Mary Blackburn’s involvement in health care started when she was 14.
In 1978, her 4-year-old brother Denis was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that still is difficult to cure.
“He lived five months after he was diagnosed,” Blackburn said. “I was the oldest of six, and at 14 I was involved with his caring for him. The care I saw given to Denis showed me that it isn’t always about curing, it’s about caring.”
Blackburn started her hospital career at age 16, working as a unit secretary at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Massachusetts. After high school, she went to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on an ROTC scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s of science in nursing.
“While I was at Georgetown I worked for a student run ambulance service. It was a very young origination when I started, but they had three ambulances by the time I left,” she said.
The student ambulance service was equipped to care for anything, from student who had too much to drink to someone with a serious injury.
“Once we took care of a father who had a heart attack at graduation and another time a student fell 40 feet and landed on their head,” Blackburn said. “A college campus is like a small city so we were able to cover a full range.”
After college, Blackburn was commissioned as a 2nd Lit. in the Army. She did basic training in San Antonio, Texas and returned to Washington, D.C. to work at Walter Reed Hospital where she was first stationed.
From there Blackburn was stationed in Fort Gordon in Georgia and then in Germany.
“Two of my children were born in Germany so it gave us a good opportunity for all of us to travel. We could get in the car and drive to places like Italy or Paris,” she said. “My oldest son just went to South Africa and he wasn’t afraid to go out and try, because of our traveling when he was young.”
Blackburn worked as an Army nursing until she left active duty in 1991 and left the reserves in 1993.
“Being in the military is a unique opportunity. It allows you to develop yourself and practice leadership,” Blackburn said.
Twelve years ago, Blackburn and her family relocated to Elkin in order to be within a day’s drive of her parents who lived in New York.
“When we moved here, my oldest son was in fourth grade and had already been to four elementary schools,” she said. “Elkin City Schools allowed him to be academically competitive.”
Starting out teaching nursing at Surry Community College, Blackburn started at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in 2007 and helped start the hospitalist program in 2008.
The hospitalist program at Hugh Chatham is a group of physician specialists that are in the hospital twenty-four hours a week, helping with in-patient care.
“This hospital is unique because it pulls from such a large area,” she said. “Hugh Chatham puts a large focus on care.”
After traveling all of the United States and Europe, Blackburn and her five children enjoy the community and value Elkin City Schools.
“I can’t imagine being anywhere different,” she said. “The ability to be involved in Elkin and the athletics at the school has been huge.”
Name: Mary Blackburn
Employer: Chief Practice Officer at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital
How long worked: five years
Favorite Pastime: Reading
Favorite Sports Team: Read Sox
Family: Husband, Barry. Children: Andrea, 21, Erin, 19, Vincent, 17, Jay, 15, and Carolyn, 13
Born: New York City