Broadnax Health Center opens

Published 10:21 am Thursday, January 15, 2009

JACKSON — A new medical center building now bears the name of a man who has devoted years to advocating healthcare in Northampton County.

On Wednesday morning, Rural Health Group representatives and medical professionals gathered with a slew of Northampton County officials and well wishers to dedicate the Melvin F. Broadnax Health Center. The facility is located just outside of Jackson on NC 305 North.

The 5,400 square foot state-of-the-art medical center is named in honor of Dr. Melvin F. Broadnax, the mayor of Seaboard and who has served on the Rural Health Group’s Board of Directors since the group’s founding more than three decades ago.

“I’m excited about it,” said Broadnax about the building. “We’ve come a long way.”

Dr. Raven Deloatch and Dr. Gwenn Coath are the practitioners at the newly built Jackson clinic, which features eight exam rooms, an education room and office space.

Founded in 1974, Rural Health Group, Inc. grew out of a community collaboration of concerned citizens to provide low-cost and free healthcare services to people living in northeastern North Carolina.

Broadnax was one of those on the forefront of bringing health care to the heavily rural area. He was the first chairman on the Board of Directors and continues to serve on the board 34 years later.

Broadnax recalled the first financially lean years of the Rural Health Group and citizens’ wariness of the clinic in Jackson.

“They didn’t understand the need of healthcare,” he said.

According to Broadnax, in a 1974 clinic in Jackson was built, bringing in Dr. Joseph A. Berry and Dr. Jerry Devine to serve patients.

Then in 1979 after Devine left, the Jackson clinic made state history. It became the first integrated medical practice when it employed Dr. Jane McCaleb (a white female) along with Dr. Berry (a black male).

“Dr. Berry and Dr. McCaleb made a difference in healthcare in the Roanoke Valley,” said Broadnax.

McCaleb attended the dedication ceremony and was proud to see the new clinic finally come to fruition.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said McCaleb about the new building. “We wanted a new clinic for 15 years and things didn’t come together until now.”

McCaleb now works in the Rural Health Group’s Twin County Clinic in Hollister.

“Sometimes it’s just about a lot of different people coming together,” she said of the Group’s past.

Broadnax was honored by the Northampton County Board of Commissioners during the dedication ceremony. Commission Chair Robert Carter presented the longtime health advocate with a proclamation declaring January 14 as Melvin Broadnax Day.

A dedication plaque to be placed on the outside of the building was unveiled at a luncheon held at the Northampton County Wellness Center.

Though Broadnax’s background is in education (he has a bachelor’s degree from Shaw University, a master’s from North Carolina A&T University and an honorary doctorate from Shaw University), it is his education about the importance of healthcare to those in Northampton County that has left its mark.

“It has made them (the citizens) conscience of their healthcare,” said Broadnax of the Jackson clinic and Rural Health Group. “Life (expectancies) has been expanded through this facility.”

Contributors to the building fund included the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, The Duke Endowment and State of North Carolina.

Rural Health Group serves citizens in the area with both medical and dental services at seven locations, including Jackson, Littleton (Lake Gaston), Hollister (Twin County), Norlina, Rich Square, Roanoke Rapids and Scotland Neck.

To contact the Jackson clinic call 534-1661.