UMW Professor’s Website Chronicles MWHC History

by | Mar 2, 2015 | News

University of Mary Washington Professor Jess Rigelhaupt. Photo by Norm Shafer, courtesy of UMW.

By Melina Downs, University of Mary Washington media and public relations department.

The storied past of Mary Washington Healthcare ( MWHC) has been preserved online, thanks to efforts of University of Mary Washington (UMW) Professor Jess Rigelhaupt.

The associate professor of history and American studies received a $25,000 grant from Mary Washington Healthcare to record oral history interviews and develop a website that covers the history of the 115-year old organization.

The website mwhchistory.com, which launched this month, currently includes more than 35 hours of interviews with longtime administrators, board members, physicians, and nurses with a wealth of knowledge about the local hospital system for the past 30 years. The project is ongoing and will record over 80 hours of interviews with over 40 people when it is completed.

“We began as an eight-room hospital, and have evolved into a not-for-profit regional system of two hospitals and 28 healthcare facilities and wellness services,” said recently retired President and CEO of Mary Washington Healthcare Fred M. Rankin III, who was interviewed for the project. “Hearing personal accounts from many who have been part of Mary Washington Healthcare’s journey through the last 20-plus years is an important part of telling the story.”

For the past two years, Rigelhaupt worked with UMW students to record interviews and edit video footage all with the goal of providing a more traditional history of the organization through the art of storytelling.

“An important goal is to have a highly accessible repository that documents the growth and expansion of Mary Washington Healthcare through the voices of the people who contributed to it,” said Rigelhaupt. “To record how they experienced what they saw, what they did and how they reflect back on it and how they’ve made meaning out of and understand the growth of the organization and the challenges that were faced.”

The largest private employer in Fredericksburg, Mary Washington Healthcare has certainly seen its fair share of growth, especially since the new hospital opened in 1993. The website includes firsthand accounts of change from a variety of employees, including Diane Brothers, who began working as a nurse at the hospital in 1986 and is now a nursing supervisor and clinical ethics specialist, and Xavier R. Richardson, who joined MWHC in 1997 and currently serves as the executive vice president of Corporate Development and Community Affairs.

“The Mary Washington Healthcare oral history website, hosted and presented by the University of Mary Washington, is a natural partnership which provides historical information, and new insights for public policy, healthcare, and regional development,” said Michael McDermott, M.D., president and CEO, Mary Washington Healthcare.

Rigelhaupt agrees.

“The project represents collaboration between the campus and the community,” he said. “As an institution for research and knowledge production, the University and this research project worked with and produced new knowledge about a pillar of the community.”

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