Growing up, Kathleen Wirth knew she wanted to see the world outside of her small hometown of Irmo, South Carolina. She felt she didn’t quite fit in. Her mother’s family had fled from Cuba in 1960. Her grandfather, who’d been a respected doctor in Havana, worked as a hospital janitor until he could qualify to practice medicine in America. Though she got into minor trouble, it wasn’t enough to keep Kathleen from becoming her high school valedictorian. A scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill was her ticket out of Irmo.
If it hadn’t been for public health, Rebeca Plank might not have been conceived. Her parents met at a medical conference in the late 1960s.
Her father, Stephen Plank, a physician from the U.S., did his medical residency in the Panama Canal Zone. While there, he was dismayed to discover that he had to send people out from the hospital to the same conditions that had brought them there in the first place. He began to understand that while clinical medicine was important, the best way to make a lasting difference in people’s lives was to address root problems. He went back to school and earned a doctorate from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Continue reading →