Feb. 1, 2023 | iCare Newsletter
by Foundation Staff

It’s Personal

Aetna Better Health of West Virginia’s $1.5 million donation to the St. Mary’s School of Nursing reveals unique personal connections.

A $1.5 million donation from Aetna Better Health® of West Virginia (ABHWV), a CVS Health® company, will benefit students at the St. Mary’s School of Nursing for generations to come, funding renovations, expansions and an endowed scholarship that will help students fulfill their dreams of becoming nurses. But for ABHWV CEO Todd White and Lead Director of Community Development Jim Smallridge, the donation is more than a dollar amount. It’s personal.

“When the Foundation started planning for this very significant donation announcement, we had no idea the deep history St. Mary’s and the St. Mary’s School of Nursing have had with Aetna’s leadership over the years,” said Kristi Arrowood, executive director of Foundations for Mountain Health Network.

White’s uncle and aunt, Dr. Charles Thompson and Patricia Thompson, were members of the St. Mary’s School of Nursing Class of 1966. When White and Smallridge visited the Center for Education to present the $1.5 million check, White found their class pictures in the history hallway.

“When I saw the small class of 1966, my first thought was, ‘We’re going to need a lot more nurses than that!’” White laughed.

Smallridge, a registered nurse and Charleston native who spent time in Huntington growing up, has an extensive nursing background himself. He said visiting St. Mary’s brought memories of his own 30-plus-year career in health care.

“Being born and raised in the area, I’m well aware of the quality of care that St. Mary’s has provided for so many years,” Smallridge said. “It was an honor to tour the St. Mary’s School of Nursing. I was truly excited to see the state-of-the-art facilities that are available to the students.”

While Smallridge no longer provides direct patient care, his love for the nursing profession remains. Knowing that Aetna’s donation will lead to excellent medical professionals entering the workforce carries personal significance, he said.

“I’m confident that the well-rounded education being delivered by St. Mary’s and Marshall University is second to none, and I’m honored to be associated with Aetna as we provide funding that will expand educational opportunities in health care,” Smallridge said.

White, who’s been with ABHWV for over 25 years, and Smallridge, who’s been with the organization for over 10 years, said diverse areas of expertise and a shared commitment to serving others guide ABHWV’s decision-making. In addition to supporting nursing education, ABHWV projects have included Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome programs, collaborations with food banks and condition-specific interventions like diabetic and pregnancy dental programs.

“I’ve been blessed to work with many extremely gifted and caring individuals at this health plan,” White said. “Several are known experts in their fields, and all work extremely well together.”

White said although ABHWV has partnered with providers in Huntington for many years, the pandemic revealed a critical need for nurses and other medical professionals. The St. Mary’s donation represents Aetna’s commitment to strengthening the services most needed in West Virginia.

“Knowing the huge need for clinical professionals, which is not just statewide but nationwide, we saw the St. Mary’s School of Nursing as a key resource for addressing the nursing shortage,” White said. “Excellent nursing and care staff keep our members healthy.”

To learn more about the St. Mary’s School of Nursing, click here.