Art Van Zee

Art Van Zee, during his Internal Medicine Residency at Vanderbilt, served as a mentor for Coalition students in 1974 and 1975 when the health fairs were active in St. Charles and other southwest Virginia sites. He was very taken by the community and so many of the local clinic’s founders that he returned to St. Charles in 1976. It  proved to be a good match. The clinic has grown substantially over the years, with its umbrella organization, Stone Mountain Health Services, now having 11 primary care clinic sites and 2 Black Lung programs in 7 counties throughout southwest Virginia.

Later, Dr. Van Zee got involved in the opioid tragedy in 1999-2000, as many tens of thousands in Central Appalachia became addicted to OxyContin. The tragic toll this took on individual lives, families, and communities cannot be overstated. He became an early critic of the marketing and promotion of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma and through his developing interest in Addiction Medicine, has been a buprenorphine prescriber since 2003. He feels that these contributions are some of the most meaningful he’s made in his 46 years of Internal Medicine practice in St. Charles.

Art Van Zee has authored several works, led numerous presentations and been invited to participate on several committees, and has been featured in others’ publications about his work. Below is a small sample of some of his own, including two poignant poems:

  • “OxyContin” was first published in April of 2004 in the academic medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Three years later, it was featured in the American College of Physicians’ 2007 publication On Being A Doctor, a collection of prose and poetry by physicians about their wide-ranging individual experiences in medicine. Van Zee, A. (2004). OxyContin. Annals of Internal Medicine, 140(7), 527. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-140-7-200404060-00012

  • “Full Moon OxyContin Funeral, Big Stone Gap” was published in American Society of Addiction Medicine’s online publication in 2013. Van Zee, A. (2013). Full Moon OxyContin Funeral, Big Stone Gap. American Society of Addiction Medicine Magazine, 1(3).

  • Van Zee, A. (2009). The Promotion and Marketing of Oxycontin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy. American Journal of Public Health, 99(2), 221–227. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2007.131714

Related Content:

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article: “Summer ‘Health Fair’ in Grundy,” from the Grundy County Herald

Newspaper article, “Summer ‘Health Fair’ in Grundy,” from the Grundy County (Tenn.) Herald. Click image to enlarge.   More on Grundy County: 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

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

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

Did we make a difference? Margaret Ecker and Rosie Hammond reflect.

Margaret Ecker and Rosie Hammond grapple with the question: did we (the SHC) make a difference? Margaret shares how, in reflection of Art Van Zee’s insight to ongoing addiction throughout southwest Virginia and the Appalachian region, there are new challenges… 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

On Art Van Zee’s activism in the 1960s

His work with the Student Health Coalition and subsequent dedication to accessible primary healthcare aside, Art Van Zee expands on his activism with other social causes of the time–namely, the anti-war movement. Recorded March 17th, 2013.   Full footage of… 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