The NC Student Rural Health Coalition that Bloomer Hill clinic is a part of was created in 1968 at Vanderbilt University to improve healthcare access in the “black belt” of the south. The movement spread to North Carolina in 1978 with funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation which opened collaborative clinics with Duke, ECU, and UNC in the eastern NC region which suffers from the greatest poverty and lack of medical care. Many of the free clinics in the state including SHAC (UNC), Fremont clinic (Duke), and Tillery clinic (ECU) still operate; however, the collaborative exchange between clinics has ceased over the years.
Before the arrival of this student run movement, the town of Whitakers was pushing for equality and visibility as the civil rights movement swept the South. In 1958, the town purchased the church building (that now houses Bloomer Hill clinic) to create a space for community unity and events. In 1986, UNC held a two-week long health fair at Whitakers where students stayed in local residences and information was gathered about what the greatest health needs of the town were. Hypertension, diabetes, and continuity of care were the biggest issues so a collaborative was formed in 1987 between UNC School of Medicine and the people of Whitakers to host a monthly clinic to address these needs. Since then, UNC has provided a senior doctor working with medical student volunteers to the Bloomer Hill Clinic every month.
The history of Bloomer Hill clinic and the community of Whitakers is a prime example of a resilient rural North Carolina town that has shared success in its empowered past but continues to face uncertainty due to economic downturn and continuing health disparities. The issues with lack of healthcare access and poor health outcomes in Eastern North Carolina remain highest in the state.
HISTORY OF THE COLLABORATION WITH THE WHITAKERS COMMUNITY