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 was asked to participate in a new rural health project by a classmate. In 1971 Davidson assumed the co-leadership role for the project with an undergraduate student, Carolyn Klyce. They raised more than $100,000 in grant funds and doubled the number of health fairs, using two concurrently running fairs, with over 110 students participating.
After completing his medical school and two years of residency, Dr. Davidson moved to East Tennessee and practiced in the three communities of Petros, Stoney Fork, and Norma, providing supervision for three nurse practitioners. These clinics were organized under one administrative structure known as Mountain People’s Health Councils, which is still operating 35 years after the initial structure was formed.
After his residency Dr. Davidson moved to the University of North Carolina where he was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, and helped students develop similar rural projects at UNC and Duke, until he moved to the University of Florida in 1984. He continued his interest in rural health, directing a program called the Community Health Scholars program, funded by the Area Health Education Centers. This program placed students in rural communities to assist the community in developing solutions for locally-determined projects (Teach Learn Med, 2002 Summer;14(3):178-81). Because of his early involvement in joint practice with nurse practitioners, in 1996 Dr. Davidson and colleagues developed one of the first interprofessional education programs in the US, which has persisted for more than 15 years (Academic Medicine, April 2005 – Volume 80 – Issue 4 – pp 334-338).
Dr. Davidson retired in 2013 after serving for six years as the Associate Vice President for Health Affairs (Interprofessional Education) at the University of Florida Health Science Center. In 2014, Richard Davidson donated his trove of Student Health Coalition photographs to the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Finding Aid for his material contains more information about the contents of the collection.
“It would be impossible for me to fully characterize the impact that working with the SHC had on my life. As I started medical school, I intended to train in cardiology and join my father’s practice in South Florida. I idolized him. However, like many students during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, I found myself questioning traditional medicine and its values. The first year of health fairs, during the summer of my second year, exposed me to locations and situations I had never imagined. My commitment to keeping things moving forward led to leaving my residency before it was completed so I could continue the momentum of our organizing efforts. Living in the mountains, instead of working for a few months each summer, gave me a much more complete view of the health status in underserved communities and led to my desire to get additional training in public health and health policy. Becoming involved in education allowed me to implement community-based projects at two major medical schools. My co-practicing experiences with nurse practitioners led to early research on roles in primary care settings and in the end, the development of our groundbreaking community-based interprofessional education program in 1999 at the University of Florida.
Perhaps even more valuable was the experience of working with the most amazing group of dedicated, smart, caring people I’ve ever known. Most of us are still very close, even after almost fifty years. It’s a remarkable group of individuals who have gone on to amazing careers in medicine and nursing, health care policy and the government, land use management, conservation law, rural health care, nursing education, the support of non-profit organizations…and have never lost their commitment to the equitable provision of health care to underserved populations. And some of my closest relationships were with people from the Appalachian communities, with whom I traded stories, played music, and learned about how to pick ginseng…all of which were at least as valuable as what I learned in school. The SHC led me to places I never dreamed, provided me with knowledge that helped me throughout my life, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the experience.”
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
Tom John and Rick Davidson retrospectively comment on the level and quality of care provided at the Student Health Coalition summer health fairs, and how theses experiences shaped their own understanding of and perspective on healthcare. Full footage of… Continued
Diane Lauver volunteered with the Appalachian Student Health Coalition (ASHC) at Vanderbilt and with the North Carolina Student Rural Health Coalition. In both coalitions, she trained Community Health Workers to act as embedded advocates for community health. The collected materials… Continued
Tom John and Rick Davidson share some of their most memorable moments and takeaways from their time spent in Appalachia with the Student Health Coalition. Full footage of the 2013 interview with Tom John and Rick Davidson. Continued
from Caryl Carpenter, posted July 2023 Stoney Fork, Tennessee is an isolated area in the southwest corner of Campbell County. Stoney Fork is approachable from three ways, all over unpaved gravel roads. The road from the North comes in… Continued
As illustration of the depth and strength of relationship between the communities and the students, witness the example of the New River Boys. The Boys were a distinguished bluegrass band in the early 1970s. They played in venues around the… Continued
Kollar, Robert. “Health care for those off the beaten path.” Tennessee Valley Authority, post-1975. View PDF. More on the Tennessee Valley Authority: Continued
[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
Here’s the link to a wonderful video clip, edited by Rick Davidson, that describes the connections between young student activists and local musicians in East Tennessee. Continued
Tom John and Rick Davidson share the depth of their many relationships born from their respective Student Health Coalition experiences, and the long-term impact said connections have had. Full footage of the 2013 interview with Tom John and Rick… Continued
Carolyn Burr describes her work at the SHC health fairs in Smithville, White Oak, Briceville, and Deer Lodge from 1970-1971. She explains the nature of nursing students’ role in conducting physical exams and providing follow-up care, their skills having been… Continued
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
John Kennedy describes the evolution of his career and transition to Washington in 1974. Upon suggestion from Eula Hall, Director of the Mud Creek Clinic, and with an official offer from Tom Ludwig, the union rep responsible for occupational health… Continued
[Story contributed by Richard Davidson, M.D.] After an initial scouting year in the summer of 1969, the Student Health Coalition (SHC) began health fairs and community organizing in Appalachia in the summer of 1970. After several months of hard work,… 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
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
Rick Davidson shares the impetus behind his involvement with the Student Health Coalition and how that decision impacted him both personally and professionally for years to come. Full footage of the 2013 interview with Tom John and Rick Davidson. Continued
Kate and J.W. Bradley ponder who first suggested Petros, Stoney Fork, and Norma band together to form the Mountain Peoples Health Council (MPHC), why, and how it was made possible–in large part thanks to Rick Davidson’s role as the first… 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
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
Tom John and Rick Davidson share their retrospective thoughts on how the Student Health Coalition succeeded, as well as how, in certain respects, the SHC could have operated differently. These critical reflections offer insight to community organizing efforts today, particularly… Continued
In September 2015, former Student Health Coalition (SHC) members gathered at Wilson Library in Chapel Hill to discuss goals for the project in collaboration with Southern Historical Collection. As part of this meeting, the Southern Historical Collection prepared copies of… Continued
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
As part of the Student Health Coalition Archive Project, Caryl Carpenter and Rick Davidson meet with James Lovett, CEO of Mountain People’s Health Councils, Inc. Their primary objective is to collect a firsthand account from Lovett and in so doing,… Continued