Reaner Shannon, Ph.D. (M.A. ’78, Ph.D. ’83), part of the UMKC School of Medicine for 34 years, died July 13 at the age of 85.
Shannon began her career at the school as the main research lab technologist. In 1990, she left the lab to become director of the minority affairs office at the school, becoming the school’s first associate dean for minority affairs in 1998, a post she held until she retired in 2008. That year, she was presented the Bill French Alumni Service Award.
Shannon and her husband, Henry Shannon, established the Dr. Reaner and Mr. Henry Shannon Lectureship in Minority Health in 2006. Speakers of local and national interest have presented the lecture each February since in conjunction with Black History Month, focusing on timely topics that impact underserved and minority communities.
Mike Weaver, M.D., ’77, a member of the UMKC School of Medicine’s first graduating class to complete the school’s six-year program, delivered the 2022 lecture.
“Reaner Shannon was an insightful, compassionate, and tireless advocate for URiM (Underrepresented in Medicine) students, who was well ahead of her time. Long before it was common to talk about health equity, Dr. Shannon recognized that the lack of attention to minority health was creating an ongoing healthcare disparities crisis. She raised awareness on these issues and encouraged the School of Medicine to bring these topics to medical education,” Weaver said. “The Dr. Reaner and Mr. Henry Shannon Endowed Lectureship in Minority Health is a testament to that vision and her intention to ensure that medical students at UMKC would forever have access to thought leaders in this area.”
“She recognized that URiM students experience unique challenges in medical school, and she was a mentor who helped hundreds of students mitigate those challenges and successfully graduate,” he continued. “I am very grateful that I was one of those students when I met her back in 1973. She helped me navigate some difficult situations, was affirming, and always had an open door and a warm smile.”
Shannon established the UMKC School of Medicine Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council in 2001 to promote a diverse, nondiscriminatory learning and working environment for the school. It was charged with promoting cultural competency, awareness, inclusion, respect and equity through education, training, programing and advancement. The Council hosts a Diversity Symposium bringing together all departments across the School of Medicine to create goals and recognize existing efforts towards more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments and work execution.
Shannon also launched Saturday Academy, a free program designed to spark interest in and help prepare young people for potential careers in health care. The program provides students in grades six through 12 with two and a half hours of classes that focus on math and science as well as ACT prep.
She started a similar program, Summer Scholars, that invites minority and disadvantaged students in the Kansas City metropolitan area to take part in a two-week session each July. They receive daily instruction in academic areas such as chemistry and language arts, and study anatomy and physiology in the school’s cadaver lab. Summer Scholars has grown from a single two-week experience for local underserved high school students that Shannon began more than 40 years ago to four different programs provided for high school and undergraduate college students.
“I’d like to think I made an impact in the lives of those students who, in some cases, might not have known that studying medicine was even an option,” she said when presented with the Bill French award. “It was important for me to build in the lives of young people, to help them in any way that I could to succeed.”
Shannon also served on the board of directors for the Black Health Care Coalition and the Edgar Snow Foundation.