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Phenomenal Women of Children’s Mercy

Children's Mercy founding sisters Alice Berry Graham (left) and Katharine Berry Richardson.

One sick little girl. Two phenomenal women…sisters. As fate would have it, the intersection of those three lives would begin a deep history of compassionate care and medical treatment for all children, everywhere, at what would become Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

Dr. Alice Berry Graham, a dentist, and her sister, Dr. Katharine Berry Richardson, a physician, would care for that little girl and go on to dedicate the rest of their lives to treating thousands of children who needed medical care. With great tenacity and community help, the sisters continued to provide progressive pediatric care, conduct innovative research, train doctors and nurses and even defy the times by establishing a pediatric ward in Wheatley Provident Hospital, the first hospital in Kansas City for African Americans.

Janette Flanagan (left) and Elizabeth Martin, both nurses, served as administrators of Children's Mercy Kansas City.
Janette Flanagan (left) and Elizabeth Martin, both nurses, served as administrators of CM.

After the deaths of both sisters – Alice in 1913, Katharine in 1933 – two more phenomenal women, both nurses, would continue to lead the vital work at Children’s Mercy as hospital administrators. Janette Flanagan served from 1933-1936 and Elizabeth Martin served from 1936-1955, keeping Children’s Mercy running through both the Great Depression and World War II.

Join us during the month of March as we celebrate our founding sisters and other phenomenal Women of Mercy. Learn more about the history of Children’s Mercy.

It’s time someone took a greater interest in helping children like this. And Katharine, I think you and I are the ones to do it.

Alice Berry Graham


Phenomenal support: Early administrators and record-keepers of Children’s Mercy

Imagine starting a brand-new hospital today. It would be an enormous undertaking. Now, imagine what it must have taken to start a hospital in 1897! While our founding sisters started by nursing one child back to health, it’s safe to say that as the hospital grew, they needed lots of support. Here are the stories of two women who offered years of administrative and governance support that helped shape the the first 60 years of Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

A black and white photograph of Lena Dagley, an administrator at Children's Mercy Kansas City.

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Lena Dagley

Dr. Katharine Berry Richardson was a very busy lady. And like the administrators and CEOs of today, she needed someone she could count on for support. Lena Dagley would become her confidant and serve as Dr. Richardson’s secretary. She would also collect her stories, as she understood that history was being made. Lena would go on to serve as the executive secretary for Children’s Mercy and continue documenting our history. Lena’s personal writings provided great insight into the inner workings of the early years of the hospital. She served the hospital for nearly 50 years.

In the Children’s Mercy history book “For All Children Everywhere,” author Thomas McCormally wrote that the founding sisters’ father instilled a strong sense of community service in his daughters at a young age, saying “The truly charitable woman is big enough to help children other than their own.” Regarding the importance of that influence during Alice’s and Katharine’s early years, Lena wrote: “We all know that the time to mold the habits and character of a child is during the early and formative years. And no doubt, that little thought/seed of unselfish service to other people implanted in the minds of those two little girls during the plastic period of their lives was the real beginning of Mercy Hospital."

A black and white photo of Leah Nourse, who chaired the Central Governing Board of Children's Mercy in the mid-20th century.

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Leah Nourse

Leah’s story also is excerpted from the Children’s Mercy history book, “For All Children Everywhere”:

“Leah Nourse – an adventuresome and persistent woman in a time when women rarely took leading roles – chaired the Central Governing Board of Children’s Mercy from the later years of the Great Depression through World War II and the polio epidemic to the end of her tenure in 1956, when the hospital faced decisions about expanding services and staffing.

“She also devoted countless volunteer hours and financial support, according to her family. After stepping down from the board she continued to volunteer as the hospital historian and continued to make regular visits to help cheer and comfort patients. She is credited in the book, A History of the Children’s Mercy Hospital, 1897-1961 with active fundraising and marketing for the hospital.”


A Black woman smiling in front of a colorful background. Text reads: Diane Allen, Executive Assistant | Phenomenal Women of Children's Mercy

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Diane Allen

Executive Assistant

Department(s): Communications & Marketing and Office of Equity & Diversity

Time at CM: 4 years

Diane is a force to be reckoned with. Imagine being an Executive Assistant to not one, but two powerful female Senior Vice Presidents…in two different departments…in two different locations. While her duties require a daily juggling act, Diane’s organizational skills allow her to effectively align each leader’s respective calendar, giving them each time to efficiently get their important work done. Working with two phenomenal leaders is great. However, Diane especially enjoys meeting with individuals who don’t always get the spotlight, but quietly keep things running behind the scenes.

A wife and mother of five – two daughters, both grown, and three bonus children – Diane also has a busy life outside of the hospital. As owner and director of a junior volleyball club, Diane manages 11 teams of girls, ages 8 to 18, with a focus on leadership, playing the game at a higher level and most importantly, mental health. This caring spirit has always been a part of who Diane is. During her senior year in high school, she started the school’s first youth counseling group. Today, that care and empathy for mental health illuminates through Diane as she mentors her volleyball club girls and helps one of her daughters navigate through mental health challenges. Diane’s organizational skills, continuous tenacity and mental health advocacy make her a Phenomenal Woman of Mercy!

A white woman with bright red hair smiles in front of a colorful background. Text reads: Angela Guzman, MA, LCSW, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Community Education Coordinator | Phenomenal Women of Children's Mercy

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Angela Guzman, MA, LCSW, LSCSW

Title: Behavioral Health Community Education Coordinator

Department: Developmental and Behavioral Health

Time at CM: 5 years

Community Conversation Connector. These three words only begin to describe the work and dedication of Angela Guzman. Addressing behavioral health needs in our community is her daily mission. Angela connects by presenting Children’s Mercy resources, walking alongside people in their struggles rather than just giving them information. Community behavioral health, school-friendly health work and suicide prevention through the Zero Suicide plan are just some of the subjects she covers.

As a licensed social worker who has lived and worked in various communities in both California and Missouri, she has seen a lot. After the recent parade tragedy, Angela and multiple Children’s Mercy staff members across multiple divisions and departments, have gone out into the community to offer resources and support to children and families who are processing the trauma. This is why she loves her job and her leadership and considers herself truly lucky to work with so many great people who care for kids.

“If we have the skills, ability and good fortune to be able to help somebody when they need it, it is our duty, our obligation,” Angela said. “And 988 is the best, most comprehensive, free behavioral health resource that everyone needs to know about. Whatever your need, it’s free!”

A married mom of three, Angela has a vibrant personal life. She has a set of 16-year-old twins…and after a little sisterly-jabbing about having two babies at once, just a few months later, her sister also found out she was pregnant…with twins! Angela, who holds four degrees, is also an artist and a strong supporter of women in the arts. She currently has a few pieces on display at the Mattie Rhodes Center in the Mujer Art Exhibit, in which all the artwork was created by women. Oh, and the red hair…Angela was nervous to dye her hair initially because she is a professional. But it’s ended up being a blessing because people recognize her, easily, as the phenomenal woman that helped them. A top Children’s Mercy leader even told her that the red hair works for her, further cementing the inclusive culture at Children’s Mercy and why she loves working here.

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Jeanne James, MD, MBA, FAAP

Title:  Senior Vice President and Pediatrician-in-Chief, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics

Department: Pediatrics

Time at CM: 3 years

Dr. Jeanne James set her sights on being a doctor while in high school and never looked back. “The combination of science and working to restore someone’s health seemed perfect to me, and still does,” she shared. Now, as Pediatrician-in-Chief and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at both Children’s Mercy and KU, Dr. James works alongside more than 500 faculty members, whom she calls “the most amazing pediatricians in Kansas City.”

Dr. James is continually inspired by the possibilities and sense of wonder that are inherent in working with children. “Pediatricians are especially tuned in to the joy that the simplest things bring to a child, whether it’s a sticker at a well child checkup or toys on a Child Life cart that bring a smile to a seriously ill child. When we take care of children, we are truly looking into the eyes of the future,” she said. While her own three children are now in their 20s and long past their toys and stickers phase, Dr. James still loves staying connected to them, her husband and their giant dog through fun activities like running, quilting and reading.

As the first female Pediatrician-in-Chief at Children’s Mercy, Dr. James is no stranger to blazing new trails. Still, she said, if she could have dinner with any historical figures, she’d love to have a chance to meet the Berry sisters and find out what they were most proud of and what kept them going when times were tough. “They were mission-driven trailblazers who refused to accept the status quo. They had to be forces of nature to accomplish all they did!”

We’re grateful to have the pioneering spirit and dedication to excellence in pediatrics that Dr. James brings to the Children’s Mercy community.

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Iris Lim-Beutel, MD, MPH

Associate Director, Comprehensive Colorectal Center

Department(s): Pediatric Surgery

Time at CM: 2 years

Dr. Iris Lim-Beutel is passionate about poop – helping her young patients poop at the right place and right time when they haven’t been able to do so in the past, that is! As a pediatric colorectal surgeon, Dr. Lim-Beutel cares for kids with complex colorectal conditions, like Hirschsprung’s disease and anorectal malformations. She is also an active partner in our Bowel Management Boot Camp and helps kids with severe GI conditions who may need surgery.

Dr. Lim-Beutel is associate director of the Comprehensive Colorectal Center at Children’s Mercy. She and the center’s director, Dr. Rebecca Rentea, are the only two female surgeons in the U.S. who are fellowship-trained in both pediatric surgery and pediatric colorectal surgery.   “Having the privilege of caring for children throughout their lives is my favorite aspect of this job,” said Dr. Lim-Beutel. She gets to follow kids from infancy all the way to adulthood, which leads to better outcomes for many of her patients. “I feel very fortunate to be able to witness their growth, physically and mentally, throughout the years,” she added.

Dr. Lim-Beutel's surgical career was first inspired by meeting the pediatric surgeon who evaluated her younger brother, who had a birth difference that sometimes requires surgery. That early encounter left a strong impression.   While in her surgical residency, she was impressed by the pediatric surgeons, whom she described as “technically excellent, smart and approachable.” Oncology was her initial path, but ultimately, an opportunity to pursue a colorectal fellowship changed her course. During her colorectal fellowship, she said she “especially enjoyed talking about poop instead of cancer” with her pediatric patients. That, coupled with the birth-to-adulthood age range she works with, have given her a love for the colorectal specialty.

Outside of work, traveling the world with her family, including two young kids, is one of Dr. Lim-Beutel's favorite hobbies. “I get to see the world through their eyes, which is a joy in and of itself,” she shared. She also balances her love for cooking Filipino and other global cuisines with a vigorous workout regimen – especially important since her “third baby” is a years-old sourdough starter that keeps the family supplied with fresh bread!

Working in the medical field is not an easy path, especially for those from under-represented populations  . “Surgical fields have been historically male-dominated, and similarly, hospitals have typically been founded and run by men,” Dr. Lim-Beutel said. “I like to think that I share a common bond with the Children’s Mercy founders as a fellow woman in a male-dominated field, working towards improving the wellbeing of children.” She hopes that her work inspires other women, especially those like her who are from minority backgrounds, to pursue their dreams – even if living those dreams means talking with kids about poop every day. We are glad to have brilliant and capable surgeons like Dr. Lim-Beutel on our team who can also connect and share a giggle with the kids and families we serve.

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Bianca Stewart

Environmental Services Technician

Department(s): Environmental Services

Time at CM: 2.5 years

As the daughter of a military man, Bianca grew up in a home where everything always had to be clean, clean, clean! So with a deep love for children and the health and wellness of her community, Children’s Mercy was a natural fit for Bianca, who has worked in health care for nearly two decades.

It gives Bianca a great sense of pride to provide a clean, safe and healthy environment to our patients, families and team members. She knows she has a real impact on many lives in her daily work, but she doesn’t stop at just cleaning. Bianca is known to also read and play games with the kids on 5 Hall. She’s a beacon of light for everyone and truly lives the vision of Children’s Mercy by putting patients first and making sure they are taken care of. 

During a recent ceremony honoring Bianca as Employee of the Month, Joe Dane, Director of Environmental Services, described the real impact Bianca has on patients and families. “When she enters the room, comfort levels go up and anxiety goes down. She’s not walking in to give any type of stress. She can simply walk in, have a positive impact, provide a clean environment, and brighten their day…and she does it better than anyone I’ve seen.” This is a true testament as Bianca is often listed, by name, in patient comments.

That positive spirit keeps this mother of six and grandmother of seven going. Outside of work, she not only enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, but also loves rehabbing homes for low-income families. She says if she won the lottery, she’d like to build transitional homes for homeless teens and make affordable single-family properties.

When talking about the patients at Children’s Mercy, Bianca gets emotional. She understands they go through a lot. “It’s amazing, a child’s mind. Even at a young age, they know they are going through a tough health situation, they accept it and take on a strong role to fight whatever is ailing them.” This strength makes her look at her life and know it’s not all that bad. “If little ones can do it, I can too,” Bianca says. This is the type of love and positive energy this phenomenal woman spreads each time she enters a room at Children’s Mercy. And why we celebrate her continuing the legacy of our founders, the Berry sisters, to provide a clean, safe environment for all children, everywhere.

A white woman with pink earrings and a black and white cowboy hat smiles on a colorful background. Text reads Trista Tate, MA, CCLS, Manager, Patient and Family Programs | Phenomenal Women of Children's Mercy

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Trista Tate, MA, CCLS

Title: Manager, Patient and Family Programs

Time at CM: 18 years

Trista wears many different hats in her role as Manager of Patient and Family Programs, but all of them have one purpose: to give kids and families a sense of normalcy while in the hospital and provide a safe space for them to “just be a kid” during treatment. Trista oversees the team members and volunteers who make the fun happen through special events, games, parties and celebrity visits. Sounds like a breeze, until you consider that there are hundreds of patients from newborns to young adults, many of whom need special support to participate or can only join virtually, and most of whom would rather be anywhere but the hospital.

All that is a “challenge accepted” for Trista, who said she “loves all aspects of my job and each day one of my roles fills up my bucket in a different way.” Trista first came on board at Children’s Mercy in 2006 as a Child Life Specialist. About 10 years later, she moved into her current role, where she continues to use her Child Life skills every day to bring joy and laughter to our patients and families. Fun with family also is a big part of her life outside of work, where she is an avid KU sports and Chiefs fan and is the Mom Taxi for her active kids. Adding to the joyful chaos, her family of 3 will be doubling to a family of 6 this summer when she gets married.

Reflecting on our founding sisters, Trista shared, “To be able to work at a hospital where women created the environment and culture of Children’s Mercy is inspiring. The [Berry] sisters paved the way and opened the doors not only for the children in the community but also as role models for all women when they walk into these doors. Without their vision and implementation, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Luisa Taylor, DNP, MPH, APRN-C

Nephrology Nurse Practitioner

Department(s): Nephrology (Wichita)

Time at CM: 6.5 years (2014-2020 - Various Nursing roles; 2023-present - Nurse Practitioner)

For many, knowing “what they want to be when they grow up” takes time and discovery. For Luisa, the path to her calling seemed to come naturally. “I often tell others I didn’t come to nursing as much as it came to me,” says Luisa Taylor. As a young, single mother, she knew she had a passion for helping people, and that her career needed to be stable, challenging, rewarding, include growth opportunities and provide for her family. Nursing seemed to fit that profile. Beginning as a phlebotomist, Luisa advanced her training to become a provider, and now this bilingual, multi-degreed, phenomenal woman holds a Doctorate degree in Nursing.

From 2014 to 2020, Luisa served patients and families at Children’s Mercy Wichita in several departments, including Endocrinology, Outreach Clinics and Telemedicine. As she wrapped up her doctorate Masters’ and Doctorate degrees, she eagerly waited for a Nurse Practitioner position to open at her hospital of choice - Children’s Mercy of course - and when it did, the Nephrology team welcomed her with open arms. Here, she partnered with Dr. Mohammed Ali to care for patients with kidney disease and consult with local hospitals on best nephrology practices. Luisa says she is proud to work with a team that so highly values innovation and research, so that kids with kidney disease can feel at their best. Her ability to speak Spanish (and some Portuguese!) is an asset in Wichita, where many families in the community can get clear, accurate and helpful health information in their first language. Luisa, and MARTTI, our mobile video interpreting device, make this possible!

Luisa immigrated from Peru at age 11 and is the mother of two children, happily engaged, and will marry later this year. She loves spending time with family, reading, skiing, traveling and volunteering. Luisa frequently volunteers for non-profit organizations with a focus on women’s issues. Recently, she’s focused on health care related volunteer work, serving on the Board of Directors of Project Access, a local organization that helps coordinate medical care specialists for those in need. When asked what it means to her to work for a hospital founded by two women, Luisa replied, “I think it is a true testament to the power of women. We are visionaries!”

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Kaela Varberg, PhD 

Independent Investigator 

Department(s): Neonatology 

Time at CM: 7 months

Although Kaela is relatively new to Children’s Mercy, you might recognize her as one of the featured team members in our “Built for Kids” campaign. But Kaela’s work goes far beyond being the model behind the microscope. Her research in maternal-fetal health is making a big impact on the field. Currently, she leads a research lab that is investigating the role of the placenta in long-term health outcomes and even future generations.

As a researcher, Kaela enjoys meeting other professionals and identifying new opportunities to promote and support scientific research. She has always had a passion for science and math and discovered a fascination with maternal/fetal medicine during her PhD program. Now, she is using those skills to better understand how specialized cells in the placenta connect to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Kaela has a personal connection to her work, as well. She was diagnosed with a rare disease in 2018 and has brought that experience into her daily work. “It’s been interesting to go on my own medical odyssey to find out about my rare disease while training to become a biomedical research scientist,” Kaela said. “I look at research through a different lens now and know firsthand the value of receiving a diagnosis. I hope to use my experience to support and advance rare disease research.”

Outside of work, Kaela enjoys traveling to visit friends and family and checking out new local restaurants and experiences. “I am proud to work at Children’s Mercy and especially proud that it was founded by two visionary women,” she said.

Thank you, Kaela, for the important research you and your team are pursuing that will make a difference for women and children in the future!

A white woman with blond hair and a black blazer smiles on a colorful background. Text reads: Teresa Wedel, SHRM-SCP, Director, Culture and Change Management | Phenomenal Women of Children's Mercy

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Teresa Wedel

Title: Director of Culture and Change Management

Time at CM: 6 years

Many people go running the other direction when they hear the word “change,” but Teresa Wedel, Director of Culture and Change Management, embraces the opportunities that change can bring to an organization like Children’s Mercy. She has always felt that culture and change management go hand-in-hand. “The culture journey is about living out our values and guiding behaviors. Change happens one individual at a time. As we can help people realize their own thought habits and behaviors and build that self-awareness, those individual changes accumulate and impact the entire organization,” Teresa shared.

Teresa’s life and career journey have both been about going where her energy lies and constantly evolving. She first felt called to work in Human Resources because she loves helping people find what they’re good at and create an environment where people feel good about what they do and who they are at work. At home, Teresa and her husband are leaning into a few new changes as well. They are celebrating the marriage of their daughter and their son’s adventures as a new grad and new in the workforce. This new season of life allows them to embrace opportunities that these changes bring.

“Three things have guided me through my career,” Teresa shared. “Go where your energy is, be courageous when you’re in a place you’ve never been before, and empower others along the way.” We are grateful for Phenomenal Women of Mercy like Teresa who are willing to stretch themselves – and our team members – to bold new opportunities for growth and positive change.

Phenomenal Woman of Mercy

Michelle Wimes

Title: Senior Vice President, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer   

Time at CM: 4 years

Michelle Wimes, JD, knew from an early age that she wanted to be a voice for the disenfranchised. She spent the first 15 years of her professional life as a lawyer, working in immigration, labor and employment, international and special education law. In the process, she discovered a passion for mentoring, professional development and community work.

“I shifted into the DEI space once I started noticing the challenges that women, LGBTQ and racially and ethnically diverse lawyers were facing in a predominantly white male-dominated profession,” said Michelle. “I came to health care during COVID, when health disparities became a national conversation, and I haven’t looked back!” 

Now, Michelle leads equity and inclusion strategies for Children’s Mercy Kansas City, including tackling gaps in cultural competencies for employees and staff, leveling health disparities for patients and families, and opening barriers to access for suppliers and vendors. A pickleball and travel enthusiast with KC Current season tickets, Michelle spends her downtime cheering on her three daughters—a professional dancer, a law student and a University of Kansas soccer player. 

She said it means the world to her to work for an organization founded by women. She is inspired by how Alice Berry Graham and Katharine Berry Richardson created opportunities for themselves when women were routinely excluded from health care associations—and then opened doors for others, including partnering with Wheatley Provident Hospital to train Black pediatricians and serve Black children during segregation.

“I remain in awe of their courage, tenacity and integrity,” Michelle said of the Berry sisters. “We need more women and people like them today who are willing to stand up for what’s right in the face of vehement opposition.”