Celebrating Five Years at Vibrant Health

Photo of Patrick Sallee

A Message from Vibrant Health President & CEO

On May 5, 1990, Turner House Children’s Clinic opened its doors for the first time. We were an all-volunteer clinic, focused on providing medical services to children in Wyandotte County. One of our very first patients was a toddler, whose teen mom was pregnant with her second child. I think about this patient and her mom often. The systemic issues and disparities we face in our community, as well as around the country, have changed little since Turner House was created, but our ability to support this family, and families like them, has grown substantially. 

In 2016, the board made a very bold decision to entirely restructure the board, hire a new CEO and pursue a significant federal designation based on a vision for larger impact in Kansas City, KS. This decision, recognizing the need for Federally Qualified Health Center status and the courage to pursue it, has been pivotal in our ability to provide important services to our community. Not surprisingly, our 32-year history as an organization is filled with committed, courageous and visionary leaders. 

In a letter in 1675, Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Vibrant Health is the beneficiary of the vision and effort of many such giants. 

Our late founders, Dr. Frank Vaughters and Dr. Tony Diehl, were two of the founding physicians of Turner House Clinic. They served as medical directors, volunteer recruiters, fundraisers and practice administrators to get this operation off the ground. We would not exist without their passion and vision.

Five years ago, I arrived with the task of executing the aggressive vision the board had established. The goal was to move from a single, pediatric, safety net clinic to a Federally Qualified Health Center with multiple locations and a wide range of services. It certainly felt like a daunting task, but it was also very clear that the board was committed. Additionally, the board’s commitment was equaled by dedicated partners. The University of Kansas Health System and The University of Kansas School of Medicine/School of Nursing also pledged to make this effort succeed. 

Thanks to the board’s leadership, courage, vision, and the commitment and passion of our incredible staff, we have built on the Turner House legacy and relentlessly pursued new opportunities. We have grown from a pediatric clinic serving about 5,000 patients to providing care to nearly 20,000 patients this year at four locations, one with an on-site pharmacy. We have expanded our relationships with The University of Kansas Medical Center, The University of Kansas Health System and developed a strong, new relationship with Children’s Mercy Hospital in 2021. By the end of this year, we will have expanded into an additional new clinic space for adult medicine as well as opened our second in-house pharmacy location.

Over the last year, our board and staff have been working on a strategic plan to define the future of our work. A key fact we kept in mind is that 80% of the factors affecting health outcomes happen outside of clinical care. Read that again. Eighty percent of the factors affecting health outcomes happen outside of clinical care. Poor nutrition leads to negative health outcomes. Lack of affordable housing causes poor health outcomes. Lack of access to jobs paying a livable wage has an impact on the health of individuals and our community.

We provide high quality and accessible health care, but to make the difference we must make, we have to do more. The data is very clear. Disparities that have existed in our community for generations have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Vibrant Health must be a leader in addressing these issues. 

One of my mentors asks me regularly, “What does success look like?” As we thought about that question in relation to our planning, we committed to our core beliefs and to improve health equity in Wyandotte County. 

We believe:

Equitable access to health care is a human right.

The patient is at the core of everything we do. 

We offer respect, support and empathy toward everyone.

There is great power in our combined efforts.

We celebrate the differences in who we are, what we’ve experienced, and how we think. 

We embrace innovation and change, striving to be better every day.

I believe that the founders of our organization – the volunteer physicians, board members and donors that made this entire effort possible – believed fully in these same values. 

The work necessary to move the needle here doesn’t happen with us alone. This is a team effort from a lot of great organizations and individuals doing important work. We are supported by generous foundation and corporate donors who are also devoted to addressing equity issues. We are blessed by generous individuals and we are extremely fortunate to employ people whose commitment to serving our patients equals that of our founders.

-Patrick Sallee, Vibrant Health President & CEO