In 1954, while Joan & Rev. William Stackhouse were in West Africa, Joan was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis. Joan and Bill were missionaries with the United Presbyterian Church but after Joan’s diagnosis, they returned to New York so that she could receive treatment. Just as Joan became aware of the MG Foundation of America in NYC, Bill was transferred to Kansas City where there wasn’t a MG group and the nearest MG clinic was at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. In 1960 Joan set her sights on forming a local association and received support from their pastor, his wife and other parishioners of the Southridge Presbyterian Church in Mission, Kansas. Joan met Cecile Wu, who was also living with MG and motivated by their shared diagnosis, and with the cooperation of other MG patients and doctors in the community, the MGA was established. The charter meeting of the Kansas City MGA was held at Menorah Medical Center on April 9th, 1961. Later that year, the United Campaign (United Way) provided the association’s first grant of $2,500 enabling them to hire theMGA’s first Executive Director.
1962, Dr. William Wu, MGA’s first Medical Advisory Board Chair and Joan, were instrumental in establishing the first MG outpatient clinic at Menorah Medical Center to be under the direction of Dr. Dewey Ziegler. In 1964, Dr. Ronald Youmans assumed directorship and established a MGA office space at the hospital. Soon after, a MG Drug Bank through the Menorah Pharmacy was developed and made it possible for those living with MG to afford costly medications. In the 1960’s being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis meant that there were limited treatment options, lack of understanding and fear. An organizational emphasis was placed on increasing public awareness and providing professional education as well as educating patients, providing support and linking patients with MG-knowledgeable neurologists and community resources.
The first few years were filled with growth and excitement and little did these early MGA pioneers realize that they were laying the foundation for an association that would become an innovative health services non-profit in the greater Kansas City area that would help thousands of people living in Kansas and Missouri for over 50 years.