapers Association, filed a lawsuit this week challenging the ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect Thursday. The businesses claim the ordinance conflicts with state law, which allows the sale of tobacco to people 18 and older.

Children's Mercy

The Hall Family Foundation and the Sunderland Foundation are donating $75 million each to help fund a new expanded home for Children’s Mercy’s Children’s Research Institute.

At an event Thursday morning, Margaret Hall Pence, director of the Hall Family Foundation, and Kent Sunderland, president of the Sunderland Foundation, announced the $150 million in gifts, and Children's Mercy showed plans for the institute’s new nine-story facility, which will be built on Hospital Hill in Kansas City, Missouri.


Kansas City-based Cerner Corporation announced Wednesday that Brent Shafer will become its new CEO and chairman of the board of directors.

Shafer was previously CEO of Philips North America and had been CEO of the global Philips Home Healthcare Solutions business from 2010 until 2014.

Shafer will start in the position on February 1st.

Cerner's former CEO and co-founder, Neal Patterson, died on July 9, 2017 at age 67 from complications from cancer.

Alex Smith / Harvest Public Media

A few years ago, Kansas City restaurateur Anton Kotar surveyed the local and national restaurant scenes and concluded his town’s reputation as a steakhouse paradise had slipped.

The problem, he says, is the way conventional beef is raised – bulked up with grain on feedlots, making it cheap and plentiful and changing what Americans expect to taste.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Ambulances are often considered a prime example of the excessively high cost of medical care in the United States. One ride can cost more than a trip from Kansas City to Hawaii.

But David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, thinks he may have found something surprising that’s reducing ambulance use: the ride-hailing company Uber.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

In a corner of her house in Sparta in southwest Missouri, Jymie Jimerson has set up a kind of shrine. It has Native American art representing her Cherokee heritage alongside Willie Nelson albums, books and photos in remembrance of her late husband. On one side is a copy of Willie’s mid-’70s LP, “Red Headed Stranger.”

“When Steve was young, he had red hair and a red beard, so he always really identified with Willie’s Red Headed Stranger,” Jimerson says. “I try to keep it up there as a reminder of better days.”

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

A few years ago, Renea Molden’s doctors told her they wanted to take her off hydrocodone pills. 

“I was mad,” Molden says. “I’ll be honest. I was mad. I was frustrated.”

The 39-year-old woman from Kansas City struggles with pain caused by fibromyalgia, herniated spinal discs and degenerative disc disease. She says the three opioid pills a day that doctors wanted her to stop taking seemed to be the only way she could make it through work, go shopping or even fix dinner.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

President Trump has pledged to not make cuts to Medicare, the federal insurance program for seniors, but Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, acknowledges that changes are needed.

One of the program’s main funds, the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, is expected to be depleted in 11 years.

On Monday, Verma was in Olathe, Kansas to talk with seniors about Medicare and encourage them to take part in Medicare open enrollment, which runs from October 15 through December 7.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Maita thinks he was seven years old when he and his family were forced out of their home in Bhutan.

Starting in the late 1980s, the Himalayan country began driving out people who were ethnically Nepali. They fled across the mountains to Nepal, where they were settled in impoverished refugee camps.

“I didn’t even know Nepal. I didn’t know anything about it,” Maita explains using sign language. “We didn’t have any food. We didn’t have any shelter. We needed help cause we were starving.”

The University of Kansas Health System

The University of Kansas Health System has received a major boost in achieving its goal of raising $100 million to complete a new hospital tower.

Hospital officials announced Monday morning it was receiving a gift of $10 million from Cheryl Lockton Williams.

Kansas Department of Corrections

A Wyandotte County, Kansas, man who spent 23 years in prison for a double murder he says he didn’t commit has been set free.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark A. Dupree Sr. agreed Friday afternoon to drop all charges against Lamonte McIntyre. 

In a statement, Dupree said that the information presented in the hearing "is of a nature that I believe that had it been presented to the jury in the 1994 trial that convicted Mr. McIntyre, it may certainly have caused those jurors to have reasonable doubt as to Mr. McIntyre’s guilt."

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Geneva Wilson has struggled her entire life with health problems, including a blood disorder, depression and a painful misalignment of the hip joint called hip dysplasia. But she’s found peace living in a small cabin in the woods of western Missouri.

Wilson keeps chickens, raises rabbits and has a garden. She says her long-term goal is to live off her land by selling what she raises at farmers’ markets.

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.”