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Verna Laboy: 2020 Woman of Excellence in Health Care

Verna Laboy: 2020 Woman of Excellence in Health Care

  • Photo by Anthony Jinson

Health Educator, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Senior Services

A health educator for Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Senior Services, Verna Laboy has called Columbia home for 30 years. She leads the Live Well by Faith initiative, which addresses health disparities, particularly diabetes and hypertension, in Boone County’s African American communities through their places of worship. The initiative has received both state and national accolades.

Verna was a founding member of the Worley Street Roundtable and has served on the boards of Love INC, FACE, and the Community Foundation of Central Missouri.

Serving on the boards of organizations she feels are making a difference in people’s lives is Verna’s favorite volunteer activity. Verna says she has mentored hundreds of women over the years and is currently mentoring several, which for Verna entails being “a trusted advisor who provides emotional support, accountability, assistance in setting and meeting goals, and who shares motivation and encouragement along the life journey and career path.”

Verna says she is motivated by her “faith in action! It is lived out in my daily decisions. Making a positive difference in the lives of others. Coaching others into positive life transformations.”

Her big goal for 2020 is increasing her self-care with exercise, healthy eating, more sleep, savoring quiet time — possibly while bird watching at Eagle Bluff — and saying no to more activities and yes to herself. 

“I have learned to appreciate the fact that life is both precious and painful,” Verna says. “I love my life. I am grateful. [A woman of excellence] does life with integrity, character, and honesty, and she is peaceful, passionate, giving, and grateful.”


Jen Wheeler
President and Co-founder, Big Tree Medical Home

Being president and co-founder of Big Tree Medical Home is Jen Wheeler’s second big success after founding City of Refuge in 2010.

Noticing a gap in affordable health care options available to the uninsured prompted Jen and her husband to open Big Tree to provide an option that allowed patients in need to be seen by their primary care doctors the same day, regardless of their insurance status.

In November 2019, the clinic saw its 3,000th patient. Defining success as “making others feel loved and valued,” Jen’s big 2020 goal is to double the number of patients they serve in the year ahead.

Celebrating milestones with her staff keeps her motivated, as do the patients. “I want to be a blessing to them, so I need to do my job really well and think of new ideas in order to be a blessing to as many people as possible,” Jen says.

Dr. Arminta Phelps
Founder and Chiropractor, Achieve Balance Chiropractic

“I believe the truest desire of the human spirit is to help others. If you want to be happy, do something for someone else,” says Dr. Arminta Phelps, the founding chiropractor at Achieve Balance Chiropractic.

“I lead an amazing team that takes care of Columbia’s spines. We lead the people we serve toward a holistic wellness lifestyle while providing hope and inspiration along the way,” she says.

In addition to her work, Arminta also makes time to be a mentor, especially to those on her team who want to become chiropractors. Being named the recipient of the 2019 Sherman Brown Jr. Award as part of the Missourian Progress Awards is Arminta’s proudest professional accomplishment. 

“I believe being a woman of excellence is a character trait: Be the best version of myself every day, stand up for what I believe in, and inspire others around me to do the same.”

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