The larger narrative of the Coalition work has been made possible through the steady accretion of individual stories, collected over time.  Some participants have written down a brief memory about a hog butchering or home visit or other snapshot from the past.  Others have recorded longer stories with help from an interviewer, using a tape recorder or video camera.  Still others have provided a fuller telling of the birth and growth of a whole community’s engagement with health care, environmental issues, and political power.  All stories are listed below.

Within each story you will find links to profiles of individuals described in the story, timelines, and places, and other connected stories.

Please share your memories of Kate Bradley

Please share your memories and reflections about Kate Bradley, or notes and condolences to the Bradley family, using the comment box below.

“What it took” – Nine nurses reconvene fifty years later and discover the power of common denominators

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

The Role of Music in the Student Health Coalition

Here’s link to a wonderful video clip, edited by Rick Davidson, that describes the connections between young student activists and local musicians in east Tennessee.

SHC in Mud Creek, Kentucky

Contributed by Jack Beckford, with Assistance from Sara Platt Williams During the Fall of 1970, SHC was contacted by the Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization (EKWRO), centered in Floyd Co, KY. EKWRO was already doing organizing among low-income residents in … Continued

Stories: Jean Carney on the motivation to build the Stanton, Tennessee health clinic

Reflections of Jean Carney, recorded in October 2017, on the history of the Stanton, Tennessee health clinic. In the clip, Carney talks about how segregation created healthcare disparities in her community.

Notes from the road: Mountain People’s Health Councils

Written by Caryl Carpenter On October 23rd, in 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

Stories: Perry Steele on Summer 1972

[Contributed by Perry Steele, 15 May 2017]  I was finishing my sophomore year at Vanderbilt. Nixon hadn’t drafted me. For some reason Professor Scott suggested I could be a community organizer. Having no other plans for the summer, I was … Continued

Stories: Frank Pacosa on Bill Dow and SHC Summers

[Contributed by Frank Pacosa, April 2017] Memories of Bill Dow and the Vanderbilt SHC Summer Health Fairs It was all about Bill and the world he opened to me. That gravely voice stilled me. And often in his mouth was … Continued

Bill Dow in Smithville TN, 1970

Stories: Frank Pacosa in Memory of Bill Dow

[Contributed by Frank Pacosa, March 2017] Heartfelt memories of my SHC days rumble through Bill was the seminal influence. Never met a man who could say more with so few words. His admonition to always question and look deeper for … Continued

Dana Ellis: Personal reflections

In this video clip, Dana Ellis reflects on her personal experiences as a student nurse working with community leaders in rural west Tennessee back in the early 1970s and how that work affected her career and her life.

Connecting the dots: from SHC to ACA

In 2013, just as the Affordable Care Act was about to get rolled out, Bill Corr took time out of his busy schedule as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services to reflect on the resonance between the Coalition work of forty years ago and … Continued

Nurse Practitioners, in the beginning…

Community leaders recognized early on the added value that expanded role nurses brought to the table.  In this video clip, community leaders Marie Cirillo and Betty Anderson recollect their efforts to lobby for legal changes that would support expanded role nurses.

SHC goes to West Tennessee in 1973

Dana Ellis discusses how she got involved and her experience with the first Student Health Coalition cohort to visit communities in West Tennessee in 1973.

Stories: “I will always be grateful for the gifts that the work and the people of those summers gave to me.”

[Story contributed by Angela Carroll Healy, M.D.] Dear All, Seeing the videos and reading the memories of other Coalitioners has made me want to share what working with the Student Health Coalition meant to me. I was a Brooklyn girl, … Continued

1976 St. Charles Health Clinic, VA

After the 1975 health fair In St. Charles, Virginia, the local health council worked tirelessly to build a permanent clinic. By 1976, that clinic had opened to the public. And over time, it grew into a network of 12 regional … Continued

Pete Moss Reflects

On training nurses, reuniting with fellow Coalitioners, and being a non-conformist. Learn more about Pete Moss on his profile page. 

Carolyn Burr Reflects

Interview with Carolyn Burr, recorded at a 2013 Student Health Coalition reunion in Nashville, Tennessee. In this clip, Burr reflects on how the experience of working with the Coalition shaped her values and future career in nursing.

The Smithville Story

Learn more about Rod Lorenz on his profile page.

Dal Macon on SHC Fundamentals

  Learn more about Dal Macon on his profile page. 

“That kind of learning does not come from a text book.”

Contributed by Dr. Brent Blue, February 2016 “I remember I took these photos when I was first introduced to Jess and Steele. I believe John Gaventa was with us. The Huddleston’s freely admitted that due to my long hair, if … Continued

The Origin Story: In the words of Bill Dow

Several years before he died, Bill Dow agreed to participate in recorded conversations about his farming philosophies, with the idea that he would use the recordings to compose a book about sustainable agriculture. He died in 2012, before the project … Continued

Maureen and Boomer on the Coalitions Legacy

Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey discuss SOCM, tax equalization, and “getting to the roots of problems and not just providing services.” Recorded in Nashville, Tenn., May 2013.

“Radical Hearts” and their dress code.

  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 … Continued

One of the Best Days Ever

Contributed by Rosalie Hammond, December 2015 During the summer of 1971, I spent a good deal of time on health fair follow-up.  We had always been committed to doing more than just identify clinical problems at the health fairs.  As … Continued

The Interview

Contributed by Rosalie Hammond, December 2015 I first heard about the Student Health Coalition in the spring of 1970 from Lark Hayes at the end of my freshman year. I had not read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.  I had … Continued

Mo & Boomer

On strip mining, community organization, and “[having] fun while trying to change the world.” Interview with Maureen O’Connell and Charles “Boomer” Winfrey, recorded at a May 2013 reunion of the Student Health Coalition in Nashville, Tennessee.  

“Liberté, Egalité, Frivolité”

Contributed by John Emmeus Davis, 2015 At one emotional pole of the SHC experience was the gravity and ferocity of the organization’s founder, Bill Dow. He usually displayed little patience for peers whose personal commitment to SHC’s Appalachian mission was … Continued


Rod Lorenz on the entrepreneurial endeavors of his host family. Learn more about Rod Lorenz. 

Living with Vada

Ann Baile Hamric on hospitality, creative home heating, and wasps in the outhouse. Learn more about Rod Lorenz.

How to do followup after a health fair

Ann Baile Hamric on continuing care, local resources, and navigating through Appalachia.

Tom John in brevis

An video clip of an interview with Dr. Tom John, speaking about his experiences with the Student Health Coalition and the Center for Health Services. Recorded by Margaret Ecker, 2013.

Bill Dow on Healthcare Policy, 1973

Video clip from Appalachian Genesis courtesy of Appalshop Film Archives (Whitesburg, KY).

A conversation with Martha Stucker

An interview with Martha Stucker.

Charles Scott reminisces about the Student Health Coalition

An interview with Charles Scott, professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University and early supporter and participant in the Student Health Coalition.

“Imagine, if you can, these two young Turks trying to give advice to the Governor of Mississippi”

[Contributed John WIlliams] Bill had a friend named Fortenberry who was a staffer for the Mississippi State Senate in the 1970’s.  In 1976 lignite coal (a low grade of coal) was discovered in Mississippi, so the state started considering the … Continued

“It isn’t easy to catch a pig, not even in the confines of the back of a truck.”

[Contributed by Pat Kalmans] The whole bee thing with Bill started in Nashville on the Vanderbilt campus. Bill had been wanting to raise bees for a while, but didn’t want to necessarily mail order the suckers.  One day, literally out … Continued

“I don’t think I could have made up the memory of crawling through barbed wire with 40 pounds of squealing, snapping, struggling pig in my arms”

[Contributed by Neil McBride] OK, I’ll join with two stories that suggest that Bill’s conversion from radical mountain agitator to organic farmer was not as sudden and distinct as some might think. They also address the sense that when Bill … Continued

“Not a nanosecond of time was allowed for the corn to begin to lose its sweetness between stalk and pot.”

[Story contributed by Trip Van Noppen] In 1975, I began working for SOCM and moved into the Ponderosa, the really old farmhouse outside of Lake City that Bill had somehow obtained for general housing needs. Jimmy Dean and Granny Loomis … Continued

“I remembered all of those weekends we spent camping.”

[Story contributed by Betsy Scott Metzger] I was hiking in the Smokies recently and it started to rain heavily. Some of the group started complaining but I welcomed it. I remembered all of those weekends we spent camping. One night … Continued

“Later then, he sent me a check for $10,000”

An interview with Kate Bradley about how she received the money to build a health clinic in Petros, TN.

“It pleases me to see community people getting together and then deciding for themselves what they want”

An interview with Betty Anderson on what it was like working with SOCM, and Bill Dow. She also discusses the importance of community organizations.

Bill Dow’s Broccoli Story

On organic farming and the state’s resistance to nurturing broccoli.  

Gathering the Seed Corn: Archiving the Bill Dow Papers

My name is Biff Hollingsworth and I am the Collecting and Outreach Archivist for the Southern Historical Collection at UNC Chapel Hill. My main responsibility at the Southern is to curate new collections and projects, which means that I work on … Continued

“We lived with a coal burning stove and kept our provisions in gallon glass jugs against the mice.”

[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

“For several years after that episode, the family sent me a card on their daughter’s birthday, thanking me for saving her life.”

[Story contributed by Margaret Ecker, RN, MSN] My first job as a nurse practitioner began around 1975, in Briceville, Tennsessee, in a community-run clinic housed in a trailer and managed by a local board chaired by the venerable Byrd Duncan. … Continued

The Story Behind the Photograph

[This story was contributed by Richard Davidson, M.D.] After an initial scouting year in the summer of 1969, the Student Health Coalition began health fairs and community organizing in Appalachia in the summer of 1970. After several months of hard … Continued

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