Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars program. The ARH Scholars are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare. Their stories are unique, but a common thread unites every winner: a desire to make a difference to the people of Appalachia through healthcare. The Fall 2019 class of ARH Scholars included ten talented future healthcare providers, like Courtney Kincaid, a first-year nursing student from Meadowbridge, West Virginia.
Courtney has always felt drawn to nursing. “Nursing is all I could really see myself doing, even from a very young age,” she says. “My grandmother was an LPN in the neonatal unit at a local hospital, and I always looked up to her. I wanted to care for people like she did and have the kind of heart that she had.”
While Courtney was attending Meadowbridge High School, she was already caring for people in her community by participating in her local church group and volunteering at food pantries. Then, her friend was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare type of cancer with next to no funding. Courtney decided to do her senior community service project with the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Network Foundation, an experience that piqued Courtney’s interest in cancer and disease research.
Now a nursing freshman at West Virginia Tech in Beckley, Courtney is convinced that she’s chosen the right path. As a part of WVU Tech’s student nursing association, she’s given the opportunity to talk to more experienced students about what to expect in later years. “I’m not at the point where I’m doing clinicals yet, but talking to older students about their experiences has helped me to know that this is what I want to do.”
Courtney’s hope is to get a nursing externship at ARH, before pursuing post-baccalaureate training to become a Nurse Practitioner. Ultimately, her goal is working at a family practice near her hometown. “I want to stay in this community and give back,” she says. “I want to make a difference in the life of every patient I see. There are so many people around here who need help, and my community has done so much for me.” Beyond just giving treatment, Courtney sees her responsibility as a healthcare provider entailing something more. “I want to have a relationship with my patients and their families. I want to help them feel comforted when they’re sick and scared.”
Courtney is grateful for the support of her parents, teachers, friends, and community. When a friend sent her the link to the ARH Scholars application, Courtney says that she thought “my friend thought maybe I would get this, so I’ll try it.” When she got her acceptance letter in the mail, she was stunned, but honored. “I didn’t expect to get it. So many people apply, and I know it’s hard to choose, but it feels like a vote of confidence in me. It feels like my community believes in me. I’m so grateful for that, and I hope I’ll be able to give back to them in the future.”
This story was featured in the February 23rd edition of the Beckley Register-Herald.