[Contributed by Barbara Clinton, March 2022]
The Center for Health Services (more recently the Center for Community Health Solutions) focused on uniting students and grassroots community leaders to facilitate community change from 1970-2013, sponsoring hundreds of public health and community service projects. All of the CHS-sponsored projects were designed to support grassroots people taking control of their physical, social, political, or environmental health. These programs and internships helped medical, graduate, and undergraduate students, as well as AmeriCorps members, VISTAs, and community leaders address a community health problem. Many of the programs received national and international awards.
In the more than forty years of its life, the Center was consistent in three things:
- Low-income community leaders drove or inspired the work with help from students, staff, and faculty from Vanderbilt, Meharry, and other campuses across the nation.
- Health as defined by the World Health Organization, including freedom from disease and freedom to work, live, and collaborate in peace, equity, and prosperity, was the central theme.
- The university base at Vanderbilt linked gifted students, good hearted faculty, and staff experts to government and private funding sources, and provided lots of additional support that was used to promote the interests of low-income people.
This unique and successful model demonstrated the value of linking the resources of an elite university with the strengths of low-income people. It was lost when Vanderbilt shut down the Center. On the day of its death, these were its programs:
- CASTLES was developed as a strategy to prevent obesity and improve child health. Each year, 20-30 students from Vanderbilt, TSU, Belmont, and Lipscomb mentored children ages 5-14. The program developed a high-quality afterschool fitness program for inner city schools and community centers and offered “Community Kitchen” events at community centers. Its outcomes are further described in Linda Wofford’s, Deanna Froeber’s, Barbara Clinton’s, and Eileen Ruchman’s 2013 Family and Community Health article, “Free afterschool program for African American children: findings and lessons”. CASTLES is still in operation, now as a program of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing.
- The NAZA program was adapted from our CASTLES program by the administration of then Mayor Karl Dean, with CHS serving as the operating agent in north Nashville. It provides support and coaching to the staff of afterschool programs who use an innovative curriculum to improve students’ academic achievement, attendance, and disciplinary records. NAZA, now a program of Nashville Metropolitan Public Library, still operates today.
- Shade Tree Clinic, a medical student-run clinic providing free care to uninsured patients in collaboration with United Neighborhood Health Services, now operates as a program of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Participating students also create wellness programs addressing diabetes, prenatal and early child health, and children’s sports programs.
- The Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker program (MIHOW) was developed as a partnership between the Vanderbilt and community organizations in Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia to train and support a network of community women who mentor other mothers to promote healthy pregnancies, healthy children, and healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. Its outcomes are further described in Melanie Lutenbacher’s, Tonya Elkins’, Mary S. Dietrich’s, and Anais Riggs’ 2018 Maternal and Child Health Journal article, “The Efficacy of Using Peer Mentors to Improve Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Hispanic Families: Findings from a Randomized Clinical Trial”. MIHOW is still in operation, now a program of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing. Browse the timeline below for the chronology of events that led up to the beginnings of this program and ongoing development over subsequent decades:
- The South Nashville Family Resource Center expands opportunities for student involvement in community service in south Nashville, and increases business, community organization, school and resident responsiveness to neighborhood needs. It is now a program of Catholic Charities.
- The Nashville Mobile Market, with a truck and large refrigerated trailer donated by Vanderbilt, was an AmeriCorps member and student-run program that provided fresh, affordable, and healthy food to 15 inner city food desert neighborhoods each week. More than 9200 customers were served during its operation between 2011 and 2013.
- The Coalition for Healthy Aging used students, volunteers, and AmeriCorps members to enhance healthy aging across the lifespan for seniors, young women, immigrants, and refugees. The program coordinated health education, hosted fitness and nutrition classes, offered companionship for isolated seniors, and provided breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer education and cultural competency training to health profession students from 1990 to 2013.
- Service Training for Environmental Progress (STEP) offered student assistance to community and environmental groups working to understand and address complex scientific issues between 1981 and 2012.
Browse the timeline below for a visual telling of the events of Vanderbilt’s Center for Health Services (CHS) from the earliest days throughout its several decades of work.
Contributed by Joe Little, February 2016 As with a growing number of past experiences, my recall is opaque and often self-serving. I don’t exactly remember how I was lured into the first summer of work in 1971 in East Tennessee.… Continued
Brought to us by Margaret Ecker and others involved in its 2013 production, this special collection of insights from several Student Health Coalition (SHC) figureheads in the 1970s features Bill Dow, Bill Corr, Carolyn Burr, Dal Macon, and Marie Cirillo–among… Continued
Sharon Roberson describes the student-led approach to community organizing in West Tennessee, such as appealing to established community leaders (namely, ministers from local churches). She also details the health fair model and rights and benefits counseling, both of which were… Continued
Bob Hartmann explains how his and many others’ formative experience in rural healthcare and community medicine with the Center for Health Services (CHS), Student Health Coalition (SHC), and Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC)—both as students and young professionals—left a lasting… Continued
In 1965, Dr. Lewis Lefkowitz arrived at Vanderbilt University and began a community-based elective for students. After Dr. Amos Christie invited him to a meeting with students interested in starting the Student Health Coalition (SHC), he became one of its… Continued
Sharon Roberson shares how her experience with the Center for Health Services informed her professional pursuits, particularly as it relates to combatting the mentality she’d witnessed among many people in West Tennessee–that being the impetus not to “rock the boat”… Continued
Bob Hartmann frames the Coalition work as having absolutely been outside convention and against the grain, in large part due to Bill Dow’s talent at generating and following through with big, extraordinary ideas. He then elucidates one of his favorite… Continued
Ruth Ann Casper, a participant in the Maternal-Infant Health Outreach Worker Project (MIHOW), shares about the powerful impact of home visitors and their value as sources of emotional support and information during her first pregnancy. Scheryl Stout, a home visitor… Continued
Barbara Clinton discusses the influence of Vanderbilt’s Student Health Coalition (SHC) on various subsequent initiatives, speaking specifically to the extension of its core mission and student-led approach to several programs. She focuses on the Center for Health Services (CHS) and… Continued
Bill Corr recounts his introduction to the Student Health Coalition (SHC) and Center for Health Services (CHS) shortly after graduating from Vanderbilt Law School. He was working with the Tennessee Department of Public Health at the time Irwin Venick encouraged… Continued
Contributed by Cindy Lutenbacher, September 2015 I was born in Shreveport, La. in 1953, but I lived in cities all over the South. New Orleans is my family home, even though only one cousin still lives there now. I think… Continued
Irwin Venick expands on the competing visions between the SHC and the Center for Health Services (CHS), explaining that once the Center was established, Coalitioners faced the challenge of adjusting to a structure they hadn’t had to in previous installments… Continued
Bob Hartmann shares the suspicion and intimidation he and others felt in the wake of developing the Center for Health Services (CHS), since the fuel behind it seemed to be coming primarily from and out of the Medical School for… Continued
Contributed by Irwin Venick, May 2016 I arrived in Nashville, Tenn. on a hot, humid day in August 1971 not really knowing what to expect. One thing for sure was that I was not in Kansas (meaning for me, New… Continued
Irwin Venick characterizes the formation of the Center for Health Services (CHS) as an “institutional overlay imposed upon from on high” rather than an impulse among Coalition participants. He explains that most of the university-driven energy to formalize and take… Continued
Bob Hartmann, Irwin Venick, and Joe Little reflect on how the SHC process became institutionalized and the widespread (but split) resistance to it. Bob concludes that if they’d known more about how universities work or approached the formalization process retrospectively,… Continued
Margaret Ecker and Irwin Venick summarize the differences and ensuing conflict between the Coalition’s and the university’s motivations, priorities, and framework of their approach to healthcare in Appalachia. Irwin makes an important distinction between the Medical School’s focus on community… Continued
Barbara Clinton frames the Maternal-Infant Health Outreach Worker Project (MIHOW) as a sustainability-driven next step to the care and relationships initiated by Coalition health fairs. She delineates the role outreach workers filled and the immense impact local women had on… Continued
Joe Little shares his perspective on the impetus behind the establishment of the Center for Health Services, based on his own recollection and from his deep dive into the archives. Toward the end of this clip, he also briefly touches… Continued
Contributed by Virginia “Ginnie” Munford. My experience with the Student Health Coalition (SHC) was working as the first “Staff Assistant” at the Center for Health Services (CHS), from approximately 1974 – 1976. The staff of the Center included Bill Dow… Continued
Bob Hartmann and Irwin Venick respond to Gillian’s question about how they would approach or encourage others to approach similar student and/or community-led projects today. Bob provides insight into what the Coalition did right and what it could have done… Continued
Bob Hartmann contrasts the informal and independent nature of the Coalition’s early, pre-Center days with that of the kind of student work he sees most often today. He draws on the metaphor that, prior to the formalization of the Coalition’s… Continued
Overview of work at Rural Advancement Fund; 70s at Oberlin College; overview of history and content of Agricultural Marketing Project in Tennessee; overview on farmers market organizing and environmental organizing in the 70s; background on Health fairs in Tennessee –… Continued
Contributed by Bob Hartmann, February 2017 Rick Davidson has been badgering me for over a year to write a profile. Somehow he enlisted my wife, Mel Welsh, and now she is badgering me! As I read the profiles on the… Continued
The following text was part of a memorial by Irwin Venick during a gathering of Coalition alumni at Vanderbilt University, May 20, 2017. Richard (Dick) Couto served as Co-Director and then Director of the Center for Health Services (CHS) from… Continued
Joe Little reflects on the influence of Coalition (and Center) participation on himself (and others) as an individual, choosing to think on how it impacted so many students in positive and profound ways despite the conflict that surrounded the Center… Continued
Irwin Venick worked with the Appalachian Student Health Coalition and the Center for Health Services in the 1970s, eventually becoming a lawyer in Nashville, Tenn. The series includes subject files on social and environmental issues in Tennessee and the South,… Continued
The Websters discuss the role of Coalition (and other) gatherings in creating momentum for the archive project. John Davis notes how they spurred collective memory recovery and reflection. In reference to a 2009 Center for Health Services (CHS) gathering, Rosie… Continued
Contributed by Dal Macon, February 2016 Working with the Student Health Coalition (SHC) during the summer of 1971, my role was to coordinate the support staff of non-medical students during each Health Fair. The background to the need for that… Continued
Barbara Clinton was the Center for Health Services director 1988-2013. The series contains annual reports from the Center for Health Services (CHS), Appalachian Student Health Coalition (ASHC), and the Student Environmental Health Project (STEP); reports on the coalition’s efforts; and… Continued
Sharon Roberson tells of her first getting involved with the Center for Health Services, a Vanderbilt-sponsored affiliate program of the Student Health Coalition. She worked in West Tennessee (primarily Haywood County) and explains that unique to this region, in comparison… Continued
Dr. Tom John speaks about his experiences with the Student Health Coalition (SHC) and the Center for Health Services (CHS). Recorded by Margaret Ecker, 2013. Continued
Margaret Ecker reflects on the power of the Coalition, however invisible at the time, and its success in changing institutions, unconventional and inchoate though it was. She brings John Gaventa’s conclusion on the matter, as further detailed in his book… Continued
Irwin Venick and Joe Little define the central conflict pertaining to the development of the Center for Health Services (CHS) as the challenge of retaining a Bill-like figure to keep the spirit, vision, and focus of the Coalition alive, yet… Continued
Sharon Roberson delves into more detail about her ongoing work with the YWCA and how her experience with the Coalition shaped the values which, to this day, inspire her professional priorities. Full footage of Sharon Roberson’s 2018 oral history… Continued
Stephanie Park, a community scholar with the Center for Health Services (CHS), shares how her firsthand experience in community healthcare bolstered her education in the field and furthered her understanding of holistic community development—particularly with regard to doctor-patient relationships. … Continued
Sharon Roberson describes an air conditioning situation in the Haywood County Public Health Services building which, to her surprise, highlighted how Black people, according to custom and engrained mentality, demonstrated deference to the White demographic. Full footage of Sharon… Continued
Dal Macon briefly shares about some of his post-Student Health Coalition (SHC) community projects, including having served on the board of Marie Cirillo‘s Community Land Trust and organized outreach efforts through the Center for Health Services (CHS) at Vanderbilt University.… Continued
Bob Hartmann shares the story of his trip escorting Sir George Pickering, a well-respected hypertension specialist from England who was at the time visiting as a guest professor, and Dr. Grant Liddle and his family to East Tennessee as an… Continued
Barbara Clinton shares how the Center for Health Services (CHS) acquired funding for the Maternal-Infant Health Outreach Worker Project (MIHOW), an effort initiated by Dick Couto’s ongoing attempts to convince the Ford Foundation to invest in Appalachia. She also names… Continued
Contributed by Richard Davidson, October 2015. Lewis Lefkowitz was born in Dallas, Texas in December, 1930. He was an early and vocal supporter of the work of the Coalition, and was beloved by the students of the Coalition and beyond.… Continued
Link to the Collection Finding Aid in the Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill: https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/05649/ This collection includes materials documenting the work of the Student Health Coalition, an organization developed at Vanderbilt University in 1969 to reach out to medically underserved… Continued
Barbara Clinton explains what she learned of the challenges associated with midwifery in rural areas, traditionally known as granny midwives, and the Center’s resulting impetus to support local women with training and funding through the Maternal-Infant Health Outreach Worker Project… Continued
Irwin Venick, Joe Little, and Bob Hartmann reflect on the birth and growth of the Center for Health Services (CHS) over time, tracing its stages of development from its initial Medical School partnership to its later social-science orientation and eventually,… Continued
Joe Little frames Tricia Nixon’s visit to the Center for Health Services (CHS) as a microcosm for the conflict that was going on at the time: some SHC and/or CHS participants and alumni attended the meeting, entertaining the dialogue that… Continued
Sharon Roberson provides insight into the dynamic of student stays with local families and developing community relationships, including the mutually shared desire not to disrupt existing social norms that would persist after they left. Full footage of Sharon Roberson’s… Continued
Margaret Ecker and Bob Hartmann discuss how the university seemed to be feeding off of and trying to control Coalition energy and notoriety in the effort to recruit foundation dollars. He shares the story of his trip escorting Sir George… Continued
Frances Henderson from the Service Training for Environmental Progress (STEP) discusses the relationship between environmental pollution and public health, sharing specifically about a nearby contaminated creek in Hendersonville, Tenn. which caused significant medical concerns among community members. She also shares… Continued
Barbara Clinton explains how partnerships between local community health clinics and the Center for Health Services (CHS) facilitated the development of the Maternal-Infant Health Outreach Worker Project (MIHOW). It was up to the community-run clinics to outline criteria for and… Continued
Sharon Roberson describes community organizing work over time and the growing tension that transpired among Vanderbilt students from one summer to the next, particularly in light of apartheid in South Africa and the ongoing domestic fight for civil rights. Many… Continued
Committee records, annual reports, photographs, and other records of the Student Health Coalition and other projects of the Center for Health Services. Records of the Center for Health Services. Eskind Biomedical Library Special Collections, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN. Continued
Sharon Roberson discusses her witness of racial segregation in rural West Tennessee healthcare (circa late 1970s), noting how said disparities severely limited access to healthcare for many in the area. Full footage of Sharon Roberson’s 2018 oral history interview. Continued
Personal papers of Amos Christie, pediatrician, child health advocate, beloved Vanderbilt professor, and humanitarian. Dr. Christie is best known for his research in histoplasmosis, known as the “Vanderbilt disease,” but he was also instrumental in integrating Vanderbilt’s pediatrics ward in… Continued