How music is used to heal the sick in Appalachia

Rodney Harmon of Floyd County, Virginia, has been flatfooting for 60 years, but never had he danced in a health clinic. He can thank Joe Smiddy for the pleasure.

Smiddy, an allegedly “retired” pulmonologist, is the volunteer medical director of the Health Wagon, a nonprofit that provides care to those in the region most in need. On a mild Saturday in September, Harmon is among patients who’ve traveled to the Remote Area Medical (RAM) pop-up clinic in the rural southwest Virginia town of Jonesville to take advantage of free healthcare services, those offered by Smiddy and the Health Wagon among them.

The queue for care began forming outside Lee High School in the wee hours. Folks now wait patiently, quietly, in the gymnasium. Smiddy, taking a break from pulmonary screenings, straps on his banjo. Dressed casually, as is his custom, he steps out on the gym floor and becomes a wandering troubadour. Approaching a woman, he asks, “Now, what town are you from?… Oh, I know your folks.” Together they sing “Amazing Grace,” “how sweet the sound.” Read More>>>