Nicole Vanhoose: Putting everything together to go from CNA to RN

Hundreds of patients have been cared for by Nicole Vanhoose, a registered nurse (RN) in Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center’s Oncology Medical Surgical unit. Nonetheless, there is one individual she remembers with perfect clarity.

“He had leukemia,” she said. “He was going to be an in-patient, stuck inside the hospital for at least a month. After a couple of weeks, he was going stir-crazy. I knew I had to do something to help him cope, which in turn would allow him to heal and respond to the treatment.”

Part of the reason she remembers this particular patient so well is because he was emblematic of most patients from eastern Kentucky. “Like so many others who live in this area, he needed to see the mountains and to breathe fresh air. He was basically alone and staring at the walls. Time was dragging. When you get a diagnosis like leukemia, your world is suddenly turned upside down. One minute you’re thinking about getting someone to soccer practice and suddenly all that falls away and you are totally focused on your health. Most of the time you need treatment immediately, but just because you have to stop everything doesn’t mean everyone around you needs to stop everything too. Oftentimes, someone still needs to get to soccer. I knew his family couldn’t stay or even visit him during that month of treatment. He was sick, alone, and without fresh air.”

So Vanhoose, who has worked as an RN for ARH for over 11 years, began problem solving how she might get this patient some fresh air. “Windows weren’t enough,” she said, “so IV poles and tubes were packed up and off we went. I rolled him outdoors every day after that. When he could look up and see the sky and feel the air on his face, it was magic. I like to think that was almost as beneficial as the cancer treatments.”

“He came back to the unit just recently. He’s doing fine and is cancer-free. It was a great feeling for all of us,” she continued, referring to her teammates who deal with cancer diagnoses every day. “It’s not an easy unit. Oftentimes you are the last person they see as they take their last breath. It’s important work. I left once and worked rehabilitation in home health, but I knew this was where I was supposed to be and I came back pretty quickly.”

Vanhoose is currently the nurse manager in charge of the oncology unit where she works. She says it is very important that everyone on her team feels like family. “I grew up here. This is where I became who I am and it was because of an incredible nurse manager who mentored me. I love the fact that I now have her job and am able to pay it forward, just as she did.”

Neither of Vanhoose’s parents had the privilege of graduating high school, so when she earned her diploma from Knott Central High School, she had her eye on being the first to go to college. “I knew I wanted to go into nursing because we had cared for my grandmother after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She was bed-bound and then she fell and broke her hip. Soon it was hospice, but I remember what a difference excellent nursing care made to my grandmother, during that last period in her life.”

Vanhoose may have known all along that she wanted to be a nurse, but she never imagined the path she would take to make that dream a reality. “Because of a low ACT score, I didn’t get accepted into the nursing program at Hazard Community & Technical College. I was pretty discouraged,” she said. “But I had completed everything I needed for my Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) training while in high school, so I thought I’d work hard and figure out next steps.” While figuring the next step, she never took her eyes off her dream.

Vanhoose began her career at Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center as a CNA. “I did what I had to do to get into school to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). I completed that training and worked at ARH for five years as an LPN. Even though I wasn’t where I wanted to eventually be, I was still caring for patients and I was learning all along the way.”

While working as an LPN, Vanhoose was accepted into an RN program and realized her dream of becoming a registered nurse. But she didn’t stop there.

“I have always prized education. I’m a life-long learner and ARH has made it possible for me to work, support my family, and pursue my dreams,” she said. In July, Vanhoose will secure her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from Chamberlain College and will have officially gone from starting as a CNA to becoming a BSN.

Vanhoose is grateful for all the obstacles she has had to overcome. “I have two children and I hope I am modeling for them how to take a situation that may be initially discouraging and turn it around into something positive. I want them to know and believe that you can do anything if you really want to.”

Vanhoose also knows the already difficult route to her dream of being a BSN would have been much more difficult without the support of her employer, Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH). “They worked with me every step of the way,” she said. “Especially my manager, who would accommodate my schedule and figure out ways I could go to school and still work full- time. “For a long time, I went to school Monday through Thursday and then I’d work the weekends. If a test came up at a difficult time, she would work it out for me.”

Today, as one of the nursing leaders at Hazard ARH, Vanhoose is making a difference in the lives of those who now work on her team. “I want to them to know that I understand,” she said. “I never stop talking about the student loan repayment program that pays $300 a month to students pursuing higher education in healthcare. I explain that we have a Nurse Extern program that pays $10 an hour and you can work just about any time you want. It also provides excellent training to go along with what is being taught in school. You can find a mentor. ARH has a scholarship program in addition to student loan repayment. If you want an education beyond high school, you can have it here.”

In addition to setting an extraordinary example for her children, Vanhoose also wants everyone on her team to know they have a champion in her. “I am visible, with an open door policy,” she explained. “I want to know what you want and what you need. Even if it isn’t more education, I want to know how I can make it better for you and in turn, I know each individual will deliver better patient care. It’s a family atmosphere and everyone pitches in. If I need to be here on a weekend, then I’ll be here, but so will my team.”

It is not surprising that Vanhoose’s team maintains one of the highest staff retention rates in all of ARH’s 13 facilities.

People often ask why Vanhoose felt the need to gain more education after attaining her goal of becoming an RN, but she says that is a no-brainer. “Finishing my college degree absolutely allowed me to put all the pieces of my personal puzzle together. It has finished me, in a good way.”

One class assignment really stands out in her mind, illustrating why education is of such value. “I knew I could go in and take a health assessment. I had years of experience. I was pretty cocky actually, but my professor made me take a video of me taking the assessment and then had me look and find what I could improve. It was so eye opening, because I could improve on just about everything. It wasn’t that I took a poor assessment, but today I take much better ones!”

Vanhoose doesn’t talk about her personal next steps, other than thinking about taking her children to Washington DC for an educational trip and helping Hazard ARH’s oncology department be the best place to work in the system. “I have all the tools I need to make a difference in the lives of my team, my children, and my patients. I’m settled,” she said. “And, I always have the opportunity to go out and see the mountains and feel the air on my face.”

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Above article was published November 7, 2019 – Special To The Hazard Herald

Highlands ARH Sponsors “Run for Shelter” 5K; raises funds for the East Kentucky House of Hope homeless shelter

More than 70 people participated in the fifth annual “Run for Shelter,” one of two fundraisers that will help Floyd County’s homeless shelter keep its doors open this year.

The shelter, called the East Kentucky House of Hope, opened in March on Ky. 122 near Martin, following years of work by a committee of volunteers who sought to help homeless people in Floyd County.

One of those organizers, Mickey McGuire said the facility has helped more than 100 homeless residents since March.

“We have already served over 100 people,” McGuire said. “Homelessness, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about it because they think of a homeless person and everybody has their stereotype, and they’re not that way. There are some that are good people. There are some that are bad people. There are some that are mentally ill. There are some that are just elderly. There are some that are just confused and maybe just need somebody to sit and talk to them and organize their life for them. We understand that.”

He talked about a Vietnam veteran who recently came to the shelter as well as two women who came there for help and now are renting their own place.

“The wonderful thing about it, and we understand you can’t save everybody, but you can try to help everybody, and out of all the people that we’ve taken in, we can count about 40 of them that are now no longer homeless,” McGuire said. “We have found them permanent housing. We’ve got them on a budget. We got whatever problem it was that made them homeless, we got it taken care of and found them a place they could afford. We set them down, made them a budget, maybe found them a job.”

He said shelter staff, employees of Kentucky River Community Care, have found jobs for more than a dozen people who stayed at there. He said none of this would be possible without community support.

“The blessing of the thing is, I don’t think that all of us realized what a great community we live in, just how many people have come forward,” McGuire said. “We have dinner served at the shelter every night. We’re not allowed to cook there, and either some family or some church or some civic organization … they go up there and serve dinner every night, year round. Sometimes, you just think how are we going to make it, and then all of these people come forward.”

He said being a part of the shelter committee has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.

He said the Run for Shelter, sponsored by Appalachian Regional Healthcare on Oct. 19, will raise about $5,000 for the homeless shelter. At the event, ARH employees presented a check for more than $2,100 — funds that employees have raised all year to help the shelter.

McGuire said the shelter needs $50,000 to operate for one year. Committee members hope to raise the rest of the funds needed at the upcoming “Dancing for Shelter” fundraiser, which will be held at the Mountain Arts Center on Nov. 1.

“We have raise enough money to operate on for a year, and so, we have to pay electric and water and anything, any supplies and cleaning and all of that,” McGuire said.

McGuire said several local officials have been practicing their dance skills to prepare for the competition. Last year’s winners, Willard Kinzer and Danette James, have been invited back to present the trophy to this year’s winners.

The list of participating dancers include Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams, Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton, Floyd County Circuit Judge Tom Smith, Highlands ARH Community CEO Tim Hatfield, Pastor Tommy Reed, Big Sandy Community and Technical College President Dr. Sherry Zylka, Prestonsburg Elementary Principal Melissa Turner, Fitness Instructor Teri Kinzer-Crum and insurance agent Dick Clark. These individuals have been practicing with dance instructors Nadina Delon, Dr. Bonnie Hensley, Leslie Nelson, Micky McGuire, Jennifer Hartsock, Ashleigh Dotson, Bill Bettinazzi and Charlotte Soder.

“Each of these individuals (have) donated their time, their energy and taken away from their own lives in order to make this event a success,” a press release said. “Last year was just unbelievable, over the top, with a sell-out crowd. Ticket sales have been strong, but there are still tickets left fort this year’s event.”

Dancing for Shelter will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, at the Mountain Arts Center. Tickets range from $18 to $28, and all proceeds benefit the homeless shelter. Audience members will be able to vote for their favorite dancers by texting their first and last names to, (606) 220-2880 during the competition. Dancing for Shelter will also feature a silent auction to raise funds.

For tickets, visit, macarts.com or call, (606) 886-2623. For information about the shelter, visit its Facebook page, or call, (606) 949-2018.

Original story published by

Kiely Long

ARH Scholars Spring 2019 Winner: Kiely Long

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 Spring 2019 class of the ARH Scholars includes 11 talented future healthcare providers.

Kiely Long, a recent graduate from Cumberland Gap High School, can’t say enough nice things about Claiborne County, Tennessee. “We’re a small town, and I get to visit the national parks a lot. They’re really rich in history and there are a lot of things to see.” Even so, she’s looking forward to the next step: in a few short months she’ll be off to East Tennessee State University to begin her journey toward a degree in Rehabilitative Health Sciences.

Why Rehabilitative Health Sciences? Kiely explains “I have a cousin who is a little under my age and she has Down syndrome. I’ve seen her spend time with all sorts of different therapists and I saw the difference that they made to her. I knew that therapy was definitely the field that I was going to pursue.”

“It took me a while to decide on a specialization,” she continues, “but I eventually settled on speech therapy. I had the opportunity to shadow a speech therapist at Caryville Elementary School, and I just loved the atmosphere. It was amazing to see the kids benefiting from therapy. I’ve been going there for a while, so I was able to see the difference that was made in these kids over just one year.”

Kiely credits the Speech-Language Pathologist, Brittany Buckner, with inspiring her to look into speech therapy as a profession. “She has been a huge help as I’ve been deciding. She’s been very patient with me and has answered all of my questions.”

By 2023 Kiely will be graduating from East Tennessee State with her bachelor’s degree, and then it’s on to her master’s degree courses. With years of schooling and loans down the road, she was ecstatic to find the ARH Scholars program on the scholarship page of her school’s website. “When I finally got the email saying that I’d been selected, my whole family pretty much started screaming. We were really excited.”

Even with many years of schooling ahead of her, Kiely has a clear goal in mind: “My entire life I’ve wanted to work with kids somehow. It sounds cliché, but I just want to help people. The kids that I saw during my time at the speech therapy office couldn’t look someone in the eye when having a conversation because they were so insecure about how they spoke. When I talked to them a year later, they were confident and outgoing. So, I’ve seen how something as simple as speech can affect a kid’s life. I want to be able to make that kind of difference. I think that everyone deserves to have a voice so that they can speak up. I want to help them find that voice.”

Full story can be found in The Claiborne Progress, August 7th edition.

McKenzie Daniel

ARH Scholars Spring 2019 Winner: McKenzie Daniel

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 Spring 2019 class of ARH Scholars includes 11 talented future healthcare providers.

McKenzie Daniel is one such student. Born and raised in West Liberty, McKenzie just graduated from Morgan County High School. He’s wrapped up a busy high school career playing soccer and tennis, in addition to being involved with his local Boy Scout Troop and church. He’ll have only a few months to relax this summer before heading off to Eastern Kentucky University where he’s planning to study pharmacology.

What compelled him to choose a future in pharmacy? Partially, his time in the Governor’s Scholars Program. “Last year I did the Governor’s Scholars Program, which is a five-week program over the summer. My focus area throughout that program was health care, which got me started learning about the medical field. I really enjoyed that process.” In addition to his time at Governor’s Scholars, McKenzie credits one of his teachers at Morgan County High School with inspiring him to pursue medicine: “I had a really good teacher in high school for biology, anatomy, and chemistry, Ms. Rudd—Chrystal Rudd. She really pushed me to learn more about science.”

Medicine isn’t all about science and education; it’s also the ability to make quick decisions and take others’ lives into your hands. This aspect is enough to discourage some, but McKenzie isn’t worried about that at all. “I’ve been lifeguarding for the past few years, and I enjoy taking the responsibility of making sure people are okay.”

No small part of getting a medical education is the expense. This year, after submitting his second application to the ARH Scholars, McKenzie was finally awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue his dreams of a pharmacy degree. “I was pretty excited when I found out that I’d won. The first time I applied I got turned down, so being awarded the second time I applied was really surprising.”

After McKenzie graduates from Eastern Kentucky University in 2023, he’ll be heading off to the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy. After that, he’d love to head back to Eastern Kentucky to work close to home. “My community has done a lot for me,” McKenzie reflects. “I’d like to pay the community back for what they’ve done for me. If anyone in my community has health problems, I want to be there to assist them.”

Full story can be found in The Licking Valley Courier, Thursday, August 1st edition.

Aryn Pinson

ARH Scholars Spring 2019 Winner: Aryn Pinson

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 Spring 2019 class of ARH Scholars includes 11 talented future healthcare providers.

Aryn Pinson grew up in Pikeville, Kentucky, and she loved it. “I don’t think there is any better place to grow up. I love the hometown feel I get from Pikeville, and always having a community behind you is incredible.”

Aryn also loved Pikeville High School, where her mother is a teacher and where Aryn played volleyball in addition to her academics.

“I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t have Pikeville High School.” Aryn says, “They taught me to have a strong work ethic.”

It takes a strong work ethic to succeed in medicine. While no one in Aryn’s family is in the medical field, she was inspired by friends of the family Sandy and Joel Thornbury, pharmacists who own an independent pharmacy in Pike County.

“They were such a good influence on me, and they are so devoted to their community. When people come into the pharmacy, the Thornburys know them by name and know what they need. They are willing to do anything for anybody. I www.QtheAgency.com

think a pharmacist should have those qualities. I love this profession and I credit them completely for that.”

After finishing up her four years at Pikeville High School, Aryn headed off to Eastern Kentucky University for her pharmacy school pre-requisites. Then, Aryn moved to Birmingham, Alabama to start pharmacy school at Samford University. So far, she’s enjoying the opportunities that Samford offers its students.

“This year I took part in the Birmingham Healthcare Access movement, which is a community health fair. We took people’s blood glucose and BMI and offered counseling services. I was stationed doing BMIs, taking the height and weight of patients and calculating their BMI for them. At a different station, someone would talk to them about what their BMI means and how they should go from there. It was eye-opening for me because it brought to light the need in the community.”

With so much need in the community, Appalachian Regional Healthcare is dedicated to helping students achieve their goals of getting a medical education. Aryn Pinson first heard about the ARH Scholars opportunity from her aunt who works at Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center. Though Aryn was overwhelmed at school during the application window, she pushed through and applied. And when she won?

“I was in shock. I could not believe it. It’s awesome that a healthcare provider in our community wants to help students strive for their goals, because sometimes funds are limited, especially in graduate school.”

When Aryn graduates in May of 2022, she plans to start her career at a bigger chain pharmacy to learn the ropes and catch her stride. Ultimately though, she wants to move home to Pikeville and open her own pharmacy. www.QtheAgency.com

“I want to help the people in my community,” she said. “I like having an impact on someone’s life. Being from a small community, pharmacists are often the most accessible healthcare provider. If you’re having a medical issue or a concern, you can just walk in and talk to a pharmacist. I want to be the person that my community can come and talk to, and I can help them figure out next steps. “

Full story can be found in Appalachian News-Express, July 30th edition.

Taylor Herrell

ARH Scholars Spring 2019 Winner: Taylor Herrell

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 Spring 2019 class of ARH Scholars includes 11 talented future healthcare providers.

Taylor Herrell just graduated from Letcher County Central High School in Whitesburg, Kentucky. Now she’s making plans to continue her studies as a chemistry pre-medical student at the University of Pikeville, where she hopes to graduate in the spring of 2023, before heading on to the Kentucky College of Optometry. While she had been considering optometry for some time, it was actually a viral video on social media that sealed the deal for Taylor: “I know this sounds crazy, but I saw a video about this little girl getting glasses, and being able to see clearly just made her day. Seeing how glasses made that little girl really happy just confirmed that’s what I wanted to do.”

Her interest in medicine has been largely inspired by her family, as both of Taylor’s parents are in the medical field. Her mother works as a nurse midwife, and her father as a nurse anesthetist. “I’ve always seen them working to help other people. Sometimes I would have to go to the hospital with them, and I always loved that environment. It’s great to see people helping people, especially in the small community that we have.” Taylor says that her family’s insistence that she follow her dreams and constant support have been hugely inspirational.

In addition to her parents, Taylor credits the Letcher County Central High School guidance counselors with pushing her towards her goals. “The guidance counselors encouraged me to do whatever I could to succeed… and to apply for a ton of scholarships.”

It makes perfect sense then that Taylor was recently awarded an educational scholarship from Appalachian Regional Healthcare. Taylor’s mother, who used to work at an ARH hospital brought the scholarship to Taylor’s attention, and Taylor couldn’t wait to apply. Her reaction when she won? “I was really overwhelmed and excited! I couldn’t believe it, honestly.”

As she prepares for her next step, she looks forward to someday returning to her hometown of Jenkins, Kentucky to practice.

“I want to stay close to home. I’ve never really been attracted to the idea of moving to a big city. I just love the people here and I love how everybody gets along with each other. Jenkins is a really small rural community where everyone knows each other. It’s nice to see someone you know everywhere you go. I want to give back to my community and help those who have helped me to succeed.”

Full story can be found in Letcher County Community News-Press, Wednesday, July 24th edition.

Logan Smith

ARH Scholars Spring 2019 Winner: Logan Smith

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 Spring 2019 class of ARH Scholars includes 11 talented future healthcare providers.

Logan Smith, from Barbourville, Kentucky became interested in the medical field in his sophomore year of high school. After sustaining a knee injury and subsequently undergoing a knee surgery, his interest in healthcare was piqued, but it was his time in physical therapy that was truly inspiring to him. He says it was the attentiveness of the physical therapists and assistants that first caught his attention: “I really appreciated how helpful everyone was at that office, and it sparked my interest as a potential career because I like work that’s more hands-on.”

He made sure to ask questions while he was there, and credits that therapist with inspiring him to pursue physical therapy as a profession. “I asked a lot of questions and he really helped me to understand the ins and outs of the job” Logan said. A friend of the family who works as a physical therapy assistant at Middlesboro ARH Hospital also mentored Logan and encouraged his interest in physical therapy. “I asked a lot of questions of him too. We talked about his work and what he liked and didn’t like about it. It was helpful to have people I knew who could honestly talk to me about the pros and cons of the job.”

Logan just finished his freshman year at Southeast Community College in Middlesboro and will graduate with his associate degree next May. He’s planning to transfer to University of Kentucky to finish his Bachelors before going on to obtain his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

Like so many other students pursuing a degree in healthcare, Logan’s road is long and expensive, and he’s driven to apply for as many scholarships as possible. He was ecstatic to discover the ARH Scholars opportunity, and even more thrilled when he was awarded the scholarship. “I’ve applied to so many scholarships, so to get even one is pretty rewarding,” Logan reflects. “The medical field is one of the most expensive fields to go into when it comes to the schooling. Prices get pretty high when you’re a medical student, so every little bit helps. It’s great for ARH to give back this way.”

ARH gives back through ARH Scholars, because ARH Scholars are driven to give back to their community through their work in the medical field. “Ultimately, I just want to help younger people who are injured, like I was. I feel like I can connect with them, and because I understand the mental process and physical process of healing, I can be there as a mentor. I think I’ll get a sense of gratification from guiding a young person from injury to performing the way that they want to. I can’t wait to see my patients get healthy.”

Click here to read Logan’s Story from Middlesboro Daily News.

Forbes Names Appalachian Regional Healthcare Among Top Ten Employers in Kentucky

June 19, 2019 – According to Forbes Magazine and global market research company Statista, Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) is the ninth best employer in Kentucky, based on employee satisfaction surveys. To arrive at these rankings, Statista experts surveyed thousands of employees on criteria like salary, atmosphere, and working conditions.

ARH, ranked ninth, is also one of only two companies in the report’s top ten Kentucky employers to be headquartered in Kentucky (the other being University of Kentucky). ARH is the single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third largest private employer in southern West Virginia, but as one of the Top 10 best employers in Kentucky, ARH is in company with major international corporations such as Ford Motor Company, Toyota NorthAmerica, and FedEx.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare was founded in 1956 and now serves 350,000 residents across Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia, operating 12 hospitals in addition to multispecialty physician practices, home health agencies, HomeCare Stores, and retail pharmacies, The ARH system employs more than 5,000 people and has a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members representing various specialties.

ARH also supports students in the medical field through intern and externships and the ARH Scholars Program, which awards thousands of dollars in academic scholarships annually. Those who are interested in working for Appalachian Regional Healthcare can visit ARHCareers.org.

For more information, please contact Linda Schuster by phone at (502) 592-5400 or by email at Linda@QtheAgency.com.

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ARH Scholars Fall 2018 Winner: Brooke Benton

The Fall 2018 class of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars includes students from all over the region, in various stages of life with one common goal – to make a difference in healthcare throughout Appalachia. Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the ARH Scholars program. Recipients are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare.

Brooke Benton grew up in a small town called Jackson in Eastern Kentucky. She completed her undergraduate studies at Transylvania University where she studied Chemistry and Classics. She is currently a 4th year medical student at the University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine. Before entering medical school, Brooke served as a college and career counselor at Jackson City School and a high school chemistry and physics teacher at Breathitt County High School in Jackson. While she loved Lexington, she decided to return home for medical school to be closer to family, friends and the community she loves. She originally decided to pursue medicine after attending a health careers summer camp at the University of Kentucky.

“When I was a sophomore in high school, I was invited to the University of Kentucky for a summer camp with health careers,” Brooke says. “I did a lot of shadowing and classes over the summer, and that’s really what initially drew me to medicine.”

Entering medical school, Brooke had the option to complete coursework to become a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). She ultimately chose the Osteopathic path which focuses on treating the entire body and mind rather than just the physical body.

“Osteopathic medicine just means that it’s a different philosophy,” she says. “It’s a very old tradition and I think it’s a growing one. It’s grown a lot in the last couple of years with new schools popping up all over the country.. After we graduate, we get the DO professional title after our name. We have the same practice and privilege rights as MDs. I took all the same classes and licensing board exams, and the curriculum is the same; the added benefit is the philosophy as well as training in osteopathic manipulative treatment (“OMT”). We have specific details within that philosophy about how we’re treating the whole patient’s body. We utilize OMT as a modality of treatment just as we might prescribe a medication or do a surgical procedure; this is a noninvasive and conservative approach to relieving dysfunction within the musculoskeletal system to better enable the body to heal itself from various ailments, be it back pain, headaches, acid reflux, etc. ”

This concept of treating the entire body and using a more holistic approach to healthcare intrigued Brooke. She has always had a passion for science, but as she began working more with patients, she developed a passion for the personal aspects of healthcare.

“Honestly, I didn’t know a whole lot about osteopathic medicine before I enrolled in medical school in Pikeville – I just wanted to go to medical school and really wanted to be close to my family,” Brooke says. “The more I delved into the history and philosophy behind it, I realized it’s something that is really easy to get on board with. We all want to be treated as a person. We don’t want to be treated as a lab value or an x-ray. I liked talking to people and learning about their stories, and that’s been a fun component of this as well. Learning more about people – where they come from, what motivates them – that goes over well with patients because we all want to be heard. That fits well with my goals and my career.”

Brooke has had several mentors throughout her life including her mother and two women who have served as examples in the medical field.

“My mom has been a big supporter and having her presence has been a big help,” she says, “Med school is busy. I don’t have a lot of time to do the normal running errands and keeping house work. She always listens if I’ve had a bad day or helps if I need something, so it’s great having that support system. Dr. Joanna Santiesteban, MD , an OB/GYN in Auxier, KY at Physicians for Women, has been a great mentor who guided me when I first was interested in the field of OB/GYN and trained me during my third year of med school for clerkship. What I know about the basics of OB/GYN, I learned from Dr. S. Dr. Holly Gallion, MD introduced me to a subspecialty within OB/GYN, gynecologic oncology. She taught me not just how to be a surgeon but how to treat people. I got ‘How to be a Surgeon 101’ from her, and I also learned how to take care of patients and make them feel like they’re more than just a medical record. At the end of the day that’s what we’re all about.”

Since entering medical school, Brooke has had the chance to complete clinical rotations all over the country. This has allowed her to gain experience in various hospital atmospheres preparing her for anything she faces as a physician. She was completing her rounds during a shift at the University of Kentucky when she learned she had been named an ARH Scholar.

“I was just at the hospital taking care of my patients [when I got the news], so it was a nice surprise,” she says. “It was a difficult week, so it was nice to have good news. I was very excited and honestly a little bit surprised, but good surprised. This scholarship means I will have freedom to advance my career without the stress of extra loan money.”

“The scholars are selected by the ARH Scholars Judging Committee,” says Danya Anderson, ARH Scholars Coordinator. “Once I receive the applications, I prepare them to be sent to the committee by making them a ‘blind’ application, which makes it fair for each applicant. The Scholars award is paid in two installments of $2,500 directly to the school.  One is payable after verification and the other is paid the following year. For this round, we had 73 applicants with 10 finalists awarded.”

After completing her residency, Brooke plans to return to Eastern Kentucky to practice as an OB/GYN. She is excited to offer care to women and their families, some of whom only ever visit the OB/GYN for care. Her heart is in the Appalachian region with the community she loves. She believes if the people in her hometown need her, it does not make sense to go elsewhere to practice.

“I just really want to take care of women and their families,” she says. “It’s about bringing awareness to women’s health issues. For a long time, there was a stigma associated with having a ‘female problem’ and it’s something we don’t really talk openly about. If someone has high blood pressure or diabetes, we’ll talk about that. But when women are coming to their providers, there’s a certain hesitancy, even with their providers who they trust, to discuss these issues. I really hope I can help to break down these barriers. If I can hit a targeted population that may not be getting preventative care elsewhere, I want to fill that gap.”

ARH Scholars Fall 2018 Winner: Lauren McCurry

The Fall 2018 class of Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars includes students from all over the region, in various stages of life with one common goal – to make a difference in healthcare throughout Appalachia. Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the ARH Scholars program. Recipients are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare.

Lauren McCurry is setting out to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Originally from Harlan County, Lauren graduated from Harlan County High School as valedictorian. She is now an honors student at Western Kentucky University (WKU) studying Communication Sciences and Disorders. School and community involvement are very important to her as she is the finance assistant of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, and a member of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), the American Sign Language Organization (ASLD), Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society, Christian Student Fellowship, and Circle of Sisterhood Foundation.

There have been several influences in Lauren’s life that sparked her interest in the medical field. Both of her parents are healthcare professionals whom she says instilled strong work ethic and dedication to everything she does. In addition, her brother was born with profound to severe lateral hearing loss. She says he has had a major impact on her life and inspired her to enter this field of study.

“All my life I’ve witnessed how [my parents’] careers have allowed them to fulfill their passions for serving others,” Lauren says. “I truly believe that both my parents have a servant heart and this is something I share with them, so I just knew a career in healthcare was for me.”

Lauren gushes about her mother, Terry McCurry, emphasizing what an incredible person and healthcare professional she is and how she has impacted her life in ways she cannot even express.

“My mom is such a hard worker, she loves and cares for everyone she meets,” Lauren says. “She’s a wonderful mom, an incredible wife, a gifted nurse, my best friend and everything that I aspire to be one day. Her impact on my life can best be summarized through the song I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack. When I was a child my mom chose this song to emphasize an important message and my daily reminder to experience the life that I’ve been blessed with. There are so many opportunities out there by which we can learn and grow and help others, so when we get the choice to sit it out or dance, the hope is that we would dance, step out of our comfort zone and take chances that we would not normally take; that we would persevere through the hard times and never give up on our dreams.”

In addition to her family connections to the healthcare field, Lauren has had the opportunity to work closely with Gail Murray, a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) for ARH.

“I have had so many opportunities to shadow her,” Lauren says. “She’s been a constant source of encouragement, especially when I applied to the program, and even now that I’m in the program.”

Lauren originally heard about the ARH Scholars program through her mother. As an ARH employee, Terry receives an email newsletter where she saw an ad about the program. Lauren was ecstatic and a bit shocked when she found out she was a winner.

“Funny story, I was actually scrolling through Facebook one morning and I saw a story that ARH posted and I was listed as one of the ARH Scholars,” she says. “I eventually received an email and then letter in the mail. I just remember being so overwhelmed with emotion. ARH has provided so many wonderful opportunities for me and my family over the years, so being selected as a ARH scholar is just icing on the cake for the stage of life I’m in right now. It’s truly an honor and a blessing that will help me to fulfill my dreams of pursuing a career in healthcare.”

After graduation Lauren says she plans to return to her hometown, Harlan, Kentucky, to provide healthcare services to the Appalachian community.

“The sky’s the limit,” she says. “I don’t know what God has planned for me right now. Ultimately my goal is to help improve the quality of life for those in need of healthcare services, specifically those needing speech therapy services.”

Lauren is beyond thankful for the opportunity to become an ARH Scholar and hopes to one day make the same type of impact ARH is making in Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia.

“ARH scholars is such an incredible opportunity to help students that are in the pursuit of education within healthcare,” Lauren says. “It’s also a great opportunity for ARH to encourage the return of professionals to provide quality healthcare within the ARH community. I’m just so thankful for ARH’s dedication and support for college students like myself.”