Local Voices


One of the best things about working in rural central Appalachia is the cooperation. This is a place of small networks with big hearts and smart minds focusing eyes that see long-distance into the future.

Yesterday GMEC board member Tori Makal and I traveled to the DeBusk College of Medicine and met with Cassi Jones, Director of Clinical Affairs, Clarence Colle, Associate Dean of Preclinical Academic Affairs and Basic Medical Sciences, and MaryBeth Babos, Professor and Chair of Pharmacology. Me with my medical education non-profit hat on, Tori with their future professional clubs advisor and science professor hats on, talked with the DCOM firepower about our mutual ultimate goal: more doctors working, living, and LOVING living in Southwest Virginia.

It’s a great place to live, we agreed. The trick is getting the med students with the right cultural competency to either do residency here, or come back here after residency because they’ve had such great experiences shadow learning in institutions before they leave for residency. We really needed to find more shadowing opportunities.

Team DCOM reached out to their colleague, Anya Cope, Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs & Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, and also a GMEC board member. She made a phone call and worked her network of regional providers, pointing out that pre-med students seeking shadowing were basically worth their weight in platinum as future doctors to be wooed now. But they were looking for learning in all the wrong places. Could her friends in a few well-positioned health centers provide the right places?

Oh yes, they most certainly could. UVa Wise students had shadowing opportunities before Tori and I reached Tori’s driveway where my car was parked. We hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet when the phone call announcing these opportunities arrived.

The shadowing opps are in Whitesburg, Kentucky, just a short drive from several towns in SWVA and already a common place for locals to seek medical care. In other words, local kids will stay local once they graduate and will build medical capacity and infrastructure for our region. Win, win, win.

When a plan comes together, it’s love for southwest Virginia, northeast Tennessee, and southeastern Kentucky that makes it happen. Cooperation makes the world turn. Small networks, big hearts, smart minds, and clear eyes: this is the best place to work, live, and be part of a team.

Wendy Welch
Executive Director

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