At the heart of Frontier Nursing University is a talented and diverse community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, Couriers and preceptors. Spotlight blogs feature members of our FNU community that are focused on the mission of educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to deliver quality health care to underserved and rural populations.
In 1928, Mary Breckinridge, founder of Frontier Nursing University established the Courier Program, recruiting young people to come work in the Kentucky Mountains and learn about service to humanity. Couriers escorted guests safely through remote terrain, delivered medical supplies to remote outpost clinics, and helped nurse-midwives during home visits and births. Frontier has benefited tremendously from the 1,600 Couriers who have served since 1928.
Lee Fox went into college with the intention of pursuing an art history degree. However, during her sophomore and junior year of college, life intervened. Lee grew ill and underwent many surgeries and chemotherapy. This unfortunate turn of events, however, had a silver lining; she was introduced to the world of healthcare and to the Frontier Nursing Service!
A friend of the family suggested to Lee that she look into the Courier Program. In 1976, Lee traveled from her home in Rochester, NY to Wendover and lived in the Garden House with a fellow Courier, beginning her adventure in the Kentucky mountains.
She spent her time driving the infamous FNS jeeps to the hospital to pick up supplies, making deliveries to the clinics the following mornings. Lee also assisted with clerical duties in the hospital, went on home visits with the nurses, and was able to attend a few nighttime births at the hospital.
During her downtime, Lee remembers listening to music, ogling beautiful quilts, and visiting Pentecostal churches. She gained wisdom from her conversations with Cecil Morgan, Helen Browne, and Kate Ireland. In the evenings, Lee enjoyed Opil’s delicious community dinners in the Big House.
Lee’s experiences in the Courier Program significantly impacted her life. “An amazing summer in the mountains with nurses, family nurse practitioners, and midwives providing most of the primary and OB/GYN care led me to nursing school and a career in home care nursing and public health,” she said.
Today, Lee works as an occupational nurse. She works with individuals who are on disability or leave, helping with their efforts to return to work.
Lee stays involved with the Courier Program today as a member of the Courier Advisory Committee. She reflects on the opportunities that the Courier Program provided for her and continues to provide for Couriers today:
“Couriers have the opportunity to explore the mountains and their people and culture as it has changed and evolved since my brief but unforgettable encounter with coal trucks, black lung-affected male patients who were expert quilters, and the wonderful Frontier Nursing Service staff members.”
She believes in the importance of this program and thus remains involved in order to help introduce new Couriers to Frontier Nursing University’s dynamic model of primary health care and education.