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here are heroes in this community who have chosen to stay and use their talents to improve

the lives of its citizens,

among them the allied health teachers at the Boone Career and Technical Center in

Madison, West Virginia. Years ago, teachers and RNs Paula Webb, Angela Weikle, Caspia Sheppard, and Loretta

Thompson realized the importance of emphasizing health care careers to the high school students in the area and,

in doing that, they also realized the value that partnering with HOSA could bring to their students. Over the years

they have embraced that partnership with zeal.

As a result, for years, Boone County students have taken top prizes at the state HOSA conferences, the teachers

have been honored for their hard work, and most importantly, the student participants have established solid health

care careers upon graduation or have entered college level courses with an extraordinary level of preparedness.

As Paula Webb explains “I started my HOSA Chapter in 2002 when I first started teaching the Health Occupations

Program. It was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever

made for my students. HOSA gives them so many wonderful

opportunities to develop their technical skills and to become

leaders and good citizens. I have had several state officers

and traveled to many Leadership Conferences over the

years. HOSA has given me great opportunities as well. I was

an intern at the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General in 2013.”

Marshall University Joan C. Edward School of Medicine

is located about one and a half hours away from Boone

County in the far western region of West Virginia. The

smallest of three medical schools in the state, the School of

Medicine has a mission to serve the underserved and to train

physicians and encourage them in rural practice. Serving as

a chief advocate for rural counties at the medical school is

the Center for Rural Health, with Jennifer T. Plymale as the

Director, and Debbie Curry as the Director of Rural Outreach

and Development. For over a decade, Jennifer and Debbie

have developed and grown a regional pipeline program to

pique students’ interests in healthcare careers and remove

perceived barriers to these careers for rural young men and

women in southern and southwestern West Virginia.



Boone County is a beautiful area situated among the mountains of southern West Virginia and,

until the fairly recent past, an area very dependent upon the numerous coal mines throughout

the county. Young people often counted on making a living in the same mines in which their

parents and grandparents had labored, and the tax revenues from the mines made Boone

County a pleasant place to live and raise a family. Unfortunately, the major drop in demand for

coal and the substance abuse epidemic have made their mark on this mountain community,

with coal jobs and revenues drying up, teachers forced to take pay cuts, leaving both younger

and the older community members trying to find a new direction for their careers.


Co-authors Debbie Curry, JD, and Jennifer T. Plymale, MA