Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC)

Mountain People’s Health Councils, Inc. (MPHC) was incorporated in September of 1973, bringing together three communities in Tennessee that hosted Vanderbilt Student Health Coalition (SHC) health fairs, organized and incorporated local health councils, and opened health clinics. The three communities were Norma (Scott County), Petros (Morgan County), and Stoney Fork (Campbell County).

The clinics started seeing patients in 1974, with a full-time nurse practitioner at each clinic and a circuit-riding physician. The first physician was Rick Davidson, who volunteered with the SHC when he was a medical student. Other SHC volunteers who worked at MPHC over the years were Bill Dow, Wanda Lang, Bob Hartmann, and Trish Woodall. MPHC received support from the National Health Service Corps, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, also known as Rural Health Initiatives, along with small foundation grants.

Forty-six years later, Mountain People’s is alive and well. It was not always smooth sailing. The clinics in Petros and Stoney Fork have closed, and the Norma clinic was closed for a period of time. Today MPHC is based entirely in Scott County, with five clinics that provide a comprehensive range of services, including dental and mental health. The five locations are Norma, Elgin, Huntsville, Oneida, and Winfield. Mountain People’s now serves over 50 percent of the population in Scott County. In 2018, MPHC was named as one of the Top Ten federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) in the nation in terms of their quality of care scores.

This section of the SHC website tells the story of Mountain People’s Health Councils, Inc. from the health fairs in the 1970s to the creation of MPHC to the success that this SHC legacy is today. There is a section for each of the original clinics in Norma, Petros, and Stoney Fork. A brief history of each clinic is combined with links to health fair documents and photos from the Center for Health Services (CHS) at Vanderbilt, incorporation documents for each clinic, interviews with board members and clinicians, and photos from various collections in the Southern Historical Collection archives at UNC-Chapel Hill. The individual stories of Norma, Petros, and Stoney Fork are followed by a section about Mountain People’s today, including information about their locations and services, sources of funding, and performance as a FQHC. Interviews with the current CEO and MPHC Board of Directors are included. The final section is Lessons Learned. Various participants in the Mountain People’s story will share their perspectives about the challenges and successes that made MPHC an enduring legacy of the Student Health Coalition.


Related Content:

Rick Davidson talks about a local healer in the Stoney Fork community

Richard Davidson M.D., M.P.H., recalls his interactions with a local healer in the community of Stoney Fork, Tenn., while serving as the first physician for Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC), a consortium of health clinics originally formed by the communities… Continued

Bob Hartmann on the National Health Service Corps and its role in his development as a young doctor

Bob Hartmann shares about his return to Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) after graduating from Vanderbilt medical school and explains the role of the National Health Service Corps in his education and early professional development.   Full footage of Bob… Continued

Pat Kalmans

Pat, while never officially part of the student workforce in SHC, was a major player in the early work of SOCM and ETRC.  She primarily worked on setting up and finding resources, including funding, for the Mountain People’s Health Clinics… Continued

Sally Kimberly on the professional development of nurses with MPHC

Sally Kimberly describes what became an essential element to her and other nurses’ weekly routines while working in Scotty County: self-directed educational sessions committed to their professional development. She explains that these weekly meetings were both a professional and social support system… Continued

Caryl Carpenter discusses the challenges with the structure of Mountain People’s Health Councils

Caryl Carpenter, former administrator of the Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) of East Tennessee, talks about challenges in the structure of MPHC, which was founded in 1974 as a coalition of three rural health clinics in Norma (Scott County), Petros… Continued

Bob Hartmann on Appalachian culture and rural healthcare

Bob Hartmann shares a story about one of his patients while working with Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) in Norma, Tenn. The narrative speaks to the influence of Appalachian culture on rural healthcare and community medicine.   Full footage of… Continued

Caryl Carpenter on community leader Odes McKamey

Caryl Carpenter, former administrator of the Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) of East Tennessee, shares a story about community leader Odes McKamey of Stoney Fork, Tenn. MPHC was founded in 1974 as a coalition of three rural health clinics in… Continued

Bob Hartmann on the importance of defining health beyond the physical

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

Bob Hartmann on the influence of cultural understandings about death and healing

Bob Hartmann shares about a Stoney Fork community member known as Uncle Ben and speaks to the impact of local culture—particularly as it regards matters of death and healing—on rural healthcare.   Full footage of Bob Hartmann’s interview with Rick… Continued

Sally Kimberly’s take on patient education in rural healthcare

Sally Kimberly discusses clinical challenges during her time as a nurse practitioner with Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) in Norma, Tenn., focusing specifically on the indispensable role of patient education in effective rural healthcare.    Full footage of Sally Kimberly’s interview with Rick Davidson. Continued

Caryl Carpenter talks about her experiences with Mountain People’s Health Councils

Caryl Carpenter, former administrator of the Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) of East Tennessee, talks about her experiences with MPHC, which was founded in 1974 as a coalition of three rural health clinics in Norma (Scott County), Petros (Morgan County)… Continued

Sally Kimberly’s first observations of rural community healthcare with MPHC

Sally Kimberly discusses her preparation for practice and early experiences with Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) at the clinic in Norma, Tenn.   Full footage of Sally Kimberly’s interview with Rick Davidson. Continued

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson was born in West Palm Beach, Fla. in 1947. He attended Vanderbilt undergraduate and medical schools, and did a residency in internal medicine there as well. During the summer of his second year in medical school (1970) he… Continued

Caryl Carpenter talks about the origins of the Tennessee Primary Care Association

Caryl Carpenter, former administrator of the Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) of East Tennessee, talks about formation of the Tennessee Primary Care Association. Recorded on May 17, 2017, as a part of a panel discussion at a reunion of the… Continued

Sally Kimberly on MPHC community boards

Sally Kimberly discusses the challenges of collaborating with community boards on the frontier of a practice largely unfamiliar in Appalachia at the time—community-driven, rural healthcare. Unique to her and other nurse practitioners’ experience was a widespread misunderstanding about their role. Reminiscing about these hurdles, Sally shares what it was like to be… Continued

Rick Davidson on connecting with local communities through music

Richard Davidson M.D., M.P.H., talks about how music allowed him to connect with members of the communities he served as the first physician for Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC), a consortium of health clinics originally formed by the communities of… Continued

Bob Hartmann

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
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

Sally Kimberly and Rick Davidson on the generosity of local surgeons

Sally Kimberly and Rick Davidson discuss the life-saving assistance from local Scott County surgeons who offered to take free-of-cost patients in need of additional care. Sally describes the deal between her and Chuck Darling and Rick comments on Dave Stanley’s commitment to surgical patients in Oak Ridge.   Full footage of… Continued

Student Health Coalition Project Collection, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

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

Bob Hartmann on community medicine in Stoney Fork, TN

Bob Hartmann shares an inside look at the culture and people of Stoney Fork, Tenn., a fascinating anecdote which captures the realities of rural healthcare and community medicine.    Full footage of Bob Hartmann’s interview with Rick Davidson. Continued

Richard Davidson Photograph Collection, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Richard Davidson (1947-), a medical physician and educator, was among the founding participants of the Vanderbilt Student Health Coalition at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. (1970-1971) and the Mountain People’s Health Council in eastern Tennesee (1975-1976). The Student Health Coalition… Continued

Article: “Health Care for those off the beaten path,” from the Tennessee Valley Authority

Kollar, Robert. “Health care for those off the beaten path.” Tennessee Valley Authority, post-1975. View PDF.  More on the Tennessee Valley Authority: Continued

Caryl Carpenter Papers on Mountain People’s Health Councils, East Tennessee clinics, and Student Health Coalition Photographs, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Caryl Carpenter participated in the Rural Student Health Coalition in the mid to late 1970s. She worked with the Mountain People’s Health Council and East Tennessee clinics, and documented activities related to the SHC in the 1970s. Images depict activities… Continued

Notes from the road: Mountain People’s Health Councils

[Story contributed by Caryl Carpenter] On October 23rd, 2017, a doctor, a lawyer, an archivist, and an old lady started out to make history, or more accurately, to record history – the history of Mountain People’s Health Councils (MPHC) in… Continued