CHAPEL HILL (July 16, 2021) – So very many factors influence wellness – and Dr. Sharon Elliott-Bynum embraced them all.
In the accompanying video, Dr. Cheryl Giscombe, a Professor in the School of Nursing at UNC Chapel Hill, describes the community health center Elliott-Bynum built – and built and built and built – until she became known as ‘The Mother Teresa of Durham.’
The effort started in 1996 when Elliott-Bynum and her two sisters opened the center in Durham to help reduce stigma for patients with HIV. But then Elliott-Bynum added a 16-week substance-abuse treatment center. Then job training. Then a GED program.
“This is a nurse,” Giscombe says. “But (she) saw all of this as wellness.”
Then came a case-management program for HIV patients. But the center was in fact a community health center for everyone. So Elliott-Bynum added Zumba and line-dancing classes, acupuncture, yoga and massage for anyone who wanted to take part.
“Which was brilliant, because when people walk through the door, you don’t know why anyone’s there,” Giscombe says. “So it reduced the stigma – anyone could be there.”
She later added outpatient counseling as after-care for those who complete substance-abuse counseling. A food pantry. A gym. A free clinic staffed with nursing students from UNC Chapel Hill, NC Central and Duke universities. Even a 16-bed dormitory for those who didn’t have housing.
“But everybody was ‘Mr.’ or ‘Miss So-and-So,’” Giscombe says. “And everybody was welcome.”
When the U.S. surgeon general visited the facility, he actually cried about what he saw and wrote an op-ed piece about CAARE Inc.
Sadly, Elliott-Bynum died of cancer in 2016.
But Giscombe doesn’t hesitate when asked to name a hero of her profession.
“That’s my nurse hero,” she says.
Glossary of Nursing Terms:
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