West Virginia is about to celebrate her 152nd birthday. There is a lot to celebrate – her people, her proud heritage, and her beauty. However, there is much work to be done to make her people healthier and happier, and to change attitudes internally and externally.

Hoppy Kercheval wrote a sage and on target blog on West Virginia’s birthday.

Many of us are immersed in the discouraging healthcare data – seventh highest spend on healthcare and the 44-50 worst statistics on most elements of health in the country.

I’ll recount a few: highest smoking rates for pregnant woman (almost 30 percent); most obese state; highest number of accidental deaths (including drug overdoses); and the unhappiest state.

Does that mean there is no hope?

On the contrary, this is our burning platform, our golden moment to reverse this cycle of failure – worst to first.

When celebrating our state’s birthday, we celebrate our rich history and plan for a bright future. A future where West Virginia is a beacon for the world. A place where we can come together as one team to change the health of our citizens, change the future of our state, and become the model for others to follow.

How can this happen?

I would argue it already is happening.

Last week I visited Marshall University and had a wonderful and warm welcome by some talented folks including Joe Shapiro, MD, dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and Joe Werthammer, MD, chief medical officer. Not only are these expert clinicians committed to the state’s success, but they also are, by their nature, collaborators for the greater good.

In addition, I had the tremendous opportunity to meet with Gary White, president of Marshall University, and I felt a kinship to him. President White represents the good of the leaders of our state – humble, grounded, smart, skilled, and grateful. He speaks with genuine truth about his goals for the state, which mirror mine – excellence, leadership, and abundance.

Previously, I sat down with John Linton, PhD, dean at the Charleston Division and the part of the leadership of Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC). I had a similar experience. The same is true for the governmental leaders in Charleston and Washington, D.C.

One West Virginia.

So, in taking a moment to celebrate our state’s birthday, people, and history, I hope that we see the abundance that exists around us and the future of possibility.

George Bernard Shaw said,

“Some look at things that are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”

Happy birthday, West Virginia. Let’s change the world.