Library Welcomes New Collection of Materials from Medical and Civic Leader John W. Bluford

Tue, 06/06/2017
Courtney Lewis
Library Welcomes New Collection of Materials from Medical and Civic Leader John W. Bluford


(Kansas City, Missouri) – The Kansas City Public Library is unveiling a special new collection donated by former Truman Medical Centers CEO John W. Bluford – personal papers and other effects reflecting his contributions over a more than four-decade career to the American healthcare system.

The materials, dating from the 1970s through this year, are part of the Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections, housed in the downtown Central Library’s fifth-floor Missouri Valley Room.

Ranging from reports and case studies to correspondence, photographs, newspaper and magazine articles, awards, and ephemera, the items chronicle Bluford’s early work in healthcare in Chicago and Minneapolis, his transition to Kansas City and Truman Medical Centers, his retirement nearly three years ago, and a legacy that continues to grow. He currently serves as president of the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute, which he founded in 2013 to recruit and prepare minority college students for executive careers in healthcare.

“The collection is a fairly complete chronology of activities, events, programs, and successes that I have influenced through the partnership of a number of dedicated staff, supporters, communities and public entities,” Bluford says.

Among those achievements: the development of school-based health clinics, the addition of a U.S. bank location for TMC patients and employees, the elimination of fast-food offerings, and the opening of an art gallery in the medical center. The materials also spotlight improvements to trauma centers, emergency rooms, cardiology units, birthing center, and radiology and orthopedic departments.

“My hope,” Bluford says, “is that by offering exposure to these creative programs, others will be inspired to ‘think outside of the bed’ and explore innovation in healthcare and inspire the future of others.”

Missouri Valley Special Collections Manager Jeremy Drouin welcomes the gift. “Often the papers of many important individuals and institutions are lost to history because they never find their way to a library or archives,” he says. “We are grateful to Mr. Bluford and the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute for entrusting us with his professional papers, ensuring that they are preserved and available to future generations of scholars.”

Bluford, headed Truman Medical Centers for 15 years and now serves as president emeritus, earned national acclaim for the transformation of an urban hospital into one of the premier healthcare facilities in Kansas City. Under his watch, the not-for-profit system increased annual net revenue by $283 million and invested more than $400 million in capital improvements and technology.

Bluford oversaw enhancements to cardiology, radiology, emergency, diabetes, and operating facilities at Truman’s downtown Hospital Hill location. Improvements at its Lakewood hospital include a new outpatient surgery center, additional inpatient beds, and a new emergency department and birthing center.

His civic contributions also are noteworthy: a year as chairman of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, his support through Truman of a proposed grocery store in the “food desert” along Troost avenue, and his creation of the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute. Bluford is past chairman of the American Hospital Association, the National Association of Public Hospitals, and the Missouri Hospital Association, and was recognized by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the most influential people in his field.

The donation of his collection to the Kansas City Public Library “will offer broad exposure of its content to members of our community,” he says. “The projects exhibited have had an impact on our community members. … I am hopeful that those viewing the collection will be encouraged to make an impact on the lives of others, as well.”