[Story contributed by Angela Carroll Healy, M.D.]
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 girl, born and raised. I was a junior at New York University (in Manhattan—the farthest I’d been from home) when my Aunt Eleanor—known to most of Appalachia as Marie Cirillo—came home for Christmas. When she learned that I was in the Pre-Med program, she said, “you should write to my friend Bill Dow and come work with the Student Health Coalition in Tennessee.”
It had been a challenging year for me, emotionally and academically. I was struggling with my confidence, and was beginning to wonder if I was cut out for medicine. I wrote to Bill Dow, and to my surprise, was invited to join the program for the summer of 1973.
Since I was not a nursing, law, medical, or social work student, I became the laboratory person for the health fairs that summer.
Working with the SHC in Tennessee (Stoney Fork, Petros, and Pelham) and Virginia (St. Charles) opened my eyes to a part of the world I knew nothing about. I met people I will never forget. Most of the other Coalitioners were from Vanderbilt. They welcomed me and accepted me. The people whose homes I stayed in treated me like family and fed me like royalty. One Petros family, Oliver and Helen Christopher and their children, became my second family, and we stayed in touch for years.
I worked harder and learned more that first summer than I ever had in my life. I made friends who had a huge impact on my life. Watching Tom John teach us how to perform physical exams still influences the way I teach physical exams to med students today. Playing guitar with fellow students and with people in the communities made me feel that I belonged. I wrote my medical school application essay on a borrowed typewriter in J.W. and Kate Bradley’s living room. (Diane Cushman edited it!) Dr. Christie wrote one of my letters of recommendation.
I returned home from that summer re-inspired, and certain that medicine was the life for me. I spent a total of four summers with the Student Health Coalition, first as the “lab” person and then as a medical student doing physical exams. I saw two clinics built and started (Petros and St. Charles). After medical school and residency, I spent my career in Primary Care Internal Medicine.
I will always be grateful for the gifts that the work and the people of those summers gave to me.
Angela Carroll Healy, MD