One Visit Can Save Your Life.

A Rural Response to Dental Needs

When Nancy first came to the Health Wagon, she was nearly unrecognizable. She was in agony from pain and had been for months. With a swollen face and eye, Dentist Olivia Stallard knew that something was terribly wrong.

Nancy had been living with a tooth infection for the past SIX months. As a way to work itself out of her body, it had created a hole in her face. Treatment was needed right away.

“She wouldn’t have made it another two months with the amount of widespread infection” says Dr. Stallard. Dr. Stallard was able to identify the tooth causing the infection, remove it, and drain the abscess. Nancy was also referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to evaluate her sinuses, as she was afraid the infection had invaded those as well.

Nancy was in pain but not for the lack of trying to be seen. She had called multiple local dental practices and was unable to be taken on as a patient. “It’s sad that so many are dealing with these life-threatening conditions, but no one will see them due to the lack of insurance” says Dr. Stallard.

Nancy has reached out to the Health Wagon since and she has been doing great, “Thank you so much for getting that bad tooth out. I feel so much all probably saved my life.”
Poor dental health has been linked to life-threatening conditions – diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and kidney disease are just a few. Studies also show that people with decaying teeth have a harder time finding a job, getting promotions, and they may even receive lower salaries. It’s already hard to find a job in Southwest Virginia. Dental care significantly increases the overall well-being of the families you support, especially when it’s provided
for free. In 2021, 2,164 dental patients were treated in our mobile units. But there are so many more waiting. Through the generosity of our supporters, like YOU, a stationary dental clinic will be opening its doors by 2023. Not only will this make it possible to treat hundreds more patients each year, but this will also free up the mobile units to reach more isolated areas.

The Health Wagon's mission is to provide compassionate, quality health care to the medically underserved people in the Mountains of Appalachia. Our values are inclusiveness, community outreach, collaboration, spirituality, and empowerment. Forty years ago, Sister Bernadette Kenny of the Catholic Order Medical Missionaries of Mary began what is now known as the Health Wagon. At that time, Sister “Bernie,” as she is most affectionately known, traveled on rural mountain roads in her Volkswagen Beetle to deliver health care to individuals in the mountainous region of Southwest Virginia. Since that time, the Health Wagon has evolved from a Volkswagen Beetle to a used Winnebago and a singlewide mobile home that served as a stationary clinic.

Today, the Health Wagon provides care from three brick and mortar stationary clinics as well as five mobile units. The mobile units travel to thirteen sites located in our six-county service area – Wise, Buchanan, Lee, Scott, Dickenson, and Russell Counties and the City of Norton. The number of Health Wagon patients hit an all-time high at 10,857 for a total of 35,250 patient encounters in 2021. Value of care provided by the Health Wagon was $5,393,250! We have effectively managed to leverage resources to provide primary, secondary and tertiary care at NO cost for the past forty years.

The Health Wagon is the oldest mobile clinic in the nation. We host the largest health outreach of its kind in the nation Move Mountains Medical Mission (formerly Wise Remote Area Medical) and were an instrumental partner in the first ever FAA approved drone delivery of medications in the United States, in partnership with Flirtey, NASA Langley and others. The historic drone has been inducted into the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Every $1 you give provides $100 in free health care! You’re saving lives. Thank you!

Charity Name
St. Mary's Health Wagon
Photo Credit
Teresa Tyson, President & CEO