Nurse Presents the Drama of Seeking Health Care in Wise County

September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011 — In the U.S., approximately 50 million citizens – more than 9 million of them children – have no health insurance. Nurse, author and actor Tim Cunningham, a University of Virginia alumnus, chose a theater project to share the real stories he recorded of Americans struggling to see a doctor or dentist.

He will present scenes from his dramatic work, "Out of Their Way: Seeking Health in America, Wise County 2009," on Sept. 28 at 12:30 p.m. in the Jordan Hall Conference Center Auditorium as part of the University of Virginia's Medical Center Hour program. The event is free and open to the public.

Cunningham, who received his master's degree in nursing from U.Va. in 2009, worked with Clowns Without Borders for about 10 years, traveling to Haiti, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mexico and many schools, shelters and universities in the U.S. That work opened his eyes to the lack of health care in the world of the poor, no matter which nation, and he decided to become a nurse. He still clowns with the organization and currently works for Children's National Medical Center in Washington.

In 2007, Cunningham conducted a qualitative study asking the question, "What does health mean to you?" He interviewed 30 patients at the Remote Area Medicine clinic – an enterprise in Wise with which U.Va. has had a longstanding partnership, sending hundreds of U.Va. Health System volunteers to the three-day weekend each July to serve thousands of Southwest Virginians seeking medical care. This summer, RAM volunteers saw 2,347 patients.

On Wednesday, Cunningham will perform a portion of his full-length play giving voice to the people of Wise County. Using the forms, tools and techniques of theater, this production takes a local snapshot of a pressing global issue – the lack of health care coverage and lack of access to basic medical support.

The Medical Center Hour is produced weekly throughout the academic year by the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities in the School of Medicine.

For information, call 434-924-5974 or click here.

Watch the Medical Center Hour on YouTube and also on Comcast channel 13 on Wednesday evenings at 8 p.m. Television programs normally air three weeks after the live presentation.

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