Lebanon, Virginia, is a small town nestled in the mountains of Appalachia, where Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky come together. It’s a region built on coal mining. As that industry dwindled and jobs have grown scarce, the town and the region have struggled.
This is where Anesa Hughes, Pharm.D., grew up. As a child, she saw how her parents, like many of their neighbors, sometimes struggled to afford health care.
Health care has been vital to Hughes’ family. Her twin sister has cerebral palsy and other health problems and needs 24-hour care.
Seeing her parents’ struggles inspired Hughes to pursue education.
“Early on, I knew that I was going to have to go to college to provide some kind of financial support for not only myself, but for my sister later on in life,” she said.
A helpful neighboring pharmacist suggested she consider pharmacy school. Hughes earned a doctorate in pharmacy in 2018 at VCU School of Pharmacy. She now works at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Johnson City, Tennessee — not far from her family’s mountain home.
Virginia Commonwealth University has produced a mini-documentary on Hughes and her family, filmed over several years and across Virginia.