WHERE SHE’S COMING FROM
Gilliam and her husband currently live in Philadelphia—and they’re expecting their first child in a few months. She looks forward to raising the child to “recognize, love, and respect diversity and kindness,” something she says being a Lauder Fellow will factor into. Gilliam grew up in the rural town of Plainfield, New Hampshire.
Gilliam never intended to work in abortion care as a nurse, but after the Dobbs v. Jackson SCOTUS decision was leaked in May 2022, she was compelled to jump in with both feet—and the experience changed her forever, showing her the power and importance of community nursing. She says, “The individuals I provided care to are some of the bravest patients I’ve had the privilege of working with. Many were people of color, from marginalized communities, and struggling financially. Many had experienced abuse or trauma, or had experienced homelessness or substance use. Many lived in rural areas and traveled thousands of miles or risked their lives to receive their necessary health care. Every single one of these individuals was and is a survivor of a war on their bodies. It taught me that our fundamental human right to safe, legal, and affordable health care is not a given one or one that we can assume, but it’s one that we must work and fight for every day.”
The legacy of health care service in Gilliam’s family is strong. Her two biggest role models—her mother and grandfather—were both Family Medicine doctors that work in the rural community in which Gilliam grew up, treating people from birth through adulthood and even making home visits. She says, “They have embodied the true spirit of primary care. Through them, I’ve fallen in love with rural health care. They’ve taught me that the opportunity to be a provider and neighbor to your patients is a gift.”