If not for Dr. Charles Ed Allen, there may not be a medical school at East Tennessee State University, according to the school’s former president.
“His efforts go back into at least the 1960s in trying to establish a medical school here,” said Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr., former ETSU president and also a former patient of Allen. “Ed kept his eye on the ball and never gave up. He was the force that was the leader behind it. No one had anything more to do with getting the medical school here than he did.”
Allen died Wednesday. He was 82.
Allen was a Johnson City cardiologist and internist who Stanton said spent countless hours traveling to Nashville and Washington to advocate for a medical school in Northeast Tennessee.
“He knew the need of the region, the lack of physicians in this area, notable lack of physicians,” Stanton said.
In the 1960s there was indeed a notable lack of health care in the 13 counties of this region. Allen thought the best way to remedy that was to begin training doctors right here, Stanton said.
According to ETSU, from 1965-73, Allen served as the founding president of the Appalachian Regional Center for the Healing Arts, which was created as an official health systems agency with a mission to make the ETSU medical school a reality.
In speaking of his friend, Stanton recalled the battle to get the medical school established at ETSU. Federal legislation cleared the way for the school, thanks to the late Congressman James H. “Jimmy” Quillen, but Nashville lawmakers had to actually establish the school.
The big battle for the school came between 1972 and 1974 in Nashville. The initiative faced major opposition from the University of Tennessee system and then-governor Winfield Dunn, who vetoed the bill establishing the school.
The legislature overrode that veto. The first class was admitted to the ETSU medical school in 1978.
Next month, the 32nd class of James H. Quillen College of Medicine graduates will become doctors.
In 2005, Building 2 on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus, where the medical college is located, was named for Allen
Mountain States Health Alliance President/CEO Dennis Vonderfecht said Allen was a leader in the local medical profession as well as someone worthy of emulation.
Vonderfecht said Allen served on the Johnson City Medical Center board and was a key leader not only on the board but among the medical staff.
“The community owes a lot to him for the fact that medical services, health care services are a big economic driver of our region,” Vonderfecht said. “He was very instrumental in that. I think he had a lot of impact, he was definitely a key leader.”
Stanton said Allen was a family man and an extremely good and proper professional in his medical practice.
“Personally, he, as the expression goes, was the salt of the earth,” Stanton said.
One of the first things Vonderfecht said about Allen was that he was a very kind person who always had patient care at the heart of whatever he did.
“He was definitely a role model for people in the community and well loved not only by his patients but I think everyone who knew him,” Vonderfecht said. “I would say we just need a lot more Ed Allens in our community, not only in health care but everywhere.”