Living on the edge: Declining vaccinations put a new generation at risk
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Ancient maps depicted parts of the planet that were as yet unexplored with drawings of monsters.

The phrase “Here be dragons” is still used today to describe the limits of our knowledge and the fear that too often fills the gap.

Oddly enough, the dragons seem to be swirling once more around the public’s understanding of an issue most of us thought had passed into common knowledge.

That issue is the need for vaccinations.

Parents of school-age children today got their vaccinations so long ago, they have no memory of them. The shots they received made measles, mumps and rubella (or whooping cough) all but forgotten childhood illnesses. First licensed in 1973, the MMR vaccine has been incredibly successful as a public health program, particularly because it is widely required in the U.S. for children attending public schools.

It’s hard to remember it now, but medical necessity was definitely the mother of the vaccine’s invention.

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Measles took the lives of 2.6 million people a year prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine.

About 186,000 cases of mumps were reported annually prior to vaccination. Although mumps rarely led to death, complications left many children permanently deaf.

Rubella, also known as German Measles, was not regarded as a serious illness for children. Its complications were more serious for adults. However, from 1964 to 1965, a major outbreak of rubella swept across the U.S. and the unborn babies of 20,000 mothers were affected by the much more dangerous version of the illness known as congenital rubella syndrome.

The impact was devastating.

More than 2,000 babies were stillborn, 11,000 were born deaf and another 3,500 were born blind.

The MMR vaccine has been amazingly effective in eliminating these infections. What we couldn’t foresee was that there would be a downside to that success. As mumps and measles disappeared from our experience, we tended to lose sight of the seriousness of the threat they once posed to our health. It got easier to deceive ourselves and believe that the risk isn’t real.
— Dr. Julie Elder, GraceMed’s Medical Director

In 1998, A group of British physicians released a report in that year which suggested what they considered to be a likely connection between autism and the MMR vaccine.

The report gave birth to the present-day anti-vaccine movement and spread fear among a generation of parents.

But after an army of researchers investigated the presumed connection, the science behind the report was completely disproved, and in 2010, the British Medical Council barred the doctor who linked vaccines with autism from practicing medicine.

The MMR vaccine has been established to be as safe as it is effective.

Measles was completely eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, just two years after the British report came out. But the damage it would do to public acceptance of the MMR vaccine would only expand in the years to come.

Spurred more by fear than medical research, the anti-vaccine movement has grown.

And predictably, so has the number of reported cases of these once defeated childhood diseases.

Just five years after hitting zero, the number of cases reported in 2014 had grown to 668. Nearly 1100 cases have already been reported at the halfway point of 2019.

Measles infections in the United States

Measles cases have grown by 1,173% in the past 3.5 years

“When it comes to immunization, there really is strength in numbers,” said GraceMed pediatrician Lauren Poull. “It’s what we refer to as ‘herd immunity’, and it’s essential to protect the most vulnerable members of our community – infants who are not yet old enough to receive vaccines. We keep them safe by ‘cocooning’ them within an immune population that doesn’t catch or pass on these infections. The sudden rise in measles cases is sounding an alarm to tell us we could lose that protection.”

Schools are a natural breeding ground for these diseases.

That’s why all 50 states have laws requiring that your child receive their appropriate vaccinations before they can attend unless there is a medical reason they can’t.

The shots are given on a schedule which you can learn more about on our website at www.gracemed.org/school. If your child needs to be immunized, you’ll also find contact information there to make an appointment with the GraceMed clinic in your area. We can also provide physicals required for participation in school athletic activities.

The new school year is almost here. Let’s chart a course to make it a healthy one for all our students.

View the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule for 2019 or download print-friendly versions of the charts for children ages 0–6 and 7–18.

Make an appointment to get your child’s vaccinations

If your children need to be immunized or if you need to get them physicals for school athletic activities, please call us to make an appointment at a clinic near you:

Wichita: (316) 866-2000
Topeka: (785) 861-8800
McPherson: (620) 504-6187
Clearwater: (620) 584-2055

You may also want to ask about applying for insurance under the Kancare or ACA Marketplace program. We have trained ACA Navigators who can help you select the best plan for your needs and get you signed up. You can contact our Navigators directly at (316) 977-9308. Topeka area residents can call (785) 478-5904.

The new school year is almost here. Let’s chart a course to make it a healthy one for all our students.

Kyle Bowen
Topekans turn out for “breakfast for dinner” as Hotcakes comes to the Capitol

Hotcakes for Hopecare, GraceMed’s benefit breakfast became a “Capitol” affair on March 5th as Countryside United Methodist Church hosted the event that featured an interesting twist. This time we served our guests breakfast for dinner.

“All the logistics seemed to work better to host an evening event here,” said Alice Weingartner, Director of Community Development. “We had a really good reception for the idea. It seemed to add to the fun to do something unexpected.”

Nearly 200 Topekans came out to help us raise funds. Celebrity servers included Randy Peterson, retiring CEO of Stormont Vail Health, Danielle Norwood, WIBW radio host, Shawnee County Commissioners Bill Riphahn, Bob Archer and Kevin Cook along with Mayor Michelle De La Isla and Matt Pivarnik from the Greater Topeka Partnership.

Kyle Bowen
Heartcakes for Hopecare brings some Fun with Pianos to McPherson on Valentine’s Day.

If you happened to drive by the McPherson Museum the evening of Valentine’s Day, you might have been inclined to think a rock concert had broken out. Rolling down the halls past the art gallery, the fossil exhibit and the historical displays was the rollicking sound of a playful pianist and his roomful of sing-along performers.

Welcome to the first Heartcakes for Hopecare Valentine’s Dinner, a benefit to raise funds for GraceMed patients at our McPherson Clinic. Judging by the fun everyone had, it will never be mistaken for the birth of the blues.

“We wanted to create an event that would really be a memorable experience for everyone,” said Nancy Duling, GraceMed’s Director of Development. “A sing-along turned out to be just the ticket. So many people told us how much fun they had, and that’s so gratifying because that’s just what we were going for. The kind of fun that helps everyone really enjoy each other’s company.”

Sam Ferguson, otherwise known as Sing-Along with Sam provided the evening’s entertainment. But his real super power was bringing the audience to its feet for one rousing song after another, even eliciting a Vegas-worthy Elvis impression from one of our guests. Heart-shaped desserts of various kinds were also sold to bring the “Heartcakes” theme to life.

“It’s wonderful that we were able to raise funds to help with the cost of care for the uninsured,” said Deb Clark, manager of our McPherson Clinic. “But we were also so glad to have a part in creating such a happy memory for everyone who came out to support us.”

A special thanks to our corporate sponsors from McPherson who made the event possible.

Kyle Bowen
A Listening History with GraceMed Guild Founder Kerin Smith
Kerin Smith from her days as a nurse at GraceMed

Kerin Smith from her days as a nurse at GraceMed

No one has been engaged in serving GraceMed longer than Kerin Smith and her husband, Jim. She worked as a nurse from 1992 to 1995, then served on the Board of Directors and finally founded the GraceMed Guild — a group of volunteers for GraceMed— where she continues to serve today.

How and when did you first got involved with GraceMed?

The first one I would mention was Sandra Parker Lyon, who was our executive director at the time. She had been with the clinic for a long time, ever since they had first established it, I think. She stayed with us through the transition to United Methodist Health Clinic. She made a big contribution to the growth of the clinic.

Former Executive Director Sandra Parker Lyon

Former Executive Director Sandra Parker Lyon

Another person was Dr. Jana Nisly who was working there when I came. She was our medical director, and she just had a nice manner with the patients and the families and really a good spirit to work with people. We were getting a lot of Hispanic families in at that time and Dr. Nisly spoke Spanish. All of us learned a little bit of it. She went on to be a missionary in El Salvador where she still lives.

What were some of the early challenges you faced and how did you deal with them?

The rise of the HIV epidemic triggered OSHA to set up safety standards in the workplace. So we tried to get those standards set up for the clinic as well. When I first went to work, someone handed me a card file and told me these are your policies and procedures for the clinic. What was in it were some cards that told me where to order supplies. I didn’t think that was really what we needed, so during the time that I was there, I wrote the policies and procedures for the clinic, and we got our OSHA standards set up.

Also, more people were coming to us because they couldn’t get health insurance. We were just trying to keep up with the need. At one point, they closed the practice (to new patients) because there were more people that were needing to be seen than we could handle.

There was also a time when we struggled with finances, and we just had to take steps to be able to survive. We tried to find ways we could raise some money. Later when we brought Dave Sanford in, he really had the gift of finding resources and putting them to work. He really has a skill set for raising funds and writing grants. He has a heart for it and a way of seeing it that has been a blessing for GraceMed.

GraceMed's home in the 90s at 1611 N. Mosley

GraceMed's home in the 90s at 1611 N. Mosley

When I was doing outreach to help with some funding, I would visit churches in small towns around Wichita and a lot of those people didn’t have healthcare either. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we could have little clinics in some of these surrounding towns. They opened that recent one in Clearwater that’s kind of what I had in mind. So, I was real happy to see that come to fruition.

I understand you also had to come up with a way to get your patients the medications they needed.

We had a pharmacy of sorts (in the early 90s), and we just received sample medications from various companies and doctors’ offices that they weren’t able to use. Our patients couldn’t afford to buy medications and that was becoming more of a problem as the price continued to go up.

Former Executive Director Karlen Jones

Former Executive Director Karlen Jones

Then the drug companies came out with this idea that they don’t want anybody to do without medications because they can’t afford them. So they said, if patients will send us some kind of documentation that they can’t afford the drug the doctor prescribed for them, then the company would send them a supply of the drug.

We had this lady who had rheumatoid arthritis, and she needed a particular drug we didn’t have and she couldn’t afford to buy. There was no way we could get it for her through samples. So I called the company, and they sent me a form. I filled it out, had her sign it and sent it in with a prescription. Then we would just send another every 30 days for refills.

Over a period of time, we got a lot of people on what was then called the Indigent Drug Program. We got thousands and thousands of dollars worth of medications for a lot of people that really would not have been able to get them otherwise.

Would you say you were serving the same underserved patients GraceMed still serves today?

The patients we saw at the time when I first began to work there were a lot different than what GraceMed sees now. I’m sure they still see some of those same patients, but for one thing, we provided quite a bit of homeless care. I know that GraceMed does that now through Open Door. But we had a time of day dedicated to seeing homeless people. So we probably treated more people that were living in poverty back then. Today health insurance is harder to get than it was in years past. So although GraceMed still sees a lot of low-income patients, we also see more people that are employed but just don’t have insurance.

When I was doing outreach to help with some funding, I would visit churches in small towns around Wichita and a lot of those people didn’t have healthcare either. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we could have little clinics in some of these surrounding towns. They opened that recent one in Clearwater that’s kind of what I had in mind. So, I was real happy to see that come to fruition.

Inside GraceMed’s former Mosley St. Clinic

Inside GraceMed’s former Mosley St. Clinic

Were there some noteworthy milestones that stand out?

During the time I was there, we decided to apply for this particular status with the federal government to become a federally qualified health center look-alike. GraceMed now is federally qualified health clinic, which means we are able to get funding from the federal government. But at the time, that wasn’t the case. The look-alikes didn’t qualify for funding. Instead of getting a fee for service, we received cost-based reimbursement, which did make a big difference. We also had to become a separate corporation. So we incorporated as United Methodist Health Clinic.

At one point, we had a surgeon who worked with us half a day every two weeks. We did little surgeries, one I particularly remember. This boy came in with a cyst under his tongue. He couldn’t even get his mouth shut. We went in and drained the cyst so he was more comfortable. That’s the kind of thing we did. Just minor things. But they were major to people who had them.

First satellite location of clinic that would later become the Healthy Family Clinic

First satellite location of clinic that would later become the Healthy Family Clinic

Who are some of the people you remember who played an important role in our history?

The first one I would mention was Sandra Parker Lyon, who was our executive director at the time. She had been with the clinic for a long time, ever since they had first established it, I think. She stayed with us through the transition to United Methodist Health Clinic. She made a big contribution to the growth of the clinic.

Another person was Dr. Jana Nisly who was working there when I came. She was our medical director, and she just had a nice manner with the patients and the families and really a good spirit to work with people. We were getting a lot of Hispanic families in at that time and Dr. Nisly spoke Spanish. All of us learned a little bit of it. She went on to be a missionary in El Salvador where she still lives.

What’s your perspective on all the changes that have happened at GraceMed?

Dr. Robb White treats a couple of young patients

Dr. Robb White treats a couple of young patients

It’s really hard to believe that GraceMed is where it is now. We were working out of this little clinic down on Mosley St., and the first (new) one that we took on was the Healthy Children’s Clinic at Lincoln School. Then they opened one out at Evergreen that’s now located at Cloud Elementary. The school-based clinic idea has been a real good one for GraceMed.

When I was doing outreach to help with some funding, I would visit churches in small towns around Wichita and a lot of those people didn’t have healthcare either. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we could have little clinics in some of these surrounding towns. They opened that recent one in Clearwater that’s kind of what I had in mind. So, I was real happy to see that come to fruition.

Eventually you transitioned into a different role entirely at GraceMed. How did the volunteer Guild get started?

I was kind of just thinking about ways we could increase things like funding, advocacy and visibility for the clinic because so many people didn’t even know about us. And all of a sudden it came to me that we could have an auxiliary organization. I had just retired from nursing, so I called up all my friends who are retired nurses and asked if they would like to help me do this. We had our first meeting down at College Hill United Methodist Church in the fall of 2002. One of the first things we did was have a Christmas party for the staff. I think that was the very first the staff would have known anything about us.

Rosalyn Welch, PA, with a patient

Rosalyn Welch, PA, with a patient

Another interesting thing we got involved in was this national pilot project to identify undiagnosed diabetics. We helped to set up little stations at various places in grocery stores and offered free blood testing. We did identify a number of people who had really high blood sugars that had no idea they were diabetic. Later on, the government decided to reimburse us for this work, and the Guild ended up gaining $19,000 for the clinics.

Then we had two chili suppers partly as fundraisers and partly because we just wanted to get more visibility for the clinic. Both were held at East Heights United Methodist Church a year apart and each one made several thousand dollars. They were so much fun for everybody.

The next year we decided this was too much work for a bunch of retired women. So we started the “virtual” chili supper, and we’ve done that now for fourteen years. That’s a lot less work and makes a good bit more money for us too. We used it to buy an optometry machine one year. Last year, part of the money went for vouchers for people that just couldn’t afford the copay for their care.

What have your experiences with GraceMed taught you?

Mai Nguyen, APRN, with a patient

Mai Nguyen, APRN, with a patient

The need for low cost healthcare has continued to grow. Who would have expected that the cost of health insurance was going to be the better part of people’s paychecks? Personally, I’ve learned a lot about financing of healthcare and the technology associated with it. I was an OB nurse, primarily. At GraceMed, I began to get a wide range of experience with the things that people are dealing with and the medications they use. I never had anything to do with the business side of healthcare before. So that’s all been a real learning experience as I’ve worked on the Board of Directors.

The important thing that we never can lose sight of is our goal to provide quality healthcare for as many people as we

possibly can, so they can continue to be productive. Being well is such a huge part of our self concept and our ability to provide for ourselves and our families.

Kyle Bowen
Adopt a Patient and Change the World — One Patient at a Time
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It’s hard to think of anything more personal than our health. Or more essential to the quality of our lives. If you have your health, they say, you have everything.

But what about those for whom staying healthy just isn’t economically possible?

Unfortunately, more and more of us struggle to afford healthcare these days.

GraceMed is able to provide care for thousands of patients through our Voucher Fund which is supported by generous donations from the community. Knowing that there are many of us who would prefer to help on a more personal basis, GraceMed is developing a new program called Adopt-A-Patient.

Respecting the privacy of our patients and their health information is critical, so the Adopt-A-Patient program will operate under guidelines that include obtaining the fully-informed consent of the patients who are eligible to participate. We will develop a roster of candidates who either do not have insurance or who have high-deductible plans and are facing substantial expenses related to their care.

For patients who are willing to share their stories, we want to create opportunities to connect with someone who cares enough to help them personally. It’s a great chance for someone who wants to help to connect with individual patients and build relationships of trust and compassion.
— Dave Sanford, GraceMed CEO

How to participate in the Adopt-a-Patient Program

If you’re interested in adopting a patient or participating as a patient receiving benefits from the program, please complete the form below.

Kyle Bowen