Global Programs West Virginia Trip Explores Appalachian Healthcare

Students, teachers visit Williamson, WV, aid healthcare crisis


Submitted by: Dion Crushshon

Sofia Perri ‘23 uses a stethoscope with a young boy from West Virginia. Perri reflects on her experience, “Not only did we learn so much about how to practice healthcare, but also about how to interact with patients and about the community we visited. We learned a lot from the people through talking with them about their life stories and their culture in Appalachia.”

Sam Tomczik, Staff Writer

As part of the global immersion program 14 students, from grades nine through eleven, traveled to Williamson, West Virginia chaperoned by Scott Hollander and Dion Crushshon ‘88

As stated by Hollander, “in Williamson there’s a great need.” Williamson lies in Mingo county, a county plagued by over 50% unemployment, as well as the ongoing opioid epidemic. “West Virginia is a place I wouldn’t choose to [vacation]”, says junior Rishabh Balachandran ‘23, “I wanted to help people, the clinical work was part of the choice [to go].”  

During their time, students visited rehab centers and worked in health clinics as well as tended to in-home health care visits, remaining, “consistent with the global program’s vision” according to Hollander. In addition, he recounts an in-home health care provider as, “heroic. She knew [her patients], and was able to give [patients] a kind of care that was purposeful and loving.” Balachandran shared that the trip furthered his understanding of the opioid crisis, in particular, recalling time the students spent at a live-in-rehabilitation center saying, “it was really impactful because a lot of these people had really tough childhoods. To see how people are recovering, and to see the damages that the opioid epidemic has done to this community was really impactful.” 

Balachandran also summarizes that, the rehab center demonstrated to the students that opioid addiction can happen to anyone, “there was a guy who was 53 and got shoulder surgery and was put on opioids and got addicted. That drove into our heads that this can happen to anyone of us… [Furthermore,] one man used to be a pro-MMA fighter, and another had a master’s degree. You may assume they’ve done nothing with their lives, but they’re good people who just got into bad situations.” Like Balachandran, Hollander stressed the impact of being able to see these problems up-close, “the students on the trip heard a lot about the opioid crisis and more importantly, heard actual people telling actual stories of how it has horrendously affected their lives.” Leyla Lyu ‘25 concurs that she felt a heightened sense of gratitude and encourages, “people at Blake to be thankful for what they have, because many people don’t have necessities that we take for granted.”