Don Silas ’24 — I’ve had a great time in Pikeville working with SOAR. Kody Witham, Thomas Gastineau, and I came in person on June 2nd. On the first day, we met with Dr. Margaret Riggs from the CDC to talk about the health issues the region faces in terms of poverty, rural limitations of healthcare access, and obesity. We also got to learn about the economic development work SOAR does and how that ties us to the nursing shortage.

Since then we’ve been working on starting a program to bolster Eastern Kentucky’s health with a targeted nursing mentorship program for students in poverty. This has involved getting in contact with the local health department for pike county, interviewing with local universities/colleges, and talking to current nurses. It has been reassuring that many of the people we talk to agree that mentorship is the best way to get students out of poverty while also educating them about health. Overall I felt a strong sense of community from those working on the issue.

While in Pikeville I’ve also got to immerse myself in the local scenery. The greenery here is outstanding and meeting new people now that many of the covid restrictions are being lifted has added to the experience. There are also many landmarks or the old Hatfield and McCoy feuds.