Take Me Home, Country Road, West Virginia

Gilmour Academy is a school deeply passionate about instilling in its students, faculty, and parish community a mission deeply rooted in service, Developing the competence to see and the courage to act in creating a more humane and just society. Spring Break 2018, Gilmour Academy students participated in a medical service and immersion experience (view photos) to Williamson, West Virginia, located in Mingo County, one of the poorest counties in the nation. Residents have limited access to the basic necessities of life such as health/medical care or even a grocery store. Here, students were immersed into a culture foreign to most of them. This trip was unique in the fact that it required extensive content and clinical preparations in medical training prior to departure. Such training included measuring blood pressure using a sphygmomanometer, temperature, body measurements, respiration rate, pulse, glucose monitoring and A1C testing. Such sessions were conducted by various physicians, including one of our own, Dr. Wellman.
On Sunday, March 18, we embarked on our journey to Appalachia, commonly known as Coal Country. On the first day we arrived in Beckley and were given a private tour of a once thriving coal mine that has since been transformed into a museum. Our tour guide, a retired miner himself, was able to educate us on the physical, mental and psychological demands of the profession and its economic impact. From Beckley, we drove through the heavily mountainous terrain to the city of Welch. Here, we toured a rehabilitation facility where we witnessed firsthand patient testimonials of the tribulations resulting from addiction. Williamson and Welch are currently experiencing a dangerously increasing opioid epidemic.

From Welch, our journey continued to Williamson. Once settled in, we continued our training sessions to sharpen both our knowledge and our medical techniques as our clinical work was about to commence. Our group was divided into smaller groups where we joined a clinical health worker (certified nurse) and participated in daily in-home visits, providing patient care within the comfort of their own home. Such care included checking vitals (blood pressure, pulse, temperature, glucose, etc.) and also engaging in friendly conversations regarding ways to monitor and improve their health. These patients loved our company. They were very open and receptive in allowing us to provide for them the care they needed.

We also had the opportunity to organize and facilitate two health fairs during our stay. Both health fairs provided complimentary vital checks and diabetic screening for the residents of Williamson. During each fair, our Gilmour students made lasting connections with several of the patients. They even taught an exercise class using resistance bands that ultimately led to singing, dancing and enjoying each other’s company. Our students had the opportunity to plan a lesson for the local elementary and middle school children that included education on handwashing and toothbrushing techniques! We even made our own toothpaste! Each night ended with time to reflect on our daily experiences and a home-cooked meal of southern cultural cuisine that was thoroughly enjoyed by all of us!

We have now formally established a partnership with the Global Public Service Academy (GPSA) in conjunction with the School of Medicine at both Duke University and Johns Hopkins University. In summary, our Gilmour students worked with a total of 72 patients. Of these, they took 59 pulse measurements, 72 blood pressures, 43 respiration rates, 47 blood glucose levels, 53 measurements of height and weight, and provided 250 individuals with lessons regarding health. What these values do not represent is the lasting impression our Gilmour students made on the individuals of West Virginia. From Welch to Williamson and everywhere in between, our students had the competence to see the need for basic health services or even just a smiling face and they had the courage to act in truly impacting the lives of those in need. While on this trip, our students were outside of their comfort zone and they embraced it. Developing this newly formed partnership between Gilmour Academy and GPSA not only exhibits how our students embody our mission, but also illustrated the most basic need for love and support for all humanity. There is a real need for love and service within the borders of this country!

Gilmour Academy would like to recognize the following individuals for their participation of this program:
Beryl Chen ‘18
Amber Chen ‘18
Taniya Dsouza ‘20
Madeline Grobelny ‘21
Richard Jones ‘20
Dominic Joseph ‘19
Emma Kaplan ‘19
Rachel Karam ‘19
Catherine Liang ‘18
Annamarie Martin ‘19
Angeline Monitello ‘19
Allie Mullee ‘19
Olivia Robida ‘19
Matthew Roddy ‘18
Trey Stein ‘19

Special thanks to Ms. Kay for connecting Gilmour with Dr. Malkin and GPSA and also to Mrs. Simonetta, ’05 and Mrs. Montello for their work in preparation for and guidance during this trip.

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phone: (440) 473-8000

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An independent, Catholic, coed, day and boarding school in the Holy Cross tradition. Toddler-grade 12.