Bram Sable-Smith

Health Reporter

A curious Columbia, Mo. native, Bram Sable-Smith has documented mbira musicians in Zimbabwe, mining protests in Chile, and the St. Louis airport's tumultuous relationship with the Chinese cargo business. His reporting from Ferguson, Mo. was part of a KBIA documentary honored by the Missouri Broadcasters Association and winner of a national Edward R. Murrow Award. He comes to KBIA most recently from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine.

Ways To Connect

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

More than 1,700 people waited in line for hours to get free dental care at a clinic in Columbia, Mo. this month. The turnout for this clinic, called the Missouri Mission of Mercy, reveals a hidden crisis: the expense of dental care and lack of access are major obstacles for many throughout the state and the country.

Throughout the event, held July 31st - August 1st, a team of reporters from the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk spoke to the patients receiving treatment at the event, and the volunteers who made it all possible.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

One Saturday afternoon at a backyard cookout, St. Louis architect Dan Rosenberg enjoyed a cheeseburger – a food he’d enjoyed many times before.

That night, a couple hours after he went to sleep, he woke up with a searing pain in his stomach.

“Let’s be clear here,” Rosenberg says, “this was like a nine on the ten-scale.”


Missouri cattle farmer Greg Fleshman became so concerned about keeping his local hospital open that in 2011 he joined its governing board.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

When Darvin Bentlage needed colon surgery in 2007, he had an expensive stay at the hospital.

“The room alone for a week was $25,000,” Bentlage says. Add in the cost of the procedure and, “it added up to about $60,000 or $70,000.”


Ted Eytan / flickr

The Affordable Care Act won another major legal victory today. In a 6 to 3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a challenge to the law that would have eliminated subsidies in 34 states, including Missouri, for those buying health insurance through the federal marketplace.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

When cattle farmer Greg Fleshman joined the board of Putnam County Memorial Hospital in rural northern Missouri in 2011, the hospital was on the brink of closing.

“Things we just falling apart financially and the morale of the employees. And it just seemed to get worse and worse,” he recalls. “Those were the darkest days.”


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

Earlier this year, KBIA began a special reporting project highlighting the income and health disparities in the Missouri Bootheel. In May the project continued as KBIA traveled to the Bootheel town of Kennett, Mo., to host a community conversation.

The goal was to bring local residents and leaders to the same table to discuss difficulties in access to health care, the struggling rural economy and how to fix it. The following is an excerpt from that conversation. The full version may be found in an earlier post


Kristofor Husted/KBIA/Harvest Public Media

On May 20th, KBIA held a community conversation event in Kennett, Mo. The goal was to bring local residents and leaders of rural southeast Missouri to the same table to discuss difficulties in access to health care, the struggling rural economy and how to fix it. It's an event we called Health Barriers: Symptoms of a Rural Economy.

Several years ago, Missouri State Representative Holly Rehder’s daughter struggled with prescription drug abuse.

“She had cut her thumb at work and went and got stitches and got a prescription,” Rehder recalls. When her prescription ran out she continued using the pain killers, says Rehder, “because they were so easy to obtain.”

Now, Rehder is sponsoring a bill to make it harder for addicts to obtain drugs in Missouri.


j. stephenconn / Flickr

Some mental health providers in rural Missouri are raising concerns about a provision passed by the Missouri Senate that would shift about 200,000 Medicaid recipients onto privatized managed care programs.

Loretta Fuge is a psychologist based in Mansfield, Mo. Currently, Fuge is reimbursed for seeing Medicaid patients through the state’s fee-for-service model. She has some experience with managed care and, she says, she isn’t a fan.

This week’s Politically Speaking breaks some new ground. Through the magic of radio, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies joined with KBIA’s Bram Sable-Smith to interview state Rep. Caleb Rowden.

The Columbia Republican and Rock Bridge High School graduate was first elected to the Missouri House in 2012. Rowden had a somewhat unconventional road to Missouri state politics: He was a successful Christian rock musician before running for a vacant House seat in 2012.

DVIDSHUB / flickr

Last week, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences announced it will open a medical school in Joplin, the first new medical school in Missouri in more than 40 years. The school is expecting to matriculate 150 students in its first class in 2017, and between 150 and 160 students in each subsequent year. KBIA’s Bram Sable-Smith spoke with Dr. Marc Hahn, president and CEO of the university, about the needs the new school will be filling for that region of the state. 


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

This story is part of our series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

Anthony Smith has a spiel he will deliver many, many times today.

“I’m Anthony Smith with the Family Counseling Center," he says, "and today is identified as the 'point-in-time count' for the state of Missouri. The governor’s office does this annually. We try to conduct a winter count to identify individuals who are homeless, or at risk of being homeless in our community.”


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

This story is part of our series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

It’s a cold afternoon in Kennett, Mo. The lawns in this low-income housing neighborhood are still wet from yesterday’s rain. And just inside the door of her mother’s brick home, 27-year-old Marylouisa Cantu sits on a couch, pregnant and draped in a blanket.

Her mother beckons, through the storm door.

“Come in, come in.”


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

This story is part of our series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

It’s early morning. The sun is shining brightly on the corrugated metal siding of the Otto Bean Medical Center in Kennett, Mo., and inside the building, Judith Haggard is pricking the soles of her patient’s feet with a pin.

Otto Bean is part of the SEMO Health Network, a Federally Qualified Health Center which operates several clinics across southeast Missouri.

Haggard is a nurse practitioner and one of the ranking medical providers here at the clinic, which has no full-time doctor. She has just 15 minutes to spend with her patient, a 71-year-old diabetic on Medicaid.


Press Photo / Finders Keepers

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Fest.  Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes.

Back in 2008 filmmaker Ed Cunningham heard a strange story on the news about a man who bought a barbecue smoker at an auction and found a severed human leg inside. A legal battle ensued between the finder of the foot and the man it once belonged to.


Press Photo / The Chinese Mayor

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Fest.  Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes.

Qi Zhao is an Emmy award winning producer. His most recent film, The Chinese Mayor, depicts the mayor of the Chinese city of Datong as he attempts to transform the city into a cultural destination; a massive undertaking that includes relocating half-a-million of the city’s residents.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

When Mary Ratliff moved to Columbia from Mississippi in 1959, she was leaving one of the epicenters of American segregation and the burgeoning civil rights movement. But that doesn’t mean she escaped experiences of racism and segregation in her new home.

“It was subtle here when I first came," Ratliff said. "In fact I've made the comment many times, that Columbia is 'Big Little Dixie.' It wasn’t a whole lot different from Mississippi.”


Images of Money via Flickr

The Affordable Care Act included a temporary bump in the Medicaid fees paid to physicians for certain primary care services. The intention behind the two-year, federally-funded increase was to encourage more physicians to participate in Medicaid to accommodate an expanding pool of Medicaid patients anticipated by the law.

But a 2012 Supreme Court decision opened a window for states to reject Medicaid expansion – Missouri is one of 23 states that have chosen not to expanded coverage – and as of Jan. 1, the Medicaid fee bump is expired as well.

I spoke with Dave Dillon and Andrew Wheeler of the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) about the impact the fee increase expiration will have on Missouri hospitals.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

The Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies (MoALPHA) was founded in 1994 to support the  city and county public health agencies in the state. I spoke with the incoming chair of the association, Gary Zaborac, about the public health challenges facing Missouri in 2015.


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