Dr. Wheeler’s Pre-Paid Health Plan

Hi Everybody,
Just dropping through to bring you a “blast from the past.” Who hasn’t heard of Pre-Paid Health plans? But did you know that it was an African American female physician who originally brought the concept to Chattanooga? Read on to find out this innovative woman’s name.

Dr. Emma Rochelle Wheeler, seated on the left, was born in Gainesville, Florida. She located to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1905 after completing her medical degree, and she and her physician husband, Dr. John N. Wheeler, set up their practice on Main Street. At that time, medical services for African Americans was a horrible affair. African American doctors had no admitting privileges and could hardly get patients into hospitals for care. Those who were acutely ill and needed long-term care were often herded into the basements of the local hospitals.

Emma proved to be an entrepreneur before the word even became popular. She bought two empty lots on Eighth Street and built and managed the first and only African American teaching hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She called it Walden Hospital, and through its creation, she allowed African American doctors in Chattanooga the admitting privileges that had previously been denied them at other area hospitals. She also improved medical care among African Americans in Chattanooga.

But Emma wasn’t only an entrepreneur, she was also an inventor. In 1925, she started the Nurse Services Club (pictured above), and she and her husband trained anyone with the desire to be a nurse. One of the innovative features of Emma’s Nurse Services Club was the “Pre-Paid Hospitalization Plan” that went along with it. When a patient joined the Club and paid money into the plan, they were guaranteed two weeks of hospital stay when and if they became ill, and nurse visitation privileges in their homes once they were released from the hospital.

Variations of “pre-paid” plans are everywhere today, but in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the concept was unheard of until Emma started it in 1925. Dr. Wheeler was truly ahead of her time.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief biography of Dr. Wheeler’s Pre-Paid Health Plan.

Be sure to pick up your copy of African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes and find out about other African American personalities and events from long ago. Just click on the icon to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon.com’s website, where you can make your purchase.

Best wishes and happy researching,

Rita Lorraine

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