Kansas City’s Truman Medical Center changes name to University Health

Contributed Photo

Patients, clients and supporters of Truman Medical Centers/University Health (TMC/UH)have come to know the health system as Kansas City’s essential, safety net hospital, providing medical care to all. As of October 1, Truman Medical Centers/University Health will become simply University Health (UH).

The reason for the change is simple; the name University Health reminds patients, partners and community members that it is an academic medical center. The name University Health highlights its partnership as the primary teaching hospital of the University of Missouri –  Kansas City (UMKC) Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Dentistry. 

“If you go back about six years ago, we were looking for a name for our new medical office building, which is at 22nd and Charlotte,” said Charlie Shields, University Health President and CEO. “We talked to our patients, did a number of focus groups, and what they told us is they absolutely understood what the mission and vision was of Truman Medical Centers, that it was the place where people with the best insurance card could receive care and people that had no insurance card could receive care.”

What they didn’t understand, though, was the health system’s role as an academic medical center. University Health is the teaching hospital for the University of Missouri in Kansas City’s Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dental and Nursing.

“Somehow it was escaping this community, so we chose to begin naming – that facility first, but then throughout our clinics and the metro – we used the name University Health,” Shields said.

As an academic medical center, it attracts doctors, nurses, and scientists focused on the latest research to help heal the most complex cases.

“We consistently attract and retain the brightest minds and biggest hearts who are committed to teaching the next generation of doctors and clinicians,” Shields said. “For our patients, this means a team of experts – doctors, residents, and other healthcare professionals – all working together towards the best possible outcome.”

The students they train learn from the best teachers and leaders in their field, Shields said. The partnership provides cutting-edge technology, extensive opportunities to further research, and more well-trained eyes on complex cases.

“Our patients have access to the absolute best technology, the best doctors providing their care,” Shields said. “That’s meaningful because that relates back to our mission of ‘for all,’ whether you have the best insurance or no insurance, you get the same exact care.”

Contributed Photo

UH patients can expect to see an attending physician, residents – physicians learning their specialty – and medical students, which Shields sees as a great advantage.

Prior to the October 1st rebranding, the hospital was Truman Medical Center/University Health. It originally opened as General Hospital, the first hospital in Kansas City, Mo., built in 1870 then rebuilt in the early 1900s into two racially segregated facilities. The hospitals joined in 1957, forming a facility that later became the teaching hospital for the new UMKC Medical School, and a major component in the Health Sciences District, a master plan designed by community leaders for the consolidation and improvement of hospitals in the Kansas City area. The new medical school and connected hospital were dedicated in 1976.

Today, UH operates two hospitals, one in the Health Science District of Kansas City, which will retain the name University Health Truman Medical Center, and one in Lee’s Summit, which will be University Health Lakewood Medical Center.

The roots of Truman Medical Center (TMC) Lakewood go back even further to the mid 1800s, when Jackson County purchased a large farm for the purpose of caring for those who could no longer care for themselves. It was Harry S. Truman who set the ball rolling on a path that would lead to today’s two-hospital system.

In 1928, Truman, then the presiding judge of the Jackson County Court, campaigned for and saw passage of a bond issue that led to construction of the Rural Jackson County Emergency Hospital on the grounds of the farm. In the 1970s, TMC and UMKC School of Medicine were established as the Health Sciences District and joined with the old county hospital, which became Truman Medical Center East. In early 2000, the names were officially changed to Truman Medical Center Health Sciences District and Truman Medical Center Lakewood.

“We believe strongly in the belief that Harry Truman had, that all folks should have access to quality care,” Shields said. “He was one of the first ones to design a system where everybody had access. He did that when he was president, but even when we moved to Medicaid and Medicare, Harry and Bess were card No. 1 and card No. 2 in the Medicaid system. We want to maintain that legacy that’s meaningful not only to our staff, but to our patients.”

Contributed Photo

Shields has been with University Health for a little over 11 years, and in that time they’ve continued to grow, including University Health on the Go clinics in HyVee grocery stores. They’ve built two buildings in the Health Science District, University Health I and University Health II, and modernized other facilities, the addition of in-patient rooms, a new NICU opening this month, a new Labor and Delivery Unit, and other expansions.

“There’s been a lot of growth in the community lately, through the pandemic, and the realization of what this organization means to the community and the fact that we led on testing, we led on vaccinations throughout this community,” Shields said. “We’ve done close to 120,000 vaccinations and almost 160,000 tests.”

The name University Health already appears on many of its buildings and clinics. The October 1 rebrand will bring all facilities in the organization under the same University Health umbrella.

“Healthcare continues to grow, we continue to see needs out in the community and as those needs develop you can see us actually try and fill those needs,” Shields said. “When we see a need out there, within our community that we serve, we’ll try and meet that need so you can expect to see continued growth in our organization in the future.”

While its name will change, the mission remains the same. UH’s caring doctors, nurses, and medical staff are committed to providing the highest levels of care to everyone. As they enter a new era as University Health, it will continue to provide care to the people of Kansas City and Jackson County.

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