Published on August 18, 2019

Mollie Coffey, Amani Austin, Ana Tosta

Mollie Coffey, Amani Austin and Ana Tosta are graduates of the first LMH Health Foundation Leadership Academy. Photo by Darren Moore/LMH Health.

LMH Health focuses on health equity, inclusion and diversity

by Courtney Bernard

While health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved for most Americans, some groups experience a disproportionate burden of preventable disease, death and disability.

This nationwide issue is visible in our own community: Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department’s 2018 Health Equity Report shows disparities in health by income and education. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted by their social determinants of health, such as availability of resources like safe housing and food, and access to job opportunities and healthcare. Residents with low income are also affected. 

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible, and that requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, education and housing. 

LMH Health is building programs to help bridge the health equity gap. LMH Health President and CEO Russ Johnson believes this work is integral to the hospital’s role as a partner in lifelong health. 

“As much as eighty percent of health is determined by social factors—where you live, education, how much money you make,” said Johnson. “One of the strongest predictors of life expectancy is zip code, and in Lawrence, adjacent zip codes have an eight-year discrepancy in life expectancy. LMH Health must partner with others and extend our work into these areas that can affect the health of our patients.” 

Thanks to collaborations with donors, community partners and businesses, LMH Health is making progress in key areas, including diversifying the healthcare workforce, educating the community about implicit bias, and providing two critical opportunities to help patients pay for care. 

LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy

Providing more opportunities for healthcare career education is one path to improve health equity in our community. 

Erica Hill

To address this challenge, LMH Health and USD 497 launched a new program this year: the LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy. The Academy engages high school juniors and seniors and gives them a jumpstart on careers in healthcare administration, medicine and allied health. LMH Health Equity Advocate Erica Hill, who also serves as the finance and operations manager for LMH Health Foundation, founded the Academy. 

“The Academy provides a unique experience for students to learn and gain healthcare experience, and also hopes to engage more students of demographics traditionally underrepresented throughout healthcare,” said Hill. “This investment cultivates future leaders who more fully represent the diversity of our community.”  

Three local high school students were selected to participate in the Academy through a paid eight-week internship. Ana Tosta, Mollie Coffey and Amani Austin were each paired with an executive mentor, participated in professional development opportunities such as workshops and training, and had the opportunity to engage with other leaders in the Lawrence community. 

At the conclusion of the program, each student received a $500 scholarship. These scholarships, which were funded through the LMH Health Foundation, will support the students in their planned post-secondary education.

LMH Health physician Marc Scarbrough, MD, and his wife, Stephanie, gave a generous gift to make these scholarships possible. If you are interested in supporting the LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy, please contact LMH Health Foundation at 785-505-5005 or foundation@lmh.org.

Upcoming Seminar: Unlocking Implicit Bias

Another factor in equity is implicit bias—the unintentional, unconscious stereotypes or automatic assessments that we all make about people whose backgrounds differ from our own. When implicit bias occurs among doctors, educators, and other professionals, the results can have a direct impact on our community. 

Plans are underway to host a special seminar on implicit bias. Mark your calendar for this event on October 1 from 6-7:30 pm at the Lawrence Arts Center. Jabraan Pasha, MD, of the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, will be the keynote speaker, accompanied by three LMH Health physician panelists. Visit lmh.org/foundation for more information.  

LMH Health Foundation, formerly LMH Endowment Association, is a 501(c)(3) that leverages more than $11 million in philanthropic assets to provide average annual donor support of more than $1.8 million to LMH Health. The organization is governed by a board of directors, which guides programs to grow investments in patient care, community education, charitable care, wellness and more.
LMH Health Foundation provided a record $3.5 million of donor support to LMH Health in 2018, and this year, the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Help & Healing Fund

Healthcare for all, regardless of the ability to pay, is central to LMH Health’s purpose. In 2006, LMH Health Foundation established the Help and Healing Fund to help patients in need with expenses for medications, medical equipment or other necessities for healing and recovery after a hospital stay.

Gifts to the Help and Healing Fund provide up to $300 or a 30-day supply of medication that LMH Health physicians have prescribed. So far this year, the LMH Health Foundation has provided support for 382 requests from patients for the medications and medical equipment critical to their recovery. 

This assistance, which ensures patients stay on the path to healthy living and safe healing, is funded through private gifts by community members and through the LMH Health Employee Campaign. 

Cancer Screening Vouchers

Race and ethnicity is central to health, as diseases like cancer can affect individuals differently. For example, African American women are nearly twice as likely as white women to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer and are much more likely than white women to die from breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.   

LMH Health Foundation, through funds raised via the annual oncology fundraiser Rock the Block – Kick Cancer, offers vouchers to cover the costs of mammograms, breast biopsies, and prostate screenings. To learn how you can receive a voucher, please call LMH Health Patient Accounts at 785-505-5775. 

To learn more about these programs, please visit lmh.org/foundation.


Courtney Bernard is a development coordinator for LMH Health Foundation. 

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LMH Health focuses on health equity, inclusion and diversity