Kevin Dennis - Hero in Healthcare (Ingram's 2014)

Forty years ago, Kevin Dennis was working on the grounds-keeping crew at the University of Kansas. That’s where he first met Sharon Lee, who would go on to become a physician and found the Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care Services. She brought Dennis on board to run the business side of an office with perhaps the most unusual compensation structure you’ll find in health-care today. As chief administrative officer for the clinic, Dennis makes the same wage everyone else employed there does—$14 an hour, which probably isn’t much more than he’d be making if he were still cutting grass in Lawrence today. “She likes to call me a co-founder of the clinic, and I guess that’s true,” Dennis says of Lee. “But I wouldn’t have founded anything by myself, and she would have done it without me. I do what I can to support her.”
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Which, as it turns out, is a lot. Since the clinic’s inception as a tiny office with three employees in 1989, Dennis has been the operations and administration complement to Lee’s medical services. From that tiny seedling has grown a comprehensive health-care clinic with 58 employees. It found a niche early by treating patients who were HIV positive; many physicians in that era wouldn’t take those cases before more was known about the disease, Dennis said. Because anti-retroviral drugs hadn’t been discovered, AIDS was often a fatal diagnosis, but indicative of the clinic’s comprehensive approach to care, the leadership created a program to line up adoptive parents for children likely to be orphaned by the disease, and introduced them before that loss of that parent, helping ease the transition. Dennis has also assisted in the addition of a dental clinic, health-education programming, a fitness center—even a legal-aid clinic. “We’re trying to be a one-stop shop for total health,” he says. Challenging work, but rewarding, as well. “Going home feeling like you’re doing something good and not taking advantage of anybody,” is chief among those, Dennis says.


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