ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Colorful plants are in the ground outside the Betty Jean Kerr People’s Choice Health Center on Delmar for a reason. Workers say the center’s founder would want patients to be greeted with beauty. Betty Jean Kerr was known for wanting clients treated with dignity and respect.
Kerr passed away this past weekend at the age of 82. Her former colleagues struggle with holding back emotion as they share stories about how much Kerr meant to the St. Louis community.
“She always believed in putting the patients first,” said Mark Sanford, Executive Vice President of the Betty Jean Kerr People’s Choice Health Centers.
Sanford was a college student at St. Louis University when he met Kerr. He said she was a nursing student and focused on urban studies. Kerr would go on to become a nurse and help create a health care system that now provides services to an estimated 33,000 patients a year, regardless of their ability to pay.
“She always wanted to make sure clients and residents of St. Louis and the St. Louis metropolitan area at the time had access to community health,” said Sanford.
He said Kerr also helped launch other programs related to pre-natal care for young mothers and housing for seniors and individuals with disabilities. He said those dreams became reality because of Kerr’s hard work, determination, and persuasion.
“She had to walk the streets and work with Civic Progress to have them believe in her vision of community health for the community and we were able to raise 4.6 million dollars to build this facility,” said Sanford about the center located at 5701 Delmar Boulevard.
When she retired in 2007, the center changed its name to Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers and created a scholarship foundation in her honor.
Her family asks mourners wishing to honor her memory contribute to the Betty Jean Kerr Scholarship Foundation in lieu of flowers.