Rebecca Smith

Health Reporter

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.

Ways to Connect

Provided by the University of Missouri Extension

McDonald County, Missouri, is home to many immigrant groups that have moved into the county in the last twenty years. These groups include Hispanic, Somali, Burmese, Sudanese and numerous others. And while these groups do not overlap culturally, they do share one thing - language acts as a barrier to access when it comes to their health.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

McDonald County, Missouri, is a small community in the very southwestern-most part of the state that few people are aware of. Some residents describe it as a beautiful part of Missouri with rolling hills and numerous creeks. 

But there is more than scenery to McDonald County, as its communities - Anderson, Noel, Pineville, Southwest City - are home to an incredibly diverse mix of people. Towns now include a white population, Hispanic immigrants, Somali and Sudanese refugees, individuals from Burma and Micronesia and new immigrants are entering the county every day.

So here are some residents of the county talking about life, about health and about their home.


Lucia Sebastian is the Language Assistant at the Head Start in Noel, Missouri. She works with the numerous immigrant children who have limited English skills and need help to communicate.

She has a four-year old daughter enrolled at Head Start, but she recounted an incident where Head Start was instrumental in helping her older son, Victor.

When her son was eleven years old, he was playing baseball with a friend in the yard and got hit in the mouth with the bat. The blow knocked out several teeth, but Sebastian was unsure she could afford the costs of taking Victor to the hospital.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Driving down Main Street, Noel seems like any other small town in Southwest Missouri. There are a few diners, the bank, a grocery store. But there's also a Mosque.

Siyad Ahmed arrived in Noel in November of 2008. He said there were only seven other Muslim refugees from Somalia in the small town at the time, but they came together and selected him as their leader – or Imam.


Press Photo / The Visit

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.

Director Michael Madsen is working on a trilogy of films that he calls “a trilogy on mankind.” The first film, Into Eternity: A Film for the Future, was about the building of a final repository for nuclear waste. He now presents the second in this series, called The Visit, which chronicles the events and conversations that unfold once intelligent, extraterrestrial life has landed on Earth and made contact with mankind.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Pippa Hull sits on her mother’s lap across the kitchen table in their Parkville home. She is an outgoing and talkative seven-year-old girl, who just happens to have a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Pippa’s mother, Megan, said this form of epilepsy is characterized by its lack of response to treatments.

Hull said they have tried different medications, they have had a VNS or Vagus Nerve Stimulation device implanted in Pippa’s chest, and they have even tried a special diet to try and reduce the number of seizures Pippa experiences.

Conservation agents finish up overseeding a plot at the Prairie Fork Conservation Area outside of Williamsburg, Missouri.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Landscape diversity in Missouri has changed since its settlement in the 18th century. Where there was once prairies, forests and savannahs, in many cases there are now towns, cities and farms.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is working to remedy this problem by restoring prairies to “pre-settlement standards.” These standards include no non-native plant species and plants from within a 50 mile radius of the prairie.


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