Union resident Lee Parks, DO, has spent her personal and professional life trying to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks. Whether it’s through helping provide women with an education, helping low-income people get the medical care they need or mentoring osteopathic medical students, Parks has always stepped up to the plate.
Parks is an osteopathic family physician for the Crider Center in Union and recently was named a Golden Girl for 50 years of membership with P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), which promotes educational opportunities for women.
She also has served state osteopathic organizations for many years.
Originally from Illinois, Parks, a doctor of osteopathy, came to Union in 1988 to work for a local family physician, Glen Calvin. Three years later, she opened her own office along Highway 50.
Osteopathy, she explained, was started in Missouri by Andrew Taylor Still, who had a theory of medical care that involved treatment of illness through adjustment and manipulation of a patient’s musculoskeletal system.
Parks is trained in manipulative medicine.
In 2006, she closed her practice and worked for others, including Phelps County Regional Medical Center in Rolla. In 2011, she returned to Union to work for the Crider Center.
Parks said she was reading about the center’s cutting edge work, as well as work in integrative medicine.
“Integrative medicine means different things to different people, but the integration (the Crider Center) was talking about was integrating mental health with physical health,” she said.
Often, medical doctors don’t feel comfortable with psychiatric care, and vice versa, Parks noted.
“So people fall through the cracks between them all the time,” she said, adding that she was immediately interested in working at the facility.
Crider Center is a federally qualified health center (FQHC), which means it offers primary care for adults and children, as well as psychiatry and dentistry under one roof.
“It’s a way to take care of those who have fallen through the cracks,” she said, adding that mental illness can lead to physical illness when people can’t care for their own needs.
“We really are trying to do wraparound care for people,” she said.
Part of that means making sure people have the things they need to do the things they need to do. For instance, if a patient has a psychiatric issue, Parks can walk them down the hall for a crisis appointment.
“That’s amazing,” she said, adding that it’s not the norm in typical health care facilities. Additionally, social workers (integrative health care specialists) can be assigned to those with more difficult issues.
Five percent of the population use 50 percent of medical funds, Parks noted, adding that if those people are stabilized, it makes a big difference to the medical system.
“I like this practice because I feel like I can make a difference,” she said.
She continues to work four days per week, where she primarily sees adult medicine patients.
Parks was inducted into P.E.O. Chapter HJ in Greenfield, Ill., at age 18. Her mom was a charter member of the chapter.
“PEO meant a great deal to her,” she said.
Now an international organization, P.E.O. was started by a group of young, idealistic women at Iowa Wesleyan, Parks said.
“Back then, women didn’t get an education. For these women to be college students in that day and age was remarkable in and of itself,” she said.
“They didn’t want to lose their curiosity, ability to be leaders and their joy in life as they got older and got into whatever life held for them. So they came up with this organization and it spread.”
Parks started in Chapter HJ, then transferred to KR in Ballwin and then FO in Union.
“I would say women in PEO are very well educated women who are interested in the world around them, want to do continual learning, want to support each other and other women,” she said. “That is the spirit of PEO.”
She was honored as a Golden Girl for 50 years of membership at the 2017 state convention.
P.E.O. supports Cottey College. So after high school, Parks was encouraged to attend the independent liberal arts and sciences college for women by her mother.
While Parks dreamed of going to a “big school,” she said she fell in love with the college after visiting there.
“It’s a really exceptional place,” she said.
Parks spent her first two years at Cottey College, which at the time was a junior college.
Then she went to the University of Illinois, where she earned her undergraduate degree in medical technology (laboratory medicine). She was working at a blood bank at a hospital when she was encouraged to attend medical school, where she said she stumbled into osteopathic medicine.
Parks attended what is now known as the Kansas City University of Medicine and Bioscience to earn her doctorate degree.
For about two years, Parks has been working to help establish a grassroots organization known as the Hope Ranch in Franklin County.
Parks said the founder, Jennifer Hope, wants to help children who have fallen through the cracks by offering a residential facility and school for those who are struggling academically, behaviorally or with family situations.
Hope was a special education teacher in the Union School District and an administrator before founding the ranch.
“She has done a monumental amount of work,” Parks said.
Parks has been on the board for two years. The board is in the process of doing a feasibility study and targeting fundraising efforts.
Parks said 195 acres of land in Stanton has been purchased for the ranch.
Trustees include Judge Larry Davis, retired sheriff Gary Toelke and Ed Hillhouse, who currently is the interim superintendent in the Meramec R-III district and former presiding commissioner. Other board members include counselors, teachers and others.
“We want to help these kids break the cycle of abuse, neglect, drug addiction — whatever has happened in their family that has pulled them off target,” said Parks.
Family counseling, personal and group counseling services will be offered. Those on the ranch will be trained to work with children who have experienced trauma.
Parks has served as president for the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (MAOPS) and as president of the Missouri Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians.
She also serves the MAOPS legislative committee, which works to keep legislators informed on appropriate medical care, access and other issues.
She is on the leadership development committee and has served on the finance and other committees through the organization.
She mentors a MAOPS scholar, helping her learn about the organization, issues unique to osteopathic medicine and training her to be a future leader of MAOPS.
Parks also is a member of Zion UCC, where she serves on the church council and is doing the Logos program, which aims to connect generations of the church together.