School of Medicine pays tribute to long-time minority affairs leader Reaner Shannon

Tyler Smith, M.D., Pamela Shannon, Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., Mike Weaver, M.D.

UMKC School of Medicine celebrated the memory and legacy of Reaner Shannon, its long-time director and associate dean of minority affairs, with a special tribute on Feb. 24.

Following the school’s annual Dr. Reaner and Mr. Henry Shannon Lectureship in Minority Health, Tyler Smith, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, and Shannon’s daughter, Pamela, unveiled a portrait of Shannon, who was a staunch promoter of diversity and equity within the school and throughout Kansas City for 34 years before her retirement in 2008.

Reaner Shannon died last July at the age of 85. Her husband, Henry Shannon, died just five months later, in December, at the age of 89.

Pamela thanked Smith and School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., for recognizing her parents and for the honor of keeping her mother’s legacy alive at the medical school.

“Hospital Hill meant so much to my parents,” she said. “It’s where their careers began and where they ended. This has been like home for us.”

Below the portrait that now hangs on a wall outside the School of Medicine’s theaters is a plaque honoring Shannon as “a leader, educator, scholar, researcher and mentor. She was a tireless advocate and activist for diversity, equity and inclusion for students, residents, fellows, faculty and staff at the UMKC School of Medicine and people in the Kansas City Community.”

Former School of Medicine Dean Betty Drees, M.D., said Reaner and Henry Shannon “were such pioneers in the work that they did and left such as wonderful legacy.”

The Shannons established their annual lectureship that now takes place each February during Black History Month to create an awareness of health disparities and provide medical professionals, students, residents and the local community information about timely issues that affect underserved and minority communities.

The list of those who have delivered the Shannon Lecture over the years is filled with local, regional and national health leaders. Among those are a long line of notable government and organizational health care leaders such as Jocelyn Elders, former U.S. surgeon general (2006), Gloria Wilder-Brathwaite, founder of Justice Speaks (2008), Louis Sullivan, former U.S. secretary of health and human services (2015), J. Nadine Gracia, deputy assistant secretary of minority health and director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2016), Altha J. Stewart, president of the American Psychiatric Association (2019), and Patrice Harris, past president of the American Medical Association (2021).

Reaner Shannon began her career at the school as the main research lab technologist. In 1990, she left the laboratory to become the School of Medicine’s director of the minority affairs office. She became the school’s first associate dean for minority affairs in 1998, a post she held until she retired.

Smith served as the keynote speaker for this year’s lectureship, addressing the importance of mentorship, coaching and sponsorship of “underserved-in-medicine health professionals.” She spoke about how Shannon was a champion of supporting and advocating for students.

“Every medical school needs to have a person like a Dr. Shannon,” Smith said. “One of the joys she had was to serve as a mentor to students interested in science and in medicine.”