Vanessa Falwell of Bradford has been serving her community since she was involved in 4-H activities as a young girl, but she now has a chance to serve her state.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently appointed Falwell, 36, to the Arkansas State Board of Health. According to the Arkansas Department of Health’s website, www.healthy.arkansas.gov, the board has the general supervision and control of all matters pertaining to the health of the residents of Arkansas.
“I am very honored to be entrusted with a position that I know affects the citizens of Arkansas,” said Falwell, who is a family nurse practitioner and provider at White River Health System’s medical clinic in Tuckerman. “As a member of the State Board of Health, I will be able to give input on promoting better standards of health care.
“I knew there was a chance I might receive an appointment, but I was surprised when it happened.” Falwell added that she knew numerous recommendations had been made on her behalf.
Dr. Glen Knowles of Bradford made one of those recommendations. Knowles has worked in hospital emergency rooms and is now a provider for Unity Heath at the Bradford Medical Clinic, which is based on the campus of Bradford schools.
“I guess I’ve known Vanessa for 20 years or more. I’ve always thought she was a very special person,” Knowles said.
“She worked in my medical clinic in Bradford when she was in high school. She was a baby sitter for my kids. I’ve always really liked her,” he said.
“She’s got a good head on her shoulders. She’s made good medical choices,” Knowles said. “I’ve seen her advance in the medical field, from helping me in the clinic to going to nursing school to becoming an APRN (advanced practice registered nurse). She’s seen all aspects of medicine from the ground up.
“She’s got a great personality. I don’t think she’s ever met a stranger. She’ll do a very good job on the State Board of Health.”
Falwell said the State Board of Health meets quarterly in Little Rock.
“There are numerous subcommittees, too. I was just recently asked to chair the Local Grant Trust Fund Committee, which decides where funds will go regarding such things as upkeep, maintenance and repairs at regional health units. They decide where the need is greatest,” she said.
“I have also been appointed to the Arkansas Central Cancer Committee. This committee focuses on research and cancer prevention in Arkansas. They study the population and data collection of different types of cancer, then release information to national cancer-registry systems,” Falwell said.
“I told [the Arkansas State Board of Health] I want to make the most of my time on the board,” she said, adding that hers is a two-year appointment. “It’s an opportunity for me to get a voice out there, … to be a chance to make a difference.”
Falwell was born in Searcy, a daughter of Kenny and Carol Falwell, who now live in Newport.
“We moved to Newport when I was 7,” she said. “My dad was a farmer, and my mom taught school at Newport. She now sells real estate. If she hasn’t taught you, she’s probably sold you a house.”
Vanessa Falwell has one sister, Amelia Falwell Smith, who is manager of the pharmacy at the Walmart Supercenter in Newport. Vanessa and Amelia are granddaughters of Adie Siler of Bradford and the late Carl Siler; and Kent and Dorlene Falwell, both of Bradford.
Vanessa Falwell graduated from Newport High School in 1998.
“I was not a traditional college student,” she said. “It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to study … agri-business, pre-med biology, psychology … then nursing, where I finally found myself.
“I graduated cum laude from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2012, but before that, I completed the LPN (licensed practical nursing) program at Ozarka College in Ash Flat in 2010, then received an Associate of Applied Science degree in registered nursing from Ozarka College at Melbourne.”
Falwell graduated in December from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences with a Master of Nursing Science degree with a specialty in family practice. She hopes to pursue a doctorate in nursing at a later date.
“So here I am now as the provider for the Tuckerman Medical Clinic, which is part of the White River Health System in Batesville,” she said.
“Vanessa’s passion for the care of the rural community will lead to great outcomes for patients in Tuckerman and the surrounding areas,” said Gary Bebow, CEO of the White River Health System.
As a family nurse practitioner, Falwell provides the whole spectrum of care. “I get to see kids and babies, as well as adults,” she said.
“I wanted to practice in a rural area. I want to be able to help people. People can’t plan when they get sick,” Falwell said. “I will make house calls. I know that’s unusual in this day and age.
“My great-uncle Dr. Bernard Smith practiced medicine in Bradford for 50 years. He stayed very busy, but when people called him, he made house calls. If you’re not willing to help people, you may not be in it for the right reasons.”
Falwell said the Tuckerman Medical Clinic, 102 E. Elm St., is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
“I hope we can change the hours soon to Monday through Thursday, and I hope we can work up to seeing 20 to 25 patients a day,” she said
“My nurse, Tanaya [Carlton, RN], was my uncle’s nurse for 15 years,” she said, noting that her uncle, the late Dr. Wade Falwell Sr., had a medical practice in Newport.
“When he died, she came to work here. I know her character,” Falwell said. “She’s a good nurse. She’s been a big help. It’s good to have her to rely on.
“And Romee [Benish, clinic administrator], she’s the lady who knows what’s going on. She’s from Tuckerman. She knows the patients, and she has a real love for this community.”
Benish, who has worked at the clinic since it opened four years ago, commented on Falwell’s appointment to the State Board of Health.
“We’re proud of her,” Benish said. “We’re glad she’s here. We need someone like her.”
Falwell serves in numerous community and civic organizations and is a member of the Arkansas Nurse Practitioner Association.
She is also a member of the Junior Auxiliary of Searcy.
“I could not participate too much this past year,” she said. “I was really busy trying to start at this new clinic, as well as finishing up school at UAMS. I just had too many prior commitments.
“Junior Auxiliary sponsors its annual Angel Tree program at Christmas, helps with The Sunshine School and provides food baskets to the needy during the holidays. The organization also sponsors its annual charity ball. I am hoping I can become active again next year.”
Falwell has also been recently appointed to the board of the Arkansas Center for Independence in Newport, a nonprofit organization “providing day-to-day support, services and employment to adults with developmental disabilities,” she said.
“I also help with the Newport Service League. This is one of my favorite organizations to help,” she said.
“We pick up kids and take them shopping for warm winter clothing that they might not get otherwise,” Falwell said. “It is very rewarding to volunteer with this organization. I feel it is a privilege to be able to help those kids. It’s a privilege to be able to make a difference.”
Falwell also volunteers with New Life Children’s Home in Oil Trough.
“I volunteer as a relief house parent,” she said. “They have parents who stay there. When they need a break, I go in and stay for a night or two.”
Falwell is a member of Bradford Baptist Church.
“I help with AWANA on Wednesday nights and try to attend church regularly,” she said.
“My roots in volunteerism started when my mother put me in 4-H,” Falwell said. “I did that all through childhood. I think that instilled in me a sense of community and helping others and giving back to the community as a volunteer. That never left me.”
Falwell said part of her 4-H projects included public speaking and gardening.
“We also visited nursing homes and did crafts with the residents,” she said.
“I’m very thankful to my parents. They have instilled a high work ethic in me. They have been the driving force behind my work ethic and integrity. They set a good example for me,” Falwell said.
“Dad is on the Jackson County Quorum Court and serves on the [Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Board],” she said. “Mom is on the Newport City Council and is a member of the Kiwanis. They are still very active in the community.
“I like to think they are proud of me.”