Mike Sherry

Reporter, Heartland Health Monitor

Mike Sherry is a reporter for the Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT television, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. HHM is a reporting collaboration among KCUR, KHI News Service in Topeka, Kan., KCPT television in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence, Kan.

Mike spent the first chunk of his career as a journalistic nomad. He averaged one move a year in the nearly two decades between college and his homecoming in 2003 to work for The Kansas City Star. Journalism has taught him that truth is stranger than fiction. He once covered a story where deputies arrested a groom at his wedding reception for failing to pay child support from a previous marriage.

In his younger days, Mike rode his bike across Iowa and backpacked through Asia. Now, he enjoys spending time with his family.

Todd Feeback / Heartland Health Monitor

For years, Truman Medical Centers’ chemotherapy unit sat in an open room located in an unrenovated portion of its mid-1970s hospital near downtown Kansas City, Mo.

Only a few feet separated each chemotherapy patient – seated in recliners next to their IV poles – and the ground-floor pharmacy sat several stories below the oncology unit.

Kansas City, Mo., officials said Friday that the city is one of 15 finalists nationwide for the Culture of Health prize conferred annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a highly regarded health foundation based in Princeton, N.J.

The recognition, Mayor Sly James said in a news release, “acknowledges sustained and strategically focused efforts of the Health Department and several others in the entire Kansas City health provider community."

St. Joseph Medical Center

The new owner of four Kansas City-area hospitals announced it had filled several executive positions.

Prime Healthcare Services, which is based in Ontario, Calif., said that Robert J. Erickson has been named CEO of St. Joseph Medical Center in south Kansas City, Mo. Erickson was president and CEO of St. Francis Health Center in Topeka for the previous five years.

Erickson replaces Mike Dorsey. A hospital spokeswoman said Dorsey decided not to stay on after the sale to Prime. She said Dorsey did not say anything about his future plans.

St. Joseph Medical Center

A California-based hospital company said Friday it had completed its acquisition of St. Joseph Medical Center in south Kansas City, Mo., and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs, Mo.

Prime Healthcare Services purchased the hospitals from Ascension Health, which operated the hospitals through Kansas City-based Carondelet Health. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The two acute-care hospitals have 456 beds and 900 physicians on staff combined.


The state board that oversees Kansas’ public colleges and universities on Wednesday endorsed an effort by the University of Kansas Cancer Center to earn the highest level of recognition from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The Kansas Board of Regents backed the initiative by approving a resolution that said, in part, that the cancer center “would substantially improve cancer research and treatment opportunities for Kansans” by earning the enhanced designation.

HCA Midwest Health


HCA Midwest Health, the region’s largest health system, announced Wednesday that it plans to open a comprehensive cancer center near Centerpoint Medical Center, the company’s hospital in Independence, Mo.

HCA will house the center in a 17,000-square-foot building near Centerpoint, according to a system spokeswoman. HCA purchased the building, a former furniture store, in 2012.

Saint Luke’s and Liberty hospitals on Monday announced an agreement to partner on the provision of cancer care.

According to a news release, the hospitals are developing a program that will:

HMN Architects and Pixel Foundry


Olathe Medical Center on Friday announced the largest expansion in the hospital’s six-decade history, a cradle-to-grave project that calls for new buildings for obstetrics and patients with dementia.

With an estimated price tag of more than $100 million, including buildings and equipment, the project also calls for construction of a new cancer center and expansion of the hospital’s cardiovascular center.

Mark McDonald / Children's Mercy Hospital



Children’s Mercy Hospital has a medical mystery on its hands.

Doctors there are trying to figure out what caused a severe neurologic condition between mid-September and early October in three patients, including a 13-year-old from Joplin, Mo.

And like other researchers around the country, they’re trying to figure out if the condition – which the medical community has termed acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) – is related to the recent nationwide outbreak of a polio-like virus called enterovirus D68, or EV-D68.

Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT


Faced with a surprise pregnancy – and then feeling the pressure of transitioning from an independent woman to a new mom – Erica Hardin struggled mentally and financially after the birth of her daughter.

Much to her relief, Kansas City had a program aimed at reducing disparities in infant mortality and post-birth complications between minorities and the general population.

Known as Healthy Start, home visits through the program provided Hardin with everything from moral support to diapers and instructions on applying for food stamps.

Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center


The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City will help three Kansas City safety net clinics share patient data electronically with providers throughout Missouri.

The foundation said in a news release Monday that it’s paying $375,000 to hook up Swope Health System, Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center and KC CARE Clinic to Missouri Health Connection (MHC).

The funding will also help another Kansas City nonprofit, Artists Helping the Homeless, make referrals to hospitals and clinics via encrypted emails.

Todd Feeback / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT


When Jennifer Vaughn delivered identical twin girls at Saint Luke’s East Hospital last week, she and her husband were not that surprised – and it wasn’t just because of the sonograms or because she had dreamt of having twins even before the ultrasounds.

“My husband and I have always been fascinated with twins,” Vaughn said Thursday at the Lee’s Summit, Mo., hospital, where she was holding Brooke and Peyton Koehler, both of whom weighed less than 5 pounds at birth. “I guess it was meant to be.”

Dalyn Schmitt formed the Heartland Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center (RADAC) in 1998, building on state-funded services previously provided by Bethany Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

Based in Roeland Park, Kan., the organization started off with a budget of about $600,000 to serve individuals in 20 Kansas counties. Today, the RADAC serves nearly four times as many counties and boasts a $6 million budget.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

A Maryland company that has reaped millions of dollars in federal health-reform grants for work around the country is drawing fire for its performance in the Kansas City area.

Critics say that Advanced Patient Advocacy (APA), a privately held company, has been slow off the mark in its role as a “navigator” organization, charged with helping consumers find coverage through the health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act.

Todd Feeback / The Hale Center for Journalism

A top health official at the University of Kansas Hospital said the severity of this year’s flu outbreak is requiring inpatient admissions at a rate more than three times that which it generally sees during flu season.

Dr. Lee Norman, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference Tuesday that 36 people were in the hospital with confirmed cases of the flu or with flu-like symptoms. He said he could not remember a time when inpatient cases exceeded 10.

“These numbers are unprecedented here,” Norman said.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

During the past eight years, the philanthropic community has spent about $8 million on a wide-ranging program aimed at improving health services for low-income individuals in the Kansas City area.

The REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (HCF) have provided nearly three quarters of the total funding. But now, the collaboration and the various efforts it has spawned are taking on a more targeted approach heading into 2015.

Creative Commons-Pixabay


A business-led group based in Kansas City, Mo., is leading an effort to quadruple Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax and direct the proceeds to early childhood health and education programs.

Organizers of the “Raise Your Hand for Kids” campaign on Friday outlined their plan for a statewide ballot initiative to an audience of about 100 business, education, health and early-childhood leaders at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

The campaign aims to increase Missouri’s cigarette tax from 17 cents to 67 cents a pack.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced Tuesday he will use his power of allotments to make fee transfers and spending cuts to close a $280 million budget gap in the current fiscal year.

Brownback said in a prepared statement that the allotments come from recommendations made by budget director Shawn Sullivan.

Financial considerations might influence use of a newly approved vaccine targeted at a strain of bacterial meningitis that often strikes college campuses, according to speakers at a conference Thursday in Kansas City, Mo., sponsored by the Mid America Immunization Coalition (MAIC).

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT


A highly regarded eating-disorder treatment center is about to make the Kansas City area its first site outside of its home state of Colorado, a development local clinicians said would help fill a critical gap in services here.

The Eating Disorder Center of Denver expects to open its partial hospitalization program on Dec. 29, according to local program director Tanja Haaland. The company is renovating 5,400 square feet of space in the lower level of an office building near Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Merriam, Kan.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT


As the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period began Saturday, for-profit and non-profit groups ramped up efforts to assist populations that have proven hard to reach.

At events in and around Kansas City, counselors, insurance brokers and insurance companies held public education events and free health fairs to reach the uninsured and underinsured among minority populations and apprise them of their coverage options. 


Over the years, physicians at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics have developed substantial expertise in caring for patients before and after they receive heart transplants.

But now the hospital can provide the full spectrum of care to these children, following approval last week for it to perform such transplants itself.

The go-ahead came from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a nonprofit group that oversees organ allocation and transplant programs under contract with the federal government.

Cerner Corp., the high-tech company based in North Kansas City, Mo., may be at the forefront of the electronic health records industry, but at its annual health conference Monday, a behavioral health executive said innovations in health care don’t necessarily have to be as advanced as the solutions developed by Cerner.

Speaking on a panel that addressed coordinating care across multiple platforms, Karen Suddath of Wyandot Inc. said her organization had improved its coordination of care simply by checking a website every morning for booking records at the local jail.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT


As reformers work on making the U.S. health care system more efficient, they’re also looking to improve communication with consumers – whether it’s ensuring they understand the nuances of insurance or grasping instructions from a doctor.

The concept is known as “health literacy,” and the notion extends beyond the written or spoken word, Dan Reus, a St. Louis business consultant, argued Friday at a health literacy summit in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

People also need to understand the ever-increasing electronic data that make up their medical records, he said.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

A talented athlete, Kylee Bliss might have been a scholarship basketball player at a small college.

As a sophomore point guard at Blue Valley High School in Stilwell, Kan., she practiced hard and had a real feel for the game. That changed after she sustained two concussions on the court in the span of eight weeks nearly three years ago.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

At one point when he was in college at Kansas State University, Jon Smith would jog as many as 20 miles a day.

“If I wasn’t in the library and not in class,” he says, “I was running.”

But Smith was far from healthy.

His over-the-top regimen was a manifestation of an eating disorder known as purge-type anorexia, hints of which first surfaced when weight gain from migraine medication made Smith a pudgy fifth-grader. His training obsession began two years later during preparations for the Junior Olympics.

The business day was ticking away as Sarah Wilcher waited on the phone.

She was an hour into a desperate protest of an insurance decision about her seriously ill daughter, Piper. By around 5:10 p.m., she realized everybody was gone.

“They just left me on hold,” Wilcher recalled recently of that day four years ago.

RELATED STORY: As Sufferers Battle Eating Disorders, Efforts Underway To Reopen Clinic

The disorder is so powerful that, even though the body is wasting away, patients in intensive-care sometimes rip out feeding lines or hide the peanut butter provided by staff in their armpits.

Known as anorexia nervosa, the condition is a process of self-starvation – and, researchers say, the deadliest of all psychiatric disorders. Some estimates put the mortality rate at 20 percent.

St. Joseph Medical Center

The operator of two local Catholic hospitals has finalized their sale to a for-profit company based in Ontario, Calif.

Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic health system, said in a statement Tuesday that it had reached a definitive agreement to sell St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs to Prime Healthcare Services. The two hospitals operate through Kansas City-based Carondelet Health.

Terms of the deal, which was first announced in July, were not disclosed, and the deal remains subject to regulatory approval.


A Roeland Park-based substance abuse center announced Monday that its founder and CEO will step down at the end of the year.

The nonprofit Heartland Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center (RADAC) said Dalyn Schmitt would hand the reins to Jason Hess, who has been with the organization since 2001 and currently serves as executive director.

According to a news release, Schmitt founded Heartland RADAC in 1998.