In 1980, the Health Wagon was founded by Sr. Bernie Kenny with the order of Medical Missionaries of Mary. She came to the Appalachian mountains at the request of the Richmond Catholic Diocese. She started the program when she began dispensing health care and a kind touch from her Volkswagen Beetle. St. Mary’s Hospital provided a valuable partnership and sponsored the program for over twenty-five years. Sr. Bernie turned over the reins of the organization in December 2005 to Teresa Gardner who has been with The Health Wagon for over eighteen years.
The Health Wagon continues to strive to meet the unique challenges of health care delivery to the medically underserved and indigent in poverty-stricken areas of rural Appalachia. Through the use of this innovative mobile health unit, health care doors are opened to many needy individuals, families and communities; doors that would have otherwise remained closed.
The Health Wagon visits eleven sites in Southwest Virginia’s Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, and Wise counties on a weekly, biweekly, and monthly basis. Accessibility to culturally sensitive primary health care services that emphasize education and prevention is considered the key to improving the health status for populations residing in these rural areas. Services are rendered essentially free of charge; however, donations are encouraged and accepted.