Simon McKeown has been a physician in Mexico, Missouri, for many years. Now, he works as the medical director for the Audrain County Health Department and works at a local Urgent Care office.
He sat down with his oldest son, Jonah, to speak about some of the health issues in Audrain County – like high STD rates – and reflect on how their family has benefited from social programs in the past, like years ago, when Simon was in medical school.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Jonah: Have you ever struggled personally with some of the issues that your patients face?
Simon: Like, have I ever had a sexually transmitted disease? No, I haven't, actually. [Laughter]
Jonah: Well, I didn't mean directly, but you know what I mean.
Simon: Have I ever struggled? Well, when you were little, we moved to America when you were two.
Jonah: And a half.
Simon: Two and a half.
We didn't have much money, and it was my understanding of moving to America that we must not be a burden on the state for the first five years.
So those first five years, we had no health insurance. When it came to five years that we had been in America, we showed up to the Social Security office - "My children have not visited a dentist in five years. We got our immunizations from the health department."
And the person in the Social Security office said, "Well, these children are American. These children needed Medicaid all this time. Here you go. Here are their Medicaid cards."
That day was one of the happiest days of our lives, because we realized that we could actually take you to the doctor and not have to pay cash for it, and that we could get you what we needed. We went straight away and enrolled you will in WIC.
Jonah: Women, Infants, and Children?
Simon: Women, Infant, and Children. Then we got the WIC checks that are given for nutritious food for people with young families.
We couldn't believe that we could actually go to the grocery store and get milk and beans and peanut butter and stuff like that. And, you know, go and pay for it with these WIC checks and actually feed you guys.
Jonah: So that's when we started getting food.
Simon: That's when we started getting food - I mean literally. That night, we had a five bean soup with spam in it, and we thought we'd died and gone to heaven. We thought it was fantastic.
Jonah: I think I remember having stuff like that.
Simon: Yeah. There you go. We were struggling.
Jonah: Well, I don't think we really noticed that much because we just played outside all day and, you know, go to Rockbridge State Park and run around and then come home and have sausages. It was fun.
Jonah McKeown is a journalism graduate student at MU and has worked with Missouri Health Talks in the past.