Contributed by Margaret Ecker, August 2019
I joined the Coalition as a community organizer after graduating from Vanderbilt in Philosophy in 1970. I stayed on with the Coalition through the next school year to help with year end reports and preparation for the next summer. Inspired by the work of the Coalition, I eventually put aside plans for law school and went on to earn a master’s degree in nursing and then nurse practitioner education before returning to East Tennessee. Bill Dow was my clinical preceptor.
I came back to Briceville, Tenn. in 1975 to work in their community owned clinic, located in a TVA trailer. Byrd Duncan was my supervisor, and Rick Davidson provided medical coverage for my clinical decisions. Later, I moved back to Nashville and worked in the Planned Parenthood Teen Clinic, and the primary care clinic at Cayce Homes. Irwin Venick was my boss at the Cayce Clinic.
In the late 1980s, I came out to Los Angeles to pursue a master’s degree in Fine Arts. For my first paying job as an artist, I taught Art Appreciation in a women’s prison. But eventually I drifted back to nursing, first at the beside of pediatric oncology patients, and eventually in hospital administration as director of nursing quality at a tertiary care hospital here in LA.
Just after retirement, in 2013, I was privileged to hear Bill Corr, then assistant secretary of HHS and former administrator for a network of clinics in East Tennessee, talk about the fabulousness of the Affordable Care Act. Inspired by Bill Corr’s words, I came over to Tennessee for the next two years to help with the roll out of ACA, in a state generally hostile to the project. The Tennessee Justice Center provided a home base for that work. The old ties from East and West Tennessee were invaluable in the grass roots organizing that we did in a so-far-futile effort to get the state legislators to expand medicaid. The suffering that the lack of Medicaid expansion has foisted on rural communities in Tennessee (and elsewhere) has been especially brutal, but the old community leaders keep on keeping on, fighting to keep hope alive for better health care, and so do their descendants.
Back in LA, I now work the primary care angle again, providing volunteer nursing care on the street for people unhoused while they wait for the wheels of justice to grind them out some affordable housing. Out here on the left coast, health care is more often a right, not just a privilege, than in many others other states in our country. I feel lucky to have learned the critical value of that principle early on, coming of age as I did under the influence of the SHC, way back in the beginning.
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
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 reminisces with the Appalachian Student Health Coalition at a gathering in 2013. Her story about the students’ dress code was influenced by the clip below of Kate and J.W. Bradley, where they discuss what their community said about the students… Continued
Margaret Ecker frames healthcare as a tool the SHC elected to use toward community empowerment, concluding, along with Rosie Hammond, that while the Coalition may not have made many structural changes to healthcare in the region, their community organizing efforts… Continued
Nine nurses gathered in Nashville in May 2019 to reminisce about their beginnings as nurses. Nursing practice underwent radical changes in those days. These nine nurses stood apart from their peers and in conflict with convention. Here, they discuss what… Continued
Margaret Ecker describes the scary experience and pressure of treating a young girl exhibiting severe allergy to multiple yellow jacket stings in Clairfield, Tenn. Follow this link for full-footage of Margaret Ecker’s and Rosie Hammond’s reflections about their SHC experience… Continued
Files transferred from the William W. Dow Papers (#05612) that document two Student Health Coalition reunions. One attended by Dow in 2009, and another hosted in Nashville in 2013 after Dow’s death in 2012. Materials include correspondence between former coalition… Continued
Margaret Ecker shares about early career pursuits and explains how the Student Health Coalition (SHC) played a prominent role in steering her toward a life of service through nursing. Recorded on June 2, 2018. Full footage of the conversation… 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
[Story contributed by Margaret Ecker, RN, MSN] My first job as a nurse practitioner began around 1975, in a Briceville, Tenn. community-run clinic housed in a trailer and managed by a local board chaired by the venerable Byrd Duncan. A… Continued
Rosie Hammond describes her life post-SHC, beginning with an invitation to participate in Vanderbilt’s first PrimEx program during her Senior year. PrimEx was a government-sponsored initiative designed to provide primary care training for nurses. It functioned as a pivotal step… Continued
Margaret Ecker describes the communal living experience characteristic of those who stayed at the Ponderosa in Lake City, Tenn., a property donated by locals to host Coalition students. Follow this link for full-footage of Margaret Ecker’s and Rosie Hammond’s reflections… Continued
Margaret Ecker describes her introduction to the Student Health Coalition during the summer of 1970. She had just graduated from Vanderbilt University with plans to pursue a law degree. Having not yet set the intention to pursue a career in… Continued
[Story contributed by Margaret Ecker, RN, MSN] Sometime around 1975, local friends in Lake City offered us newly minted community organizers this abandoned house for a dwelling. We lived communally, our numbers fluctuating with the season. We lived with a… 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
Margaret Ecker shares her perspective on the Coalition’s unique opportunity for students to stay with local families, and the power doing so had on the relationship-building element crucial to effective community organizing. As an example, she reminisces her experience among… Continued
Margaret Ecker and Rosie Hammond discuss their difference in perspective about the Coalition’s degree of influence on participants, namely as it regards those who went on to pursue nursing. They ponder how much certain characteristics (such as fierce autonomy and… Continued
Margaret Ecker shares the story of Bill Dow’s and Pat Maxwell’s collaborative dental screening of children at a Headstart in Williamson County, Tenn. She frames it as an early manifestation of the SHC’s Saul Alinsky-inspired approach to addressing community public… Continued
Lunsford, Larry. “Second Health Fair In Progress.” Oak Ridger, 1971. View PDF. Transcription: A second “Health Fair” is currently in progress at the Briceville Elementary School in the Briceville Community west of Lake City. (It continues through Friday.) Sponsored by the Briceville… Continued
Margaret Ecker describes what impressed her most about people and communities in the mountains, highlighting Byrd Duncan’s role in establishing and maintaining the Briceville Clinic. She also mentions J.W. Bradley and Marie Cirillo. Rosie Hammond reflects on other characteristics, such… Continued
Outside the old clinic building of what used to be Douglas Community Health Center, Margaret Ecker and Jean Carney discuss the multitude of challenges facing nurse practitioners and what legislative movement’s been made to overcome adversity of such restrictive practice.… Continued
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