The Student Health Coalition Archive Project describes a collaboration between underserved communities and college students in the 1960s through the 1980s.  The goal of the collaboration: improve access to health care, by means of community organizing, primarily in the rural South.

The archive represents an innovative community-driven approach to preserving history, weaving together individual stories and memories that in the aggregate build a narrative about the work, the era, community organizing, and health care delivery. Documents, photos, and recorded interviews are housed at the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and at the Eskind Biomedical Library at Vanderbilt University. This website serves as a portal to the Archive, and an invitation to participate.

Project Themes

Recently Added Stories

New River Boys

As illustration of the depth and strength of relationship between the communities and the students, witness the example of the New River Boys. The Boys were a distinguished bluegrass band in the early 1970s. They played in venues around the… Continued

Betty Anderson’s introduction to SOCM

Betty Anderson shares how she first became involved with Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) and the Student Health Coalition. Included in her account is a story about how she and others responded to opposition of the rural health clinics in… Continued

Reflections on the SHC’s sense of fashion

Kate Bradley and Marie Cirillo share some laughs thinking back to the effort Student Health Coalition (SHC) participants put toward demonstrating modesty and respect so as to cultivate relationships with community members. But sporting bowl cuts, long skirts, and duct-taped… Continued

Art Van Zee on community hosts Howard and Elsie Elliot

Art Van Zee reminisces Howard and Elsie Elliot, a local couple with whom many Student Health Coalition (SHC) participants were welcomed to stay. He highlights their hospitality as a hallmark of the Coalition’s community-centered approach to effective organizing. Continued

On the SHC’s provision of hope as fuel for systemic change to rural healthcare

Kate and J.W. Bradley share sweet reflections of the friendships made during the Student Health Coalition’s (SHC’s) community organizing efforts in rural Tennessee, and explain that the organization’s leader, Bill Dow, gave them hope to change what they’d always been… Continued

Charles “Boomer” Winfrey on the Coal Creek War of 1892-1893

Charles “Boomer” Winfrey delineates the historical account of Coal Creek, Tennessee’s Coal Creek War (the battle atop Militia Hill at Fort Anderson) to Maureen O’Connell, Tom John, and Biff Hollingsworth. He explains the conflict’s origins within a larger context of… Continued

Minnie Bommer’s encounter with hospital segregation

Having overcome the adversity of racially biased employment discrimination imposed upon her at the outset of her nursing career, Minnie Bommer shares also about the realities of healthcare inequities and segregation experienced post-hire at a hospital in Covington, Tenn. Recorded… Continued

Minnie Bommer on racially charged employment discrimination and her journey to nursing career

Minnie Bommer shares her tumultuous experience at the outset of her nursing career, detailing the extent of racially biased obstacles intended to bar her from hire at hospitals in Tipton County, Tenn. Recorded on June 1, 2018.   Full footage… Continued

Recently Added Personal Profiles

Carolyn Klyce

Contributed by John E. Davis. Carolyn Klyce joined the Student Health Coalition after her Junior year at Vanderbilt University. During the summer of 1970, she was teamed with Dick Burr, working as a community organizer in Morgan County, Tenn. The… Continued

Dick Burr

Contributed by John E. Davis and Jack Beckford. Dick Burr grew up in Lake Wales, Fla. After graduating from high school in 1967, he spent four years as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, majoring in philosophy. His years at Vanderbilt… Continued

Leslie Falk

Leslie Falk was born April 19, 1915, and grew up in St. Louis, Mo. After attending University of Illinois and Washington University (St. Louis), Falk received a Rhodes Scholarship, which allowed him to attend Oxford University, 1937-1940, where he helped… Continued
Bill Dow in Smithville ,Tenn., 1970

Bill Dow

Bill Dow co-founded the Student Health Coalition while in medical school at Vanderbilt University, in 1969. His larger-than-life role in the SHC origin story and beyond warrants special telling, which we attempt in the essay that follows. Contributed by Margaret… Continued