20 to Know: Health care professionals in Kansas City – Kansas City Business Journal – The Business Journals


Patrick Sallee is CEO of Vibrant Health — and one of the 20 to Know in health care.
Adam Vogler | KCBJ
Welcome to a continuing feature in the Kansas City Business Journal introducing readers to people they should get to know in key industries and categories. In this installment, Editor Brian Kaberline shares 20 health care professionals to know — each including a short explanation of why that person is on the list.
This is our first installment this year introducing you to 20 people you should know in various industries. Last year, we detailed 20 to Know in banking, engineering, insurance, innovation and commercial real estate.
We designed this feature as a replacement for the Power 100 lists published in previous years. Although those lists had value chronicling top executives and officials, they were — as someone said — people you already know.
You’ll see that each 20 to Know list is filled with powerful people. We expect that you’ll already know a few of the people on each list. But pay extra attention to those you don’t know to expand your market knowledge — and perhaps your network.
Chief medical officer, Liberty Hospital
Adiga has been front and center in Liberty Hospital’s response to Covid-19. In addition to being the hospital’s chief medical officer, he also is a leading infectious disease physician. The latter was confirmed in 2020, when Adiga was named as a fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America — the field’s highest honor. He has been chief medical officer since 2018 at Liberty Hospital, the area’s 13th-largest based on admissions. In addition to practicing medicine, Adiga previously was a clinical associate professor at Kansas City University.
Regional CEO, Prime Healthcare 
Benz was named in December 2019 to oversee four metro-area hospitals: Providence Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Saint John Hospital. The job has involved bringing the hospitals back from the challenges faced before Prime Healthcare bought Providence and Saint John from Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, and St. Joseph and St. Mary’s from Carondelet Health.
Before taking the regional job with Prime Healthcare, Benz was market CEO for Tenet Healthcare/Carondelet Health network in Tucson, Arizona. He also has been CEO of hospitals in Tucson and North Carolina.
Vice president and administrator, Crittenton Children’s Center
Butler recently changed jobs — and hospital systems — but her focus on children’s health remains. She began as leader of Saint Luke’s Health System’s Crittenton Children’s Center in November, after working in the Children’s Mercy system for 15 years.
Butler oversees an institution whose history extends back a century and that addresses one of the most pressing health needs for children today. Crittenton provides inpatient, outpatient and residential treatment for behavioral health and substance abuse.
Butler’s honors include the Kansas City Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business and the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award.
Executive dean and vice provost for medical affairs, Kansas City University
Although Cox got a new title in November, he’s anything but a new face at Kansas City University. A graduate of KCU’s medical school, he returned in 2006 and has worked his way up from faculty member through a variety of leadership posts.
As executive dean for the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and vice provost for medical affairs, he leads development of curriculum, works to develop faculty and deals with accrediting and regulatory bodies. He also oversees medical operations at KCU’s clinics and partnerships that give students practical experience at area providers.
Founder and CEO, Kansas City Direct Primary Care
Edwards’ practice stresses the first word in “health care.” As a direct primary care business, Edwards deals with patients, instead of insurance companies. For a flat fee, members get unlimited — and longer — visits during office hours without copays or extra visit fees.
While caring for her patients, the University of Kansas School of Medicine grad also devotes considerable time to dealing with the ills of the health care system — from fee structures to schedules and demands that leave physicians burned out. She speaks extensively about reform and is a regular writer for American Academy of Family Physicians publications.
Associate professor, University of Kansas Medical Center
Gurley’s master’s and doctorate degrees are in economics, not biology. With this training, along with a bachelor’s in political science, she has become an expert in population health. Gurley specializes in pulling meaning out of data from a variety of large databases. During the pandemic, she has developed forecasting models to predict the spread of Covid-19 in Kansas. She contributes to regularly updated reports that include trends in new cases, daily deaths and updates on treatments. Gurley has been an assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center for nearly 10 years.
CEO, Olathe Health
Holm leads a health system that has worked to expand services to match its fast-growing home, while also fending off competitors. The expansion has included the opening of a $100 million cancer center a few months before Holm was named as CEO in 2018 and has continued almost nonstop since. Projects include a surgery and pharmacy expansion in 2020 and plans for a new medical office building. Holm previously was CEO of an Arizona health campus and hospital. He succeeded Frank Devocelle, who was CEO of Olathe Health for 43 years.
Chief quality officer, Swope Health
Practicing as a primary care physician these days is challenge enough. But that’s just the start of Jamal’s job. As chief quality officer, she leads Swope Health’s quality and improvement efforts, as well as the organization’s work in population health that looks both at the patient and resource-allocation sides of the equation.
Jamal received a medical degree in Pakistan, then did residencies in family medicine and general preventive medicine and public health at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She also has a master’s in health from UTMB.
Senior vice president and COO, North Kansas City Hospital
Jenkins was named as COO of the area’s fifth-largest hospital, ranked by admissions, in 2019. Her career, which began as a registered nurse, has taken her in and out of Missouri, with stops in Tennessee and Texas interspersed. Before taking the lead of North Kansas City Hospital’s operations, Jenkins was COO for a 188-bed trauma center in the Phoenix area and then for SSM Health, which operates the 167-bed St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City.
Director, Kansas City Health Department
Following a high-profile public servant who had been in the post for two decades would be difficult in the best of times. Needless to say, these aren’t the best of times for public health officials at all levels.
As Jones takes the lead of the Kansas City Health Department, the pandemic continues to fill hospitals and empty schools. Complicating her job is backlash and open disdain for preventive steps like vaccinations, masks and remote learning.
Jones has experience in large-scale public health and in work with the Health Department as violence prevention and policy manager.
CEO, Research Medical Center
McClellan leads the largest of HCA Midwest’s seven area hospitals, and the area’s third-largest overall, based on admissions. The job entails overseeing nearly 3,000 physicians and staff. Getting the job was a step up from her previous role as CEO of The Women’s Hospital of Texas in the Houston area — a job that included growth and expansion, and garnered her a spot among the Houston Business Journal’s 2018 Most Admired CEOs.
Coming to Research also was a homecoming for the Overland Park native, one of the Kansas City Business Journal’s 2021 Women Who Mean Business honorees.
Division director, Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapeutics, The University of Kansas Cancer Center
McGuirk leads the division at The University of Kansas Cancer Center dealing with blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. He helped build the practice into one of the center’s specialties. Although he began by emphasizing the use of bone marrow transplants to treat cancers, he also has become a leading authority on CAR-T therapy, in which a patient’s white blood cells are extracted, taught to recognize and attack cancer cells, then reintroduced into the patient’s body.
Researchers hope to extend the use of CAR-T to treat other cancers.
CEO, Anesthesia Associates of Kansas City
Meisel handled patient accounts when he joined Anesthesia Associates of Kansas City nearly 40 years ago. In 2018, he was named as CEO of AAKC, the area’s largest independent physician group. Overall, the practice ranked No. 8 on the Kansas City Business Journal’s most recent Area Physician Groups List, with 69 physicians.
As the Rockhurst University grad rose in the practice, he became active in professional groups such as the Medical Group Management Association. He also is a former president of the Southtown Council board.
Director of sequencing and discovery genomics, Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Perera is an example of the world-class talent working at the Stowers Institute. She joined the institute in 2006 after being a group leader for genome sequencing work at Harvard-Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics. While at Harvard, she worked with one of the pioneers of using modified mice to research cancer in humans.
In 2019, Perera was named as director of sequencing and discovery genomics at the Stowers Institute. She works to aid research by making gene-sequencing technologies available to others on the institute’s scientific staff. 
Chief human resources officer, University Health
A hospital system is only as good as its employees. And Pullins’ job is to help University Health (formerly Truman Medical Centers) attract and retain the best. It’s a big job in a system with more than 4,500 employees spread across two hospital campuses and clinics throughout Jackson County.
Beyond the HR duties that usually come to mind, Pullins also works to develop leadership in the system and serves as its lead on labor-management issues.
Pullins’ people focus extends to her service to nonprofits and associations dealing with health, education and human relations.
Interim dean, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies
Roberts isn’t your usual “interim.” She has had the title since August 2019 and held associate and assistant dean roles at the school before that. She’s been on the nursing school faculty since 1995.
Through it all, the school has prospered. Its master’s of science in nursing (MSN) program has been among the top 50 nationwide for 10 consecutive years, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. The program was a pioneer of distance learning, a particular benefit during the pandemic.
In addition to holding an MSN degree, Roberts earned a law degree from UMKC.
President, Black Health Care Coalition Inc.
Robinson is well-known as a member of the Kansas City Council. But she deserves notice in health care, too.
The nonprofit Black Health Care Coalition works to end disparities in access to care and outcomes for Kansas City’s Black residents. It’s a mission as vast as it is vital to address.
The coalition works to bring change through advocacy on issues such as strengthening the health safety net and working to educate professionals and Kansas City residents. A recent emphasis has been increasing the rate of Covid-19 vaccination. 
CEO, Vibrant Health
In his five years leading Vibrant Health, Sallee has guided the nonprofit through a change of name and a dramatic increase in its reach. Vibrant resulted from Turner House being designated a Federally Qualified Health Center and a merger with two other Wyandotte County clinics. Today, Vibrant has four locations offering medical and dental care, plus women’s and behavioral health services. It serves 20,000 mainly low-income patients a year.
Sallee, a member of the Kansas City Business Journal’s 2021 NextGen Leaders, said he realized in college the disparities in opportunities available based on where someone is born.
CEO, AdventHealth South Overland Park
Verrill had years of health care leadership experience before coming to the Kansas City area, but being CEO of a hospital is new territory. It’s fitting because the hospital he’s leading is opening new territory, too.
Verrill was named to head the new AdventHealth South Overland Park in October 2020. He oversaw the completion of construction and staffing for the $150 million hospital, which began admitting patients in October 2021. The hospital is a main component of AdventHealth’s expansion through Southern Johnson County. The new hospital isn’t done growing: It opened with 38 beds but is licensed for 85.
Chief emergency management medical officer, Children’s Mercy
Watts’ work in emergency medicine took on a much larger scope due to Covid-19. She was a leader in plotting and executing the hospital’s response to the pandemic. That included planning for drive-up testing while also seeing that Children’s Mercy could continue to safely provide non-Covid-related care. Watts worked to increase vaccination of staff. That extended to vaccination of children — working with continuing changes in approvals of vaccines for younger and younger patients.
Watts also is an associate professor with the University of Missouri-Kansas City and University of Kansas medical schools.
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