Elkins and West Virginia is often in the heart and mind of American Medical Association President Dr. Nancy Neilsen. The girl from Elkins may have risen to the highest position of the AMA, but has never forgotten her hometown.
She can't remember why, but at 8 years old Neilsen decided she wanted to be a doctor.
Growing up Elkins helped her learn valuable lessons like loyalty and respect, Neilsen explained.
"It's a good place to grow up," Neilsen said of her hometown.
As the daughter of a plumber, Neilsen had little extra money to spend on entertainment, so she found adventure at the YMCA and in books.
"It changed my life," Neilsen said of the YMCA and its public library.
"Books are a doorway to a different world."
She also found inspiration from a particular Elkins High School teacher. Portia McDonald pushed Neilsen to do her best with everything, instilling drive and ambition, Neilsen explained.
Eventually graduating as the valedictorian of her class, Neilsen went on to graduate from West Virginia University with an undergraduate degree in pre-med.
Originally hoping to attend The University of Pittsburgh for Medical School, Neilsen found herself short on money and made her way to Washington, D.C.
There received a master's degree and doctorate in microbiology from Catholic University.
From Washington, D.C., she moved to Buffalo, N.Y., to teach at the University of Buffalo, where she served as the chair of the biology department at age 26, she said.
The mother of five children at 29 years old, Neilsen finally attended medical school. After obtaining her medical degree in three years, she worked in private practice.
Eventually Neilsen became the speaker of the house for the AMA. Because many people knew her, she decided to run for AMA president in 2007, and did so unopposed, she said.
Among many causes she has adopted over the years, ensuring all Americans have health insurance is one of her goals as president of the AMA, she explained. Like many in the area, Neilsen knows first hand what it is like to live without health insurance. She was without insurance as a college student, she said.
"To not have insurance is just wrong," Neilsen said.
Being from the Appalachians doesn't mean great feats can't be accomplished, according to Neilsen. As long as people have a stong work ethic, anyone living in the United States has an opportunity to make the most of their life, she said. But those who do move on should always remember to give back and help others, Neilsen advised.
Although she currently lives in Buffalo, N.Y., Neilsen said she tries to return to her hometown once a month. During those trips she enjoys fishing with her friends. The Mountain State Forest Festival and class reunions also give Neilsen a reason to venture home.
When Neilsen gave her inaugural address to the AMA, she began by saying, "It's a long, long way from Elkins, W.Va."
It won't be a long way to Elkins when she retires. Neilsen said she plans to return to the state she's always considered home - West Virginia.