Robert Joiner

Health Reporter

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues.  He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.

Ways to Connect

For the Sake of All

The police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the sight of his limp body sprawled for hours in the street have provoked an intense debate that reveals our nation’s deep divisions when it comes to questions of race and justice.

Flickr: NIAID

Missouri is on the verge of breaking new ground in asthma care by extending more services to needy children in rural parts of the state. 

The additional services would include specialists to inspect more homes to pinpoint asthma triggers. They would also supply educators to show families and health providers how to identify and reduce the triggers, and to help asthmatic children manage their condition.

(via Flickr/KOMUnews/Mike Anderson)

Last week, Schnucks announced it was closing its store on Grand Boulevard in north St. Louis. The closure adds to the "food desert" in that part of the city. However, there are several programs in St. Louis that are attempting to make it easier for people to have access to fresh, healthy food. The map above shows some of the full-service grocery stores in St. Louis. The Schnucks that is closing is the large circle.

(Twitter)

Public health departments are trying to reach their audiences through social media, but most have yet to learn how to "tweet" beyond the choir.

That’s the basic finding of a study out of Washington University in St. Louis that looked at how effectively local health agencies reach audiences through Twitter. Based on the study’s findings, health department tweets are more likely to connect with other health experts, educators and non-profit groups rather than ordinary consumers in need of reliable health information.

(Credit: St. Louis Children's Hospital)

Medical researchers have been trying for years to figure out why asthma is much more prevalent among African Americans than whites.  The easy answers include numerous environmental factors, such as allergens associated with pollution, cockroaches, dust mites and mold. These can be found in any household, but are thought to be more common in substandard dwellings in poor neighborhoods where asthma is more widespread.

(Credit: University of Missouri Health System)

Part three of three

For someone who was clueless about what he wanted to do after finishing high school, Luke Stephens has done quite well in life. 

He’s now Dr. Luke Stephens, with a degree in cell and molecular biology from Missouri State University in 2004, and a medical degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia.

(Credit: Flickr/Free Grunge Texutres

Part two of a three-part series.

Lisa Schofield regards her business as an example of the future of health care in rural Missouri.

She owns the Theodosia Family Medical Clinic in south central Missouri, a region with a big demand for medical care and too few doctors to meet it. Theodosia is situated in Ozark County near the Arkansas border. The clinic serves about 900 patients, all of whom are treated by a nurse practitioner, or an N.P.

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Morgan)

Part one of a three part series:

He woke up in the middle of the night late last year, one hand swollen and the rest of his body was shaking all over.

John Redford realized the symptoms were the consequences of several bites and scratches the day before from his struggle to put the family's 40-pound cat into a cage. He managed to calm himself enough that night and drive an old Mustang 50 miles to a hospital emergency room  in Jefferson City. There doctors began weeks of  treatment  and ultimately saved Redford from losing a finger.

Frankie Muse Freeman
Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio intern

St. Louis attorney Frankie Muse Freeman helped to set the tone Wednesday when she summed up what it meant to be a young civil rights activist during the '60s.

“We were all branded troublemakers,” she said, “and I’m proud of that.”

Nanette Hegamin

Scholars involved in a five-part study that examines the well-being of African Americans in the St. Louis region will seek public feedback on their research during a forum on March 3 at the Forest Park Visitor Center. The session, from 2 to 5 p.m., is free, but participants must sign up through the event registration page.

Michael Velardo | Flickr

Experts who study drug trends say the presumed fatal heroin overdose of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman shines the spotlight anew on the need for society to come to grips with widespread heroin abuse across the nation and in St. Louis.

Among those who have studied the issue is Theodore “Ted” Cicero, a  professor in neuropharmacology in psychiatry at Washington University Medical School. He has tracked patient trends in 150 drug treatment facilities nationwide for more than seven years.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tried to put a price tag and a face on the government’s health reform push in Missouri when she visited the Grace Hill Water Tower Health Center on Friday. 

The price tag: $5 million a day. That’s how much she says Missouri is losing by refusing to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

The face: a local resident who praised the law for the help it is providing his family while he attends law school.

Robert Joiner

With her oversize black frame glasses, 9-year-old Diamond Jones projects an image of being a kid who is thoughtful, inclined to study, and who loves reading and attending school. All that is true. In fact, she’s so adamant about going to school that she has been known to pout occasionally on days when her parents keep her home for health reasons. 

(courtesy of Karen Collins)

Veronica Spencer seems to thrive on speaking to audiences about the heartbreaking story of a great-grandmother who became famous because of her cells.

“I love the travel,” Spencer said, during a visit Thursday to Maryville University. “I get to see the world, visit places I never expected to go. When someone hugs me and says thanks, I realize the person they are talking about is my great-grandmother who has done all of this for the world."

(National Institutes of Health)

Missouri gets generally good marks for disaster preparedness and access to emergency care, but it falls way short in addressing public health needs and medical liability issues. That's according to study by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The group gave Missouri an overall grade of C- on its health care report card, ranking it 22nd among all states. Illinois ranked 45th with a grade of D.

Missourians to End Poverty

Correction: An earlier version of this story used a version of the report that had not been updated. It contained incorrect information about the poverty rate in St. Louis County. This has been corrected.

Missouri’s poverty rate rose nearly 3 percentage points between 2008 and 2012, according to a report released today by a coalition of social service groups.

Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who, after contracting AIDS at age 13, advocated for a more considered approach to those facing AIDS-related illnesses.
(via Wikimedia Commons/Wildhartlivie)

The centerpiece of the federal government’s war against HIV/AIDS bears the name Ryan White.  

The public might not remember him without a little context. A hemophiliac who was diagnosed with AIDS at age 13, White drew international attention when he not only had to cope with the disease but also had to wage a legal fight to attend school with his classmates in Kokomo, Ind.,  following his diagnosis. He died in 1984 at the age of 18 after becoming a poster child for more compassion, counseling and medical care for those facing AIDS-related illnesses.

Kennedy in a crowd at the Berlin Wall
Robert Knudsen | White House

CBS News once described 1963 as “the year everything happened.” Not everything, of course, but it certainly included more than its share of unsettling and promising events, ranging from an international standoff with the Soviet Union to a presidential assassination that shook the world, from a landmark March on Washington to more enlightened policies toward women in the workplace.

These events are worth noting because they help us understand some subsequent developments over the past half a century.

Crack In The Wall

Robert Joiner

The day Sha Fields was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, her fiancé came along to offer moral support, and he has been by her side since then. She says she used to wonder how to repay his years of unconditional support. The chance came last year, when the husband, Cliff, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The Siteman Center for Advanced Medicine at Washington University had no data on how unusual it is for a husband and wife to have cancer, but Sha says she is hearing that the experience is becoming more common.

people and produce
File Photo | Rachel Heidenry | Beacon

The business district of the Old North neighborhood, near 14th Street and St. Louis Ave., is still a work in progress. New enterprises include a pet shop and a podiatrist’s office, but old ones continue to close. One recent casualty was the Old North Grocery Co-op. After opening with a lively neighborhood celebration in the summer of 2010, the co-op quietly locked its doors in mid-October.

Robert Joiner

Five months after settling in as the new CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Michael McMillan has been busy putting his imprint on the community service and civil rights organization. It’s a big responsibility, given the accomplishments of his predecessor, James Buford, who built the local group into the most successful affiliate of the National Urban League.

With a $23 million annual budget, the organization offers a range of services, from job training to utility assistance, to about 60,000 people.

Hollee Brooks
Robert Joiner/St. Louis Public Radio and The Beacon

Following years of dead-end jobs in the fast-food industry, Hollee Brooks decided to trade her restaurant uniform for scrubs, and train to become a medical technician. If she makes it through nine months of training and gets state certification and some experience, she'll earn considerably higher wages and enjoy employment benefits that usually elude those who flip hamburgers for a living. 

girltrekkers
Robert Joiner | St. Louis Beacon

When Faye Paige Edwards woke up to numbing weather and a wind chill well below zero last Saturday morning, she expected some women to cancel plans to join her on their usual walk on the North Riverfront Trail near Hall Street and Riverview Boulevard.

But five women, including Edwards, did show up and began walking at 8 a.m. sharp, their boots making crunching sounds on the snow and ice on a trail where nothing else seemed to move except the glittering water in the Mississippi River.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Sherrill Jackson is a 21-year breast cancer survivor. Shermane Winters-Wofford is a two-time stroke victim. Isadore Wayne and Mellve Shahid are coping successfully with prostate cancer.

All four are known less for their adverse health experiences than for sending uplifting messages to black communities, dispelling myths about their illnesses and encouraging people to take advantage of medical screenings and other programs that can save lives.

President John F. Kennedy
White House photo

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Among the tributes to former President John F. Kennedy on this 50th anniversary year of his assassination is a website that helps visitors connect the dots to show ways in which the flame of optimism lit by the young president still burns in our time. He was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, at age 46. Visitors are able to express their thoughts on the Kennedy legacy by sending tweets and uploading text, photos and videos to the website, called “An Idea Lives On.”

This article originally appeared the St. Louis Beacon. - The rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplace apparently hasn’t changed the level of consumer support for the health-reform program. For weeks, administration officials and policy analysts have been concerned that many people were confused about the law and might be turned off because of difficulties buying insurance through the insurance exchange.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - The latest wrinkle in the Affordable Care Act centers on whether consumers should be allowed to keep health insurance plans that may offer less coverage than the minimum benefits envisioned in the health-care law.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - When June Green’s eyesight is so weak that she is unable to drive, her first thought is about the tiring uphill trek to reach a Metro stop to board a bus to shop for groceries, visit a doctor or run other errands.

“On a good day,” she says, “I can make that walk. It might take me 25 minutes, but I can make it."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - A big challenge in health care is finding innovative ways to address the shortage of health practitioners to serve the needy. A.T. Still University of Health Sciences in Kirksville, Mo., is focusing on the need to train more dentists who might serve patients in poor, rural communities in Missouri.

This article fist appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Only months after closing its specialty clinics, ConnectCare informed workers on Friday that it was eliminating the rest of its services on Nov. 15. The results will be a huge hole in the region’s medical safety net, officials say, noting that the urgent care center was on track to handle medical visits to about 17,000 patients.

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