At age 50, Daphne Bascom had built a world-class medical resume: a Ph.D. from Oxford, a career as a head and neck surgeon, a leadership role at the Cleveland Clinic and an executive position at Cerner Corp.
At Cerner, she was vice president and chief medical officer of physician alignment. Now she’s given all of that up to become what is believed to be the first doctor on staff at a YMCA, and she’s doing it in Kansas City.
“In my stage of life, heading into retirement, it probably was not the move my financial planner would have me make,” Bascom said. “But it was an opportune time, and I think there’s a lot of great things I can do at the Y.”
Bascom is now the senior vice president of community integrated health, a position created just for her, at the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.
The idea is for her to use what she’s learned about population health management, a Cerner initiative to use data to improve outcomes across entire communities, to help people stay healthy, rather than treating them after they’re sick.
That’s what drew her to the Y.
“The YMCA is actually probably the largest nonprofit organization in the United States that delivers health prevention services,” Bascom said.
She said the organization wants to expand that work.
In addition to preventing obesity, it’s focused on preventing diabetes, monitoring blood pressure, keeping seniors active and in their homes, reducing falls and providing programs to manage Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The Kansas City YMCA is taking a leading role. In addition to hiring Bascom, it’s also teaming with Truman Medical Centers to break ground next month on a 7,000-square-foot clinic attached to the Y’s Linwood Boulevard location. Providers at the clinic will be able to refer people to YMCA programs to help them manage their conditions.
“David Byrd and his team tend to be pretty innovative in how they think about this stuff,” Truman CEO Charlie Shields said of the Kansas City YMCA’s president and CEO. “That’s how we ended up putting the clinic over there.”
John Mikos, the executive vice president of the Kansas City YMCA, said Bascom was already a YMCA board member when the leadership decided it wanted to hire a physician to head the population health initiative.
“It just so happened it was in the wheelhouse for Dr. Bascom and good timing for her in terms of wanting to move from disease management to disease prevention,” Mikos said.
YMCA officials say she’s the first on-staff physician the organization has had anywhere in the country.
For Bascom, the draw to break new ground was personal as well as professional.
Over the past eight years, she helped both her parents struggle through end-of-life care, wondering what she could have done earlier in their lives to help them stay out of the medical system and maybe stay with her a little longer.
“My parents are my best friends,” Bascom said. “So watching them try to stay healthy and be healthy in a system that doesn’t focus on ways to keep you well is very frustrating. ... It’s my way of giving back to a problem I couldn’t solve for my own family.”
Bascom said that improving health outcomes in Kansas City will be a big challenge with no quick fixes. But she’s in for the long haul.
“Right now, we’re heading in the wrong direction,” Bascom said. “Both of our states are getting fatter, we’re getting less healthy and something has to turn around. We don’t have the resources in people or dollars to deal with the burden of care that could be bearing down on the health care system in the next 10 years.”