Jeron Ravin, CEO
On the occasion of Our Health MattersTM 16th Anniversary Edition, we are proud to feature a conversation with Jeron Ravin, President and CEO of Swope Health which has provided quality healthcare since 1969.
Ruth Ramsey, publisher of Our Health MattersTM, had the privilege of having a very insightful conversation with Mr. Ravin that follows:
Ramsey: Swope Health has served the Kansas City community for more than 50 years. Share with us what’s new and exciting.
Ravin: Oh, wow, that’s a great question. I like to think the best is yet to come. I think I’m most proud at least during my tenure … we have a $15 million senior facility opening up next year, just directly west of the Swope central location. It’s a program called PACE that stands for the Program All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. It’s an adult daycare program setting to ensure that seniors have an opportunity to “age in place” as opposed to going to a nursing home. PACE will treat seniors 2-3 days a week in that facility. They will have access to everything from arts, music, their pharmaceutical needs, speech therapy and more. We will offer transportation to and from their homes every day. So, it’s pretty all inclusive. I like to think about it as a senior spa.
Ramsey: What are some of the things you think have impacted your mission over the years?
Ravin: Obviously, funding. I think we appreciate the frequent conversation around health access and health equity. And the ability for disenfranchised people of all colors to start to realize that it’s a fight that we need to take on together. That Medicaid, Medicare is not a Black issue itself, but something that we all can benefit from. I think the other thing that’s changed quite a bit is we continue to be challenged to find more African American professionals and healthcare executives. That’s something that I also, frankly believe Swope probably did a better job of, while other healthcare organizations did a better job in more recent years than we are doing now.
Ramsey: Would you say that what sets Swope apart is the fact that you’re culturally competent and the diversity of the people you serve?
Ravin: No question about it—we have the most diverse executive team in the region. And our goal is to ensure that this cascades down throughout our organization. So, if you look at certain segments of the healthcare industry, we are not graduating the number of black providers that we used to in medical schools, particularly in predominantly white medical schools. Now, of course, Morehouse, Howard University and Meharry are going to turn out theirs. But other institutions are not seeing that they need to do a better job. Frankly, they need to do a better job of attracting Black students, making sure they graduate so they can come to work in community health centers like Swope.
Ramsey: Over the 50 years, you targeted a particular population. Has that changed?
Ravin: Yeah, absolutely. But I think it goes back to the call I made earlier about healthcare really being something that’s not all the same.
Healthcare is a basic human right and we should be able to provide that service to anyone. Our fastest growing population in terms of patients is actually uninsured white males in our behavioral health program, believe it or not. Over 70% of our patient base is African American, but we certainly have seen an uptick in certain population segments.
But you know, I think we are diversifying our patients as our services diversify. I still think that part of the challenge and part of the reason we’re seeing a large Caucasian growth is because there’s still a stigma about behavioral health in African Americans. We’ve got to get through that. You have to be okay with going to see a therapist without feeling like it’s something to be insulted by or stigmatized by. It’s changing; healthcare is a rapid, dynamic environment and we’re just attempting to adapt to it.
Ramsey: In what ways has the COVID pandemic impacted your efforts to serve the community?
Ravin: I frankly believe that we have done more for our mission in the wake of COVID because we’ve responded to tragedy. We responded when I think communities needed us most. In 2020 we tested nearly 20,000 people in our parking lot. Every Saturday we held an event called First Saturdays where we fed families and distributed free food from Harvesters and Cisco foods, free groceries, Pampers, masks and socks. Every month we held First Saturday events where we distributed groceries, cleaning and hygiene products, as well as other family essentials.
Fast forward to this year 2021, we’ve vaccinated nearly 15,000 people now and continue to hold events. So, we were very agile and able to turn our operations quickly to serve the community. We realized that we were facing Black and Brown people who were devastated by this pandemic. I love where we are, I think we’re doing a fantastic job in terms of serving the community during this difficult time, and I hope we continue to do so.
Ramsey: Do you find that faith-based organizations are one of your most loyal and maybe consistent partnerships?
Ravin: Yeah, it is. It’s been fantastic. We’ve had a number of pastors help us communicate, help us get through this vaccine hesitancy that we’re seeing. I think people are rightfully skeptical about the vaccine science. We need to educate folks, but the pastors have been very good about at least giving us access to their congregations to have these tough conversations.
Ramsey: Swope has a fairly comprehensive strategic plan. You’ve made promises. Tell us about some of them.
Ravin: Swope has really talented people. Our strategic plan is centered around growth. Our goal is to serve as many people as we can who are in need. We also want to reestablish a presence in south Kansas City. We’re also looking at Leavenworth, Lawrence (KS), and other parts of Missouri. The state has not been welcoming in terms of Medicaid expansion, but our goal is to still serve people. We are going to continue investing in communities and enlisting elected officials and faith leaders to help us navigate challenges in terms of expanding into new communities.
Ramsey: Access to healthcare and healthcare information is absolutely critical. How can Our Health Matters support your efforts to better serve the community?
Ravin: Yes! That’s a great question. I think you’re already doing that. I think medical provider organizations need to do a better job of continuing support for publications like Our Health Matters, so that we can advertise and get people to come into our doors. I think the face of the uninsured population is a little misleading. I’ll give you a perfect example. I have an identical twin brother, an adjunct university professor. They do not provide benefits to adjunct professors and he’s an uninsured individual. He has multiple degrees, but you wouldn’t think that he would be a typical person who’s uninsured. But you can be uninsured or have Medicaid or Medicare in the blink of an eye, it’s just one life circumstance, a layoff or furlough. So, our job is continuing to support publications like Our Health Matters and advertise and tell people that our doors are open, regardless of your ability to pay.
Ramsey: Thank you, and I can certainly appreciate that. Is there anything else you’d like to share that perhaps we didn’t ask?
Ravin: No, no, you guys have uncovered all the secrets in a short time. I appreciate your time and would love to continue the conversation on how we support the magazine and how you can support us.
Ramsey: Thank you so much for your time, and we wish you continued success.
Ravin: Thank you, thank you, have a good day.
ABOUT JERON RAVIN
Jeron Ravin has been serving as CEO of Swope Health for 17 months. Originally from Houston, Texas, Ravin has worked in community health for nearly 15 years. He is a graduate of Howard University and the Thurgood Marshall Law School at Texas Southern University. Ravin also holds a Master’s from Brown University in healthcare leadership. Prior to coming to Kansas City, Ravin served as Chief Operating Officer for the Community Health Center Association of Mississippi.