[Contributed by Pete Moss and Jennifer Crane, March 2016]
Dr. Pete Moss was raised on his maternal grandparents’ farm in Marshall County, Tennessee, while his father fought in World War II. As the eldest of his siblings, he learned responsibility, but also had an adventurous spirit. He developed an intense love for learning and the land, and from an early age envisioned a career involving service to others.
Pete was educated at Montgomery Bell Academy and Vanderbilt University. Although he was from a family of privilege, he matriculated in the early 1960’s, which influenced his studies and his extra-curricular activities; he was involved in sit-ins for economic and racial equality, and supported environmental rights. As he began training in medicine he recognized the powerful combination his pediatric training and social activism could make on the community. During his residency Pete was exposed to community and social activism through working with Dr. Amos Christie, former chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, and Dr. Lew Lefkowitz, a faculty member committed to community health care for the underserved. When Pete was serving as the chief resident in pediatrics, under the tutelage of Dr. Christie, he committed to working with the Student Health Coalition in their first year of health fairs.
In the summer of 1970, using multiphasic screening vans generously donated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, a critical group of medical personnel “embarked from the shores to the unsteady sea of the future”. It became a life changing experience that altered the health and welfare of a number of Appalachian communities, and changed many of the participants forever. Pete was the supervising physician for the health fairs, working with the student leaders of the medical units, including Bill Dow, Rick Davidson and Joe Little. He took the medical responsibility for all the patients that were screened, even though he was only a chief resident at the time, working under Dr. Christie.
The model of the Coalition health fairs involved using specially trained nursing students along with medical students to provide pediatric physical exams and developing treatment plans. This model was at the forefront of a debate about the developing role of nurse practitioners. Pete provided additional training for students prior to the summer health fairs. His professionalism and soft-spoken leadership had a significant impact on all who worked with him during that turbulent and exciting time. One of the strong motivations for Pete was to use the SHC work to “prove” that nursing and medical students could be taught the skills to be good, functional clinicians.
Pete remained fervently involved in fighting for just causes, including continuing a family tradition of serving in the military, experiencing the conflict in Viet Nam, and returning to middle Tennessee to set up a pediatric practice that served the infants and children of middle Tennessee. He remained true to his roots and has maintained part of his ancestral farm as he has raised his family. He has also struggled with his family’s illness with addictions, and has become an ardent voice in the recovery movement in middle Tennessee.