Director at Wheeling Health Right
For more than 30 years, Kathie Brown has been at the helm of the Wheeling Health Right free clinic in Ohio County. Prior to her service at Health Right, Brown worked as a registered nurse at the Florence Crittenton home in Wheeling. She knows all about using her gifts to serve her community, and she’s been doing it with grace and perseverance for the better part of her life. “It’s a calling,” she says. “This isn’t a job to me. I was destined to do this, and I feel like God put me here to help people who can’t help themselves.”
Wheeling Health Right serves the underinsured and uninsured population of the greater Wheeling area. “A majority of our patients are out there working multiple part-time jobs and just trying to make ends meet,” Brown says. “They can find jobs, but not full-time jobs that offer health insurance.” The clinic, which is staffed by nurse practitioners, clinicians, and therapists, also sees patients who are currently without homes. “These are the people who so easily fall through the cracks. We fill the gaps.”
When Brown took the clinic over in 1992, there was such a small operating budget that she wasn’t sure how she could manage at the existing level of funding. So she dug in. Along with her colleagues, Brown traveled to Charleston to lobby legislators to increase the budgets for West Virginia’s free clinics. “Sometimes, you just have to power through to make change happen,” she says. “We refused to stop fighting for change in the Legislature. You just can’t be afraid.”
Today, Wheeling Health Right sees upwards of 200 patients per week. “We are not here to just move people through and send them on their way,” Brown says. “This is a comprehensive health care clinic, and the entire staff is dedicated not just to treating patients, but to teaching them how to make better choices and live healthier lifestyles.” The clinic serves the community with a certified diabetes educator, dental hygienists, mental health services, an on-site pharmacy, and a nutrition program. Plans are in place to expand the dental health and pharmacy services.
It’s the patients they see every day who inspire Brown to keep fighting for the cause that means so much to her. “Hearing stories of how we helped a patient, or hearing the gratitude in their voices for what we offer, really helps us understand that what we do in the community is making a difference—that’s what inspires me.”
Brown has two adult children and four grandchildren and lives in Wheeling with her husband, and she has no plans to retire with him just yet. “This is my passion. I am not ready to walk away until I know that whoever comes after me is ready to carry on this mission that we started so long ago.”
Written by Megan Huff
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