Rebecca Smith | KBIA

Rebecca Smith

Health Reporter

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.

Ways to Connect

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Missouri has entered its sixth month of navigating the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and for dozens of health departments across the state, CARES Act funding has been slow to arrive.

That means crucial public-health positions like contact tracers and case investigators have been left unfilled. So, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services has found one creative stop-gap – Masters in Public Health student volunteers.


Scott Clardy, left, and Lynelle Phillips, right, stand socially distanced – six feet apart – with a map of Boone County between them.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Lynelle Phillips and Scott Clardy both work with Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services. Scott is the Assistant Director and Lynelle is a professor at the University of Missouri who leads a team of contact investigator volunteers.

They spoke about the bad rap that college age students get when it comes to testing positive for COVID-19 and about some of the ways college students can help keep themselves and their community – safe. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

After a night of what seemed like neck-in-neck results, Missourians have voted “Yes” on Amendment 2.

The final results were about 53 percent “yes” to 47 percent “no,” which makes Missouri the 38th state to pass Medicaid Expansion.


The VanMorlan Family from left to right – Mom Amie, daughter Sagan, dad Mr. VanMorlan, and son Damien. They are joined by their two dogs.
Provided by Amie VanMorlan

Amie VanMorlan lives and works in Columbia. She’s the incoming President of the local SEPTA, or special education PTA, a pediatric endocrinologist and the mom of Sagan and Damien.

Sagan is an upcoming senior, and Damien is an almost 7th grader who has Fragile X syndrome. This condition can lead to intellectual disabilities and autism, and is the leading inherited cause of intellectual disability.

Amie spoke about some of the ways Damien and rest of the family are adjusting to the world of COVID-19.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Green Leaf Dental Care

Many things have changed for dental practices since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic – starting with several months of closures dealing with only oral health emergencies. Now, dentists are having to figure out how to preserve PPE, or personal protective equipment, enforce social distancing and minimize the risk of disease spread as they reopen their practices.

And while these are serious challenges, some practitioners and oral health advocates are encouraged at a possible positive outcome of the ongoing pandemic – the increased interest in and implementation of teledentistry.


Carlos Wade is an inmate at the Southeast Correctional Center in the Bootheel, and is currently working in the facility’s medical unit to keep things sanitized and, ideally, help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Southeast Correctional Center recently had an outbreak of COVID-19 cases – where 47 inmates and 20 staff members tested positive, so Carlos called me to talk about what life is like in prison during the ongoing pandemic and about some of his concerns.

According to the Department of Corrections, since the initial sentinel, or facility-wide testing was done, all but one inmate and three staff members have recovered from COVID-19.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Verna Laboy, left, stands next to Dee Campbell-Carter, right. They both smile broadly into the camera.
Provided by Dee Campbell-Carter

Verna Laboy and Dee Campbell-Carter have both lived in Columbia for many years and work with the Live Well by Faith program through Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services, a community-based program that targets chronic health conditions, like hypertension and diabetes, in Black churches.

Verna is the health educator and leader of the program, and Dee is a lifestyle coach. They shared – as Black mothers and grandmothers – just a few of their experiences with systematic racism throughout their lives, and they spoke about how racism is a trauma for everyone.


Provided by Dr. Mack Taylor

Dr. Mack Taylor lives and works in the Bootheel. He’s the Chief Dental Officer for the SEMO Health Network and the provider at the Bernie dental clinic.

He spoke about the “new normal” of dental practice during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and how new safety precautions are impacting the care available to patients.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Dr. Opeoluwa Sotonwa is the executive director of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Jefferson City.

He spoke about the importance of accessible communication for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Missourians and about some recent advances – like the availability of clear masks and American Sign Language interpreters at Governor Mike Parson’s COVID-19 briefings – and how those have impacted the lives and well-being of all Missourians during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Sunday Marks A Month Of Protests In Columbia

Jun 29, 2020
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Sunday's protest at Boone County Courthouse marked a month of continuing Black Lives Matter marches in Columbia, spurred by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.


Verna Laboy, left, stands next to Dee Campbell-Carter, right. They both smile broadly into the camera.
Provided by Dee Campbell-Carter

Verna Laboy is a health educator for Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services, and runs the Live Well by Faith program, a community-based health program that targets chronic health conditions through black churches. 

The program supports health ministries at 17 black churches in the area by providing health programming, training and resources for people in the congregation, and leaders within each church help run programming and do data collection.

She spoke with Dee Campbell-Carter, a lifestyle coach for the program, about just a few of the ways the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting the black community here in Columbia – and how they’re supporting one another.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Zia Kelly / KBIA

Hundreds gathered in Downtown Columbia this weekend for several demonstrations protesting police violence after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. 


Tashel Bordere is a specialist in youth development with the University of Missouri’s Department of Human Development and Family Science. She researches grief and loss in African-American youth.

She spoke with host Janet Saidi about cumulative loss and its impact on marginalized communities during the on-going coronavirus pandemic, as well as the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

This is an excerpt from KBIA’s daily talk show, the Check-In with Janet Saidi, on Wednesday, June 3. You can hear the full show – here.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Protestors walked the streets of Columbia Monday night, as part of the ongoing nationwide response to the killing of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police.


MCDHH Facebook Page

The Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing announced today that they’re making clear, accessible masks available to Missourians.

These accessible masks have clear fronts, which allow people to clearly see an individual’s mouth while they speak. This aspect of communication is critical for those who read lips and an integral part of effective communication for those who speak American Sign Language.


Provided by Jordan Parshall

Many routine medical procedures have been postponed or rescheduled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but there is one common medical condition that cannot be put off so easily – pregnancy.

So, hospitals in Mid-Missouri have had to determine the best ways to keep moms, babies and staff safe, as well as reduce anxiety for expectant mothers.


Meiying Wu

Today, new guidance was announced for a wider reopening of businesses and activity in Columbia and Boone County.

According to the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, there have been 108 positive COVID-19 cases in the area, with nine being active and one person hospitalized.


Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

There will be a COVID-19 testing event held in Columbia on June 1st and 2nd from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. according to a press release from the Department of Health and Senior Services. This event is part of Governor Parson’s plan to increase testing volume in Missouri to 7,500 test a day.

The Boone County event will take place at Hickman High School. The only requirement for individuals who wish to be tested is Missouri residency. There are no symptom or doctor’s note requirements nor do people need to live in Boone County to be tested.

Dr. John Dane, left, wears a light blue polo and glasses. Gary Harbison, right, wears a dark blue button up and glasses.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Dr. John Dane is the state Dental Director and Gary Harbison is the executive director of the Missouri Coalition for Oral Health.

They spoke about some of the concerns they have about the possible long-term impacts of COVID-19 on oral health, as many dental clinics have been closed and Missourians may have gotten out of a normal oral health routine.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Starting Monday, May 18, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will be recommending more testing in long-term care facilities, in an effort to increase COVID-19 testing within high-risk environments.


Since working from home began, Counselor Madeline Nash often works alongside a new “co-worker,” her daughter Willa.
Provided by Madeline Nash

Madeline Nash is a counselor at University Counseling Services at Truman State University in Kirksville, and full disclosure, someone I knew during my undergrad at Truman.

She spoke about her role with college students since classes moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic, and about how students – and others – should “give themselves that empathy” to mourn the loss of things like graduation during this unprecedented time.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Provided by Dr. Bart Andrews

Dr. Bart Andrews is the Chief Clinical Officer at Behavioral Health Response in Creve Coeur and Chair of the Missouri Suicide Prevention Network.

He spoke with KBIA producer Trevor Hook about the possible increased risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts during the coronavirus pandemic – and about what everyone can do to help. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Sarah Dresser / KBIA

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have been playing a larger-than-ever role in response to the crisis.

So, Dr. Mary Beck, the Chief Nursing Officer for University of Missouri Health Care and a professor at MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, spoke about some of the ways nurses have been trained and are continuing to get prepared for a potential COVID-19 surge.

This is an excerpt from KBIA’s daily talk show, the Check-In with Janet Saidi, on Wednesday, April 15. You can hear the full show – here.


Provided by Louise Secker

In 2011, a devastating EF5 tornado tore through the city of Joplin, and in the wake of that disaster, Lafayette House was there to provide services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Louise Secker is the Director of Development for Lafayette House in Joplin. The shelter assists survivors of domestic and sexual violence, as well as people with substance use disorders. She spoke with KBIA’s Rebecca Smith about how the lessons of the 2011 Joplin tornado have helped them adjust to delivering care to survivors during the current COVID-19 pandemic.


Sheree Keely is the executive director at Citizens Against Domestic Violence, a domestic and sexual violence shelter in Camdenton, Missouri.

She spoke about the crisis hotline the organization is continuing to run – from employee’s homes – and about how they’re doing their best to meet the needs of survivors in rural Missouri. She said that she believes calls will continue to increase in the weeks to come.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

KBIA

Dr. Michael Lefevre is the interim chair of MU’s Department of Family Medicine. He researches best practices in family medicine and public health, and is a physician himself.

Dr. Lefevre spoke about how the field of family medicine is changing during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect staff and patients – and to keep the most vulnerable among us, safe.

This is an excerpt from KBIA’s daily talk show, the Check-In with Janet Saidi, on Monday, April 13. You can hear the full show – here.


Provided by Dr. Preethi Yerram

By now, most people will probably have heard that older and immunocompromised individuals have a higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19. But for one group of patients, those who need dialysis – the normal recommendations of simply isolating at home, isn’t really an option.

Dr. Preethi Yerram is a nephrologist for the University of Missouri Health Care System, as well as the Medical Director at the DCI Transitional Care Unit and Home Dialysis Unit here in Columbia. She spoke with KBIA’s Rebecca Smith about the additional risks that individuals receiving dialysis are having to navigate during the COVID-19 pandemic – as they have to risk exposure every time they receive necessary, life-sustaining treatment.

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