This October, join us to reflect on and celebrate the service of our UMKC community, this year in a virtual format.


Each year, the University of Missouri System hosts an Engagement and Extension Week to showcase the impact university engagement and extension programming have on addressing our state’s grand challenges in economic opportunity, educational excellence and access, and health and well-being.

This year, UMKC is expanding on these ideas to create UMKC Engagement Month, a 31-day (virtual) celebration of all the ways our UMKC students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends contribute to the Kansas City community and beyond.

We hope you’ll mark your calendars for one or more of these virtual events.

UMKC Engagement Month Events

univercities-exchange-logo.pngUniverCities Exchange: Health Disparities in the Time of COVID-19  

Date: Wednesday, October 14 | 10:30-11:30 a.m. (CDT)

Hosts: UMKC and UMSL

Don't miss the first event of our new UniverCities Exchange series, a collaboration between UMKC and UMSL to highlight issues facing our urban communities. Dr. Alexander Garza (B.S. '90), Chief Community Health Officer for SSM Health, will present on the current state of public health in St. Louis and Kansas City. A panel discussion with moderator Steve Kraske of KCUR's "Up to Date" will follow. Participants include:

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Diego Abente

President and CEO of Casa de Salud
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Dr. Jannette Berkley-Patton

Director of UMKC Health Equity Institute
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Dr. Alex Garza

2016 Alumnus of the Year and Chief Community Health Officer for SSM Health

Riisa Rawlins-Easley

Chief of Staff, St. Louis Regional Health Comission
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Qiana Thomason

President/CEO, Health Forward Foundation

Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., is a professor in the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine Biomedical and Health Informatics Department. She is also the director of the Community Health Research Group, the director of the UMKC Health Equity Institute, and adjunct faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her expertise is in using community-engaged approaches to test and disseminate evidence-based health screening and linkage to care interventions focused on HIV/STDs/Hepatitis C, mental health, dementia, diabetes/heart disease and youth resilience mental health in community settings with funding from NIH, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Health Forward Foundation and others.

She is dedicated to engaging students, community-health-academic partnerships and underserved populations in addressing health disparities using novel scalable and sustainable methods. She was recently was awarded funding from NIH/NIDDK to conduct a clinical trial focused on tailoring CDC’s evidence-based Diabetes Prevention Program with components tailored for Truman Medical Center African American patients (including social determinants of health). She was also recently honored with induction into the KU Women’s Hall of Fame, awarded the University of Missouri System Cross-Cultural Community Engagement Presidential Award, and appointed as a University of Missouri System Presidential Engagement Fellow. Just this year, she was appointed as the Mr. James. B. Nutter, Mrs. Annabel Nutter, and Dr. Harry Jonas M.D. Professorship in the School of Medicine.

Diego Abente serves as President and CEO of Casa de Salud, a St. Louis nonprofit dedicated to delivering high-quality clinical and mental healthcare to the uninsured, with a special focus on the immigrant community.

Prior to joining Casa, he served as Vice President of Economic Development for the International Institute of St. Louis and President of the International Institute Community Development Corporation, where he helped immigrant entrepreneurs access the credit and develop the business acumen needed to ensure their success.

Abente also served as Paraguay’s counselor representative at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC. Earlier in his career, he managed operations for a non-profit working to eradicate malaria in Equatorial Guinea, Africa. He began his career as a staff attorney for Paraguay's Department of Treasury.

Diego received his undergraduate degree in law from the Catholic University of Paraguay, a Masters in Governance and International Development from the University of Birmingham in the UK, and an Executive Masters in Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Alexander Garza (B.S. ’90) currently serves as the Chief Community Health Officer for SSM Health in Saint Louis, Missouri, where he works to improve the lives of those in the regional community. He also serves as the Task Force Commander for the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Previously, Dr. Garza served as the Chief Medical Officer for SSM Health; Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Associate Professor for St. Louis, University; Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and the Medical Director for Emergency Medical Services for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department. He is a Colonel in the US Army Reserves with over 20 years of service.

Riisa Rawlins-Easley has served in leadership positions and as an independent consultant for various nonprofits in the St. Louis Region since relocating to the area in 2004. She has over 20 years of experience in cultural competence and stigma reduction, integration of primary care and behavioral health, and positive youth development. Her passion for relationship building is evident in all that she does.

Qiana Thomason, a life-long Kansas Citian, has dedicated her career to the improvement of health and wellness across the region, with a special focus on communities with significant health disparities and those living in marginalized conditions. Thomason serves as the president and CEO of Health Forward. By focusing on people most in need, Health Forward works through partnership and advocacy to transform communities so everyone has a fair and just opportunity for better health.

Thomason currently serves on the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Commission, on the board of Urban Neighborhood Initiative, as a board trustee for William Jewel College, and is a former ArtsKC board member. She received her undergraduate degree in Social Work from Florida A&M University and has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Kansas.

Thomason came to Health Forward from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC), where she most recently served as vice president of community health. During her tenure at Blue KC, she spearheaded development and implementation of new care delivery and payment models in partnership with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and primary care providers throughout Kansas City. She was also a successful champion for the inclusion of health equity and the social determinants of health in Blue KC’s corporate strategy.

Prior to her tenure at Blue KC, Thomason spent eight years at Swope Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center, as program manager of a multi-municipality Mental Health Court and as the director of clinical operations, behavioral health. Qiana also served as deputy director and health and human services liaison for United States Senator Jean Carnahan.

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Date: October 17 | 12-4 p.m. (CDT)

Host: UMKC & Troost Market Collective

UMKC and Troost Market Collective are partnering to bring Troostapalooza to Kansas City in a virtual format for 2020! Troostapalooza celebrates the local community by bringing together neighbors, small businesses and entrepreneurs to engage with their community and highlight the Troost Corridor. Please join us for our live stream, featuring local artists and musicians, conversations with local business owners and entrepreneurs, and business experts from UMKC and the larger Kansas City Region.

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UM System Extension and Engagement Week Events

The 2020 UM System Engagement Week will take place from October 26–30 and includes a multitude events on all four System campuses.

Here we’ve highlighted just a few of the UM System Engagement Week events our UMKC community might be interested in. For a full list of events, visit the UM System Engagement Week homepage.

Learn more

Keynote Address: “Always Growing” by Jones Loflin

Date: Wednesday, October 28 | 11-11:40 a.m. (CDT)

Host: UM System

Nationally renowned speaker Jones Loflin will offer some insights for building resilience in today’s environment. Loflin’s recent book, Always Growing, tackles a common leadership challenge: how to successfully motivate, develop and empower a diverse group of people to work together and achieve remarkable results.

Speaker and Panel Discussion with Ted Abernathy

Date: Thursday, October 29 | 9-10 a.m. (CDT)

Host: UM System 

Ted Abernathy is the Managing Partner of Economic Leadership LLC and a consultant with expertise in economic development, strategic planning and workforce issues, and will share trends and insights to support the workforce development work happening in Missouri.

In addition to the keynote by Ted Abernathy, a panel discussion and interactive group breakouts will leave participants with a call to action to get involved in the workforce development work going on in their local communities.

The Missouri Workforce Development Imperative with Gov. Mike Parson

Date: Thursday, October 29 | 10-10:30 a.m. (CDT)

Host: UM System 

The Governor will speak to:

  • Commitment to workforce development for economic impact in Missouri
  • Implications of COVID-19 and getting people back to work
  • Role of education and training
  • Building new and strengthening existing partnerships
  • Missouri’s future workforce development needs and ways to meet that need