The Health Wagon is led by Dr. Teresa Tyson.

Here’s a round-up of briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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FCC awards grant to Health Wagon

The Federal Communications Commission has awarded St. Mary’s Health Wagon, commonly known as the Health Wagon, $40,800 for telehealth equipment, according to a release from Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.

The Health Wagon provides mobile health services in Virginia’s coal counties.

This grant will go to the purchase of telemedicine carts and connected devices to reduce foot traffic at physical sites.

“This organization has been a great asset to the coalfields, and the FCC’s award will advance its vital work,” Griffith said in a statement.

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Two from Virginia Tech named science fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals, has named two Virginia Tech professors to the newest class of AAAS Fellows, among the most distinct honors within the scientific community, according to a release from the school.

The two are X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and professor of internal medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and Leo Piilonen, a professor in the Department of Physics.

Meng is being honored for his paradigm-shifting discoveries of animal hepatitis E viruses leading to the recognition of human hepatitis E as a zoonotic disease that is transmitted from animals to human and between different animals species. 

X.J. Meng. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

“He is a world-renowned researcher and widely considered one of the leading scientists in hepatitis E research,” said Virginia Tech Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Dan Sui in a statement.

Meng has published more than 349 peer-reviewed scientific papers, reviews, and book chapters. According to Essential Science Indicators, Meng was ranked in the top 1 percent of highly cited scientists from 1997 to 2007 in the field of microbiology. Meng’s publications have been cited for more than 32,236 times with a h-index of 93. A notable innovator, Meng is an inventor on 25 awarded and 18 pending U.S. patents on various vaccines against important virus diseases. 

Piilonen for his “distinguished contributions to experimental elementary particle physics, particularly for leadership in the Belle and Belle II collaborations and in their muon and K-long meson detection and identification.”

Leo Piilonen. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

These high-energy particle physics detectors – the original Belle and the new Belle II – are located on the campus of the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (“KEK,” using its Japanese language acronym) in Tsukuba Science City, Japan. Piilonen’s team designed and built the outermost component, the KLM, of both detectors. Belle II is designed to make precise measurements of weak interaction parameters and find “new physics” beyond the standard model of known particle physics, according to the institution’s website. The measurements carried out in Japan helped earn a 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics. Piilonen said in a sttatement that he is thankful for the many contributions during the years of his local team members, presently postdoctoral scientist Vipin Gaur, now working at KEK; Taylor Kimmel, who graduated with a Ph.D. last year; and current physics Ph.D. students Zachary Stottler and Tommy Lam.

He earned a bachelor of science in physics from the University of Toronto in 1978 and a Ph.D., also in physics, from Princeton University in 1985. This after being raised in a small Canadian village with a one-room log-cabin schoolhouse until he was in junior high.

The 2021 class of AAAS Fellows includes 564 scientists, engineers, and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines who are being recognized for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements.

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Wytheville Community College announces new scholarship

The Wytheville Community College Educational Foundation has announced the establishment of the Bobby Jean Wymer Memorial Scholarship by her friends and colleagues Phyllis Ashworth, Denita Burnett, Rhonda Catron-Wood and Janice Pryor.

Wymer was an English faculty member at WCC from 1968 until her retirement in 2002. During her tenure, Wymer taught hundreds of students in college composition, research, technical writing and American literature courses. In addition to teaching, Wymer was actively involved in sponsoring student activities, such as Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the WCC Forensics Team. She also served as sponsor for WyCoCo, the WCC student yearbook for many years, as well as served on numerous college committees and participated in programs, activities, and initiatives. 

Throughout her career, Wymer received numerous awards for her excellence in teaching, including the WCC Improvement of Instruction Award, the WCC Distinguished Teaching Award and the Cowan Award for excellence in the teaching of English presented by the Two-Year College English Association-Southeast.  Wymer was named WCC professor emeritus in 2003.

Wymer was a native of Smyth County and graduated from Sugar Grove High School in 1959. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from then-Radford College (now Radford University) and also attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to WCC, she taught English at the high school level and at Marion College. Wymer passed away in 2019.

In a release from the school, Catron-Wood noted that she often hears from WCC alumni who recount stories about Wymer’s classes and the impact that she had on their lives. “Bobby loved students and did everything possible to help them succeed. There were many times that she paid out of her own pocket to help students in need, whether it was to pay for food or basic needs, buy a textbook, or to cover the cost of their membership in the honor society. She was one of the most caring faculty you could ever know. The Bobby Jean Wymer Memorial Scholarship is a wonderful way to honor Bobby’s memory and carry on her legacy of helping WCC students,” said Catron-Wood. 

The Bobby Jean Wymer Memorial Scholarship will provide financial assistance to WCC students, with a first preference to students from Smyth County enrolled in the education program.

For more information about the scholarship, please contact Catron-Wood at 276-223-4772 or To contribute, please make checks payable to the WCC Educational Foundation (1000 E. Main St., Wytheville, VA 24382), or you may give online at . The WCC Educational Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, and donations are tax-deductible as allowable by IRS guidelines.

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Two from Southwest Virginia named to posts with Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has announced the appointment of new board of trustees officers and the addition of members to its Council of Advisors.

Of the four new trustees, one is from Virginia: Jim Newlin of Meadows of Dan, who was selected to be treasurer. He is a retired staff member of the North Carolina General Assembly.

Of the two new advisers, one is from Virginia: Ken McFadyen of Fincastle. He is the director of economic development for Botetourt County.

Founded in 1997, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is the nonprofit fundraising partner for the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Foundation has offices in Asheville and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Roanoke and Galax. For more information, visit