Love Letter to Fan Free Clinic, Pt. 3
Editor’s Note: Fan Free Clinic was Virginia’s first free clinic. Shawn McNulty, Director of Health Outreach at Fan Free Clinic, reflects on over a decade of service to the organization in this series of articles.
Fan Free Clinic has firmly stood by thousands of people who have struggled and has quietly become an institution in the landscape of Richmond. My unbelievable good fortune to have spent the last 1/3 of my life here is, I believe, no accident. I believe the universe puts people in our path when we most need them and they help us on our way. I would be remiss in writing about my time at Fan Free Clinic if I did not write about two extraordinary people.
First is Dr. Daphne Rankin, who is currently the Associate Vice Provost for Instruction and Student Success at Virginia Commonwealth University (how’s that for a REALLY big title?). In 1994 Daphne taught a class called AIDS: Myths and Realities. It was an amazing introduction to the issues of HIV/AIDS and its impact on the community. Daphne’s passion and commitment lead me to gain a clearer focus on what I wanted to do with my life: working in HIV and helping people. This “service learning” class required me to do 20 hours of community volunteer service. Daphne’s enthusiasm and drive sparked a fire within me.
Those flames were stoked by Heather Womer Bronson, whom I came to know through my service learning. For the majority of my time in the field, both as a volunteer and as a professional, she was my supervisor. At 19 I began my service learning project at the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood and I just never left. Heather guided me through those 20 hours and for the next decade. Eventually Heather moved on to Fan Free Clinic and thanks to her guidance and advice, I followed a couple of years later. It was under her leadership that I had the opportunity to grow and learn so much about the world of non-profits, leadership and the machinations of HIV work. Her open demeanor and her determined commitment have inspired countless numbers of people to join her in her fight against HIV. Today, Heather continues her work with the Virginia Department of Health overseeing HIV testing services across the state of Virginia.
It was the passion and tenacity of these two amazing individuals that propelled me forward and created in me the need to share that passion and determination. I have tried, in my own way, to allow that passion to guide me and my actions and create programs where I can share that passion with others. The greatest successes I have ever known in my work have been when I realize that someone whose life I have had the privilege of touching finds a passion in them to work in this field. I was and am very fortunate to have had two people like Daphne and Heather to help me find mine.
Shawn Patrick McNulty, Director of Health Outreach for Fan Free Clinic, has worked in HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention for more than twelve years. Born in Hampton, Virginia in 1975, Shawn ventured to Richmond in 1993 to come to VCU. After a service learning course he took on campus in 1994, he dreamed that one day he might have the opportunity to work for a place as amazing as Fan Free Clinic. More than twelve years since that dream became a reality Shawn has determined that it is time to move on, but not without first paying homage to the place that has been his “home away from home,” for so long.
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