St. Charles Clinic

The Student Health Coalition first came to St. Charles in 1974, where they connected with a highly organized community group of coal miner families. Over two summers, community leaders, with clinical and legal support from SHC students, were able to put together one of the most lasting legacies of SHC health fairs. Their St. Charles clinic grew over time into a network of community-run primary care clinics throughout southwestern Virginia that remain operational decades later. In response to local chronic health conditions, the clinics became national leaders in the management of black lung disease and opioid substance use disorders.

Browse the timeline below for a more thorough, visual telling of the people, places, and dates involved in the establishment of the St. Charles Clinic.


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On the St. Charles Clinic’s economic model: “…it had to survive beyond the goodwill of volunteers”

Nancy Raybin describes the growth and development of the St. Charles Clinic over time. She provides insight about what distinguished this one from others in East Tennessee, with emphasis on the value of applying business principles and establishing an economic… Continued

Bridging a cultural divide: St. Charles welcomes SHC students, 1973

Art Van Zee reminisces the power of St. Charles‘ warm welcome to students in the summer of 1973, commenting on the richness and impact of mountain culture on nurturing sustainable community relationships. Recorded March 17th, 2013.   Full footage of… Continued

Reflections on the legacy of coal camp healthcare and success of the St. Charles Clinic

Several closely tied to the St. Charles Clinic gather to discuss what contributed to its success and reminisce about past generations of healthcare in the area, namely during the time large coal companies were active. They emphasize the determination of… Continued

Nancy Raybin

Nancy worked with SHC in the summers of 1973 and 1974 as a community organizer in St. Charles, Va. and then as co-director of the Coalition in East Tennessee and western Virginia.  She was at that time an undergraduate student… Continued

Reflections on culture: camaraderie, family, and the destructive fallout of addiction in St. Charles

Art Van Zee reflects on the rich coal mining culture of St. Charles, Va. and surrounding communities. He describes its positive impact on the connectedness of extended family units and overall sense of camaraderie among neighbors. In doing so, Art… Continued

Art Van Zee on the first health fair in St. Charles and early clinic history

Art Van Zee shares about the first health fair in St. Charles, Va. (1973) and expands on the origins of the clinic that still stands today. Recorded March 17th, 2013.   Full footage of Art Van Zee’s interview. Continued

Art Van Zee on the opioid epidemic in southwestern Virginia

Art Van Zee was among the first physicians in the U.S. to warn people about the dangers of OxyContin and take a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company head on for its marketing blunders. He describes his witness of the problem rapidly… Continued

Art Van Zee’s message to students today

Art Van Zee discusses how the legacy of St. Charles Clinic may serve as inspiration to students today, and encourages them to harness a belief that they, too, should feel empowered to get involved in social movements. Recorded March 17th,… Continued

Nancy Raybin on Bill Dow’s visionary leadership and other prominent figures in southwest Virginia

Nancy Raybin describes Bill Dow’s visionary leadership, highlighting his role in securing funds for the Coalition’s varied projects. But given her placement in St. Charles and being so far removed from SHC happenings in East Tennessee, Raybin speaks more to… Continued

On the success of the St. Charles Clinic: Art Van Zee’s decision to stay and other local leaders

Nancy Raybin highlights Art Van Zee’s commitment to the St. Charles Clinic (and decision to stay) as the foremost contributing factor to its success. She also speaks to the local leadership of many others involved in the clinic’s foundation. Follow… Continued

“I will always be grateful for the gifts that the work and the people of those summers gave to me.”

[Story contributed by Angela Carroll Healy, M.D.] Dear All, Seeing the videos and reading the memories of other Coalitioners has made me want to share what working with the Student Health Coalition (SHC) meant to me. I was a Brooklyn… Continued

The renaming of “Negro Head Rock”

Ron Carson showcases an old check with an emblem of what used to be called “Negro Head Rock” and shares the story about his grandmother’s 1968 petition to have it renamed. It’s now known as Stoneface Rock. Interestingly, former Student… Continued

1976 St. Charles Health Clinic, VA

After the 1975 health fair in St. Charles, Va., the local health council worked tirelessly to build a permanent clinic. By 1976, that clinic had opened to the public. And over time, it grew into a network of 12 regional… Continued

The role of community control in structure of Stone Mountain Health Clinics

Art Van Zee discusses the impact of community agency on the success of the St. Charles Clinic and the key role local ownership plays in rural healthcare centers. Recorded March 17th, 2013.   Full footage of Art Van Zee’s interview. Continued

Interview with Mary Herr by Jessie Wilkerson, May 19 2011, Southern Oral History Program, UNC Chapel Hill

Mary Herr was born in Springfield, Ill. in 1940. In 1978 she moved to Cherokee, N.C. where she has worked on many community development projects, primarily in legal aid services. Herr begins the interview by discussing her family history; a… 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

Tish Crane Rainey

Contributed by Tish Crane Rainey, March 2017. I participated in the Student Health Coalition the summer of 1975. I had just finished my first year in nursing school at Vanderbilt with an eye on becoming a nurse midwife. That fall… Continued

Video: The St. Charles Health Clinic

“The St. Charles Health Clinic” (19 mins, 53 secs) From the Appalshop Archive collection on the Internet Archive, watch interviews with St. Charles community members and members of the Vanderbilt University Student Health Coalition about the need for local health… Continued

Rebecca Joffrion Ingle

Contributed by Rebecca (Becca) Joffrion Ingle. I was born in Starkeville, Miss. in 1952, but grew up from age 5 in Huntsville, Ala. This small, sleepy Alabama town exploded in growth and diversity during those years with the coming of… Continued

Cathy Barrow Heck and Jeff Heck

Contributed by Cathy Barrow Heck I was absolutely sold on the Appalachian Student Health Coalition upon seeing the video as a nursing student in the fall of 1973. The idea of a team of students working in partnership with rural… Continued

Dr. Daniel Gabriel’s legacy in St. Charles, VA

Ron Carson discusses Dr. Daniel Gabriel, M.D. and his local legacy in African American healthcare as the only doctor who in the 1940s and 50s would see Black patients.   Full footage of Ron Carson’s tour of the African American… Continued

On healthcare education and mentoring

Art Van Zee discusses the value of healthcare education and mentoring. He expresses gratitude for the nurturing and supportive environment both his parents cultivated for him as a child; for Sister Beth Davies’ mentorship in the field of addiction-related healthcare… Continued

Post-Reconstruction African American migration and the St. Charles coal camps

Ron Carson details post-Reconstruction African American migration trends from cotton fields to coal camps in St. Charles, Va. (including migration years later in the mid-20th century to northern urban centers for manufacturing jobs) and their impact on resulting Black diaspora… Continued

J. Thomas “Tom” John

I am a bit late in getting my bio in, best done in the earlier stages of pending dotage. I am originally from Laurinburg, N.C., a small farming and, then, textile community in the eastern part of the state. I… Continued

Hearts of Gold

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

First integrated band in St. Charles, VA: Smith Carson and the Black and White Melody Boys

Ron Carson shares about his grandfather’s, Smith Carson, first integrated band in the area: the Black and White Melody Boys. Their legacy throughout the South includes having played with Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley.   Full footage of Ron Carson’s… Continued

On Art Van Zee’s decision to stay in St. Charles

Art Van Zee shares the motivation behind his decision to stay at the clinic in St. Charles, Va., long after the Student Health Coalition’s activity there. His story is but one example of the long-term impact the SHC had on… Continued

History of the St. Charles Clinic ft. Art Van Zee

Art Van Zee, an active participant in the Student Health Coalition’s work in St. Charles, Va., beginning first in 1973 with a visiting summer clinic, discusses the now more established center’s evolution and his role as a physician there. Recorded… Continued

Art Van Zee

Art Van Zee is a physician at St. Charles Community Health Clinic in Lee County, in southwest Virginia.   Related Content: Continued

An overview of Nancy Raybin’s SHC experience

Nancy Raybin recaps her time with the Student Health Coalition, from initial introduction during the spring semester and subsequent participation as a community organizer in St. Charles, Va. during the summer of 1973 to serving as co-Director–alongside Randy Hodges and… Continued

The power of multi-generational primary care

Art Van Zee describes how meaningful the opportunity to provide care for several generations of the same family has been on his medical career, and why community-run clinics in rural areas, such as the one in St. Charles, model a… Continued

On the evolution of treatment and maintenance for opioid addiction in St. Charles, Va.

Art Van Zee discusses the evolution of treatment for opioid addiction, including monumental shifts particularly valuable to rural communities such as St. Charles, Va. He explains that access to methadone maintenance treatment is extremely restricted for many people in isolated… Continued

Nancy Raybin’s onboarding and role as Director of the St. Charles Clinic, 1974

Nancy Raybin discusses her onboarding and role as the Director of the St. Charles Clinic from 1974 to 1976, a period during which she hired Polly McClanahan as the clinic’s Nurse Practitioner (NP), recruited Art Van Zee as the clinic’s… Continued