When Wendy Parker-Wood’s family visited the Big House at the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) grounds, Wendy knew it was a place she wanted to be. The then 12-year-old Wendy was fascinated by the stories her mother told of volunteering as a Christmas secretary at FNS in the 1930s, and she felt a strong connection to the work the Couriers did there.
In her senior year of high school in 1966, Wendy traveled to Wendover to participate in the Courier Program. She rode horses, grocery shopped for the cooks, transported sick children to Lexington and Cincinnati, prepared tea time, and acted as a tour guide for visitors. That first summer, Wendy and her fellow Couriers also took care of animals, assisted at the local clinics, and engaged with the community.
Wendy also assisted at the outpost clinics of Wolf Creek and Beechfork. On one memorable occasion, Wendy was called to observe an appendectomy. Due to not eating beforehand, she passed out, hit her head and woke up hours later after being treated!
In 1967, Wendy was asked to return to Wendover as a Senior Courier. Her second summer was spent teaching the new Couriers to drive the manual FNS jeeps. She and the other Couriers were allowed to name each new jeep that was purchased. Wendy then served another subsequent summer in 1968.
The Couriers had their fair share of fun – once even pranking Wendy with a healthy dose of cow manure – but Wendy also developed a great respect and admiration for FNS. Everyone had a specific job to do within the organization but at the end of the day, they came together to work as a community. Furthermore, up to that point, Wendy had not seen women running an organization like FNS. It was encouraging to observe successful female management on such a personal level, and it inspired Wendy to pursue such goals in her own life.
The culture and people that Wendy encountered in the community had a profound impact on her. She was exposed to a new way to life, and she enjoyed talking to the people in the area. Though Wendy loved FNS and the surrounding community, she decided to change directions when she was finished with college. She lived in Europe for five years after graduating, then began career in banking and worked for many years on Wall Street.
Throughout her time at Wendover, Wendy grew close with her fellow Couriers and many staff members, found a summer romance, enhanced her skills, and learned a lot about herself.
Above all else, FNS broadened her horizons in life, for which Wendy will be forever grateful.
“It’s just a special little place that stays right inside my heart,” Wendy says.
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In 1928, Mary Breckinridge, founder of Frontier Nursing University established the Courier Program, recruiting young people to 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.
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 healthcare to underserved and rural populations.