Founded by a pioneering physician and sustained by a nationally recognized health care system, BarnesCare is celebrating 75 years as the premier occupational health care choice for St. Louis employers — from multinational companies to local family-owned businesses.
Building on its history of unmatched care and service, BarnesCare continues to innovate and evolve, finding new opportunities and ways to serve St. Louis business.
Foundation of excellence
Today’s BarnesCare is known for providing a comprehensive range of occupational health care and preventive services to thousands of employees across metropolitan St. Louis.
“BarnesCare exists to support employers’ ability to efficiently hire new employees, remain compliant with regulatory guidelines, and specialize in work-related injury and illness treatment and rehabilitation,” says Steve Schaper, BJC Corporate Health Services executive director.
But when St. Louis native, decorated World War II veteran and Washington University physician Richard Sutter, MD, opened the Sutter Clinic in 1946, “industrial health” was a relatively new field. The downtown clinic was one of the first in the country to specialize in treating work-related injuries and illnesses.
As American industry boomed in the 1950s and 60s, so did the Sutter Clinic. Dr. Sutter became nationally known as an innovator in industrial health care, taking leadership posts in regional and national occupational and industrial health associations.
He was one of the first physicians to be board certified in preventive health and he worked with St. Louis companies to not only treat and rehabilitate injured workers, but also to develop proactive programs to prevent workplace injuries.
By the 1970s, Dr. Sutter was a respected voice in his field and an advocate for national workplace safety standards and regulation. He was appointed by then-President Richard Nixon as the only physician to serve on the committee that developed the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA).
As Dr. Sutter readied for retirement in the mid-1980s, the former Barnes Hospital acquired the Sutter Clinic. Renamed Barnes-Sutter Clinic, the practice continued to provide the highest quality occupational health care, reinforced with the resources of Barnes Hospital.
With the formation of BJC HealthCare in the 1990s, the Barnes-Sutter Clinic rebranded as BarnesCare. The name changed, but the primary goal of protecting the health and well-being of St. Louis-area employers and workers remained the same.
Expansion, adjustment and moving into the future
Today, BarnesCare clinics in Westport, St. Peters and Midtown, near the Washington University Medical Campus, offer comprehensive services including essential functional testing, ergonomics training, drug screening and employee wellness programs and have earned certification by the National Association of Occupational Health Professionals.
Schaper attributes BarnesCare’s successful track record to developing longstanding relationships with area employers that withstand even catastrophic events, like the COVID-19 pandemic. He credits providers and support staff with continuing to deliver high-quality care while adapting to difficult circumstances.
“The past few years presented challenges previously unforeseen,” says Schaper. “We are no different than the businesses we serve, and we were forced to rethink how we deliver certain services.
“Not surprisingly, it’s the people we employ who make the difference,” he says. “We have a mix of very experienced as well as newer employees who are dedicated on a daily basis to those we serve.”
This willingness to adapt to the environment while maintaining the core commitment to client service is taking BarnesCare into the future,adds Schaper.
Along with working on multi-year contracts with many large employers including Boeing, the City of St. Louis, Bi-State/Metro and the Metropolitan Sewer District, the BarnesCare business development team works to pursue new opportunities that include expanding “onsite” clinics where BarnesCare provides staff who offer services on the employer’s campus.
And in recent years, BarnesCares has begun partnerships with area school districts and an area university.
In 2017, BarnesCare partnered with the Fort Zumwalt School District to open “ZumCare,” a clinic specifically for school district employees and their families. Lindenwood University also chose BarnesCare to provide student health clinic services. In 2021, BarnesCare and Christian Hospital partnered with the Ferguson-Florissant School District to open FergFlor Care, a clinic serving district employees and their dependents enrolled in the district’s group health plan.
Giving students, teachers and their families easy access to high quality health care can lead to more time in the classroom and less time waiting to see the doctor. For BarnesCare, it is a strategy that can pay dividends into the future: By making an impact on today’s students, BarnesCare is ensuring a healthier St. Louis workforce in the future.
Longtime employees provide a bridge to BarnesCare’s roots
Warren Westmoreland and Shelley Penrod have worked for BarnesCare since before it was BarnesCare.
Both veteran employees began working in the 1980s, when BarnesCare was called the Barnes-Sutter Clinic and semi-retired clinic founder Richard Sutter, MD, still made appearances at his namesake facility.
When Penrod started in 1988, Barnes Hospital had just bought the Sutter Clinic, renamed it the Barnes-Sutter Clinic and opened a facility in Fenton, where she worked as a front desk patient registrar. Dr. Sutter would still come into the downtown clinic at 819 Locust Street, but wasn’t seeing patients.
“I remember being aware of Dr. Sutter’s stature — he was the doctor who started the clinics,” Penrod says. “The occupational medical clinic had been around a long time.”
Westmoreland’s connection goes back even farther. His father was Dr. Sutter’s mechanic when Westmoreland was a child, though he didn’t realize that when he first started working at the Sutter Clinic in 1981 as a Washington University physical therapy technician treating patients for work-related injuries.
He does remember Dr. Sutter as “funny, kind and always upbeat.”
“I remember standing in the elevator one day and Dr. Sutter came in,” Westmoreland says. “In the elevator was a huge picture of him. He looks at me and says, ‘Do you know who that guy is?’ and points to the picture behind us. I turned around and looked at the picture and said, ‘Wow, that’s you!’ He just laughed and told me to enjoy my day.”
Both Penrod and Westmoreland have seen many changes over their years at BarnesCare.
After working at the front desk, Penrod became a medical transcriptionist. An Employee of the Year Award and gold ID badge winner, Penrod now includes scheduling, chart scanning and chart coordination, client correspondence and other administrative tasks among her duties. Her work then focused on typing doctors’ reports on carbon copy forms using a typewriter.
“We had actual hard-copy charts and a huge file room,” she says. “Now, all the charts are paperless, and everything is done by computer.”
Westmoreland, who is now a BarnesCare senior account executive and also an Employee of the Year Award and gold ID badge winner, notes that BarnesCare has grown to three locations offering a wider variety of services than it did when he first started. Also, decision-making has become more collaborative, and leadership has become more accessible, he says.
Both Penrod and Westmoreland say one thing that hasn’t changed since they started is the focus on providing the best care and service possible to clients.
“We are very high volume, very fast paced, with the goal being to provide quality care efficiently and communicate well to our clients. And that is the same today as on day one,” says Penrod.
“What has stayed the same? I believe our commitment to providing the best possible occupational health services to our clients,” says Westmoreland.