Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Heart in the Right Place

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Heart in the Right Place

A Memoir

by Carolyn Jourdan

Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan
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  • First Published:
    May 2007, 304 pages
    Aug 2008, 304 pages

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Carolyn Jourdan is a former U.S. Senate Counsel to the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Governmental Affairs (now Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs). She has degrees from the University of Tennessee in Biomedical Engineering and Law. She lives on the family farm in East Knox County, Tennessee, and has seven stray animals (four dogs and three cats). Heart In The Right Place takes place over the course of a year in the early 1990s when her life changed dramatically when her mother, Elise Jourdan, had a heart attack and had to be hospitalized, and Carolyn returned to East Tennessee to help her father, Dr Paul Jourdan, in his Strawberry Plains medical practice.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Jourdan wrote Heart In The Right Place as a gift for her dad. As children, Carolyn and her brother David spent a lot of time in their father's office but it took coming home as an adult for her to realize the choice her father had made in serving the rural community of Strawberry Plains. Dr Paul was a true general practitioner, whatever the injury or illness he dealt with it himself, and often for free and, being the only doctor for miles around, he was also on call day and night.

"I got the idea to do public service from Momma and Daddy, but I thought they did it their way, and I was going to do it a lot bigger. So I went to Washington ... You get to dress real good, eat real good and live real good, but you don't actually see any people. It's public service from 500 miles away. The thing about Washington is you think you're a public servant, but you're not sure. But here, you know that you did something. There's a reward because there is an actual human being there. In the end, that's what I was most proud of doing."

Carolyn was prompted to begin collecting the funny stories about patients she'd heard all her life after reading All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot in 1972. She says, "I laughed and laughed until I was sick. And I thought, 'This is like Daddy's office except we have people instead of animals.' And I wished so bad that I could write something like that one day that could make other people laugh like I did."

When she began working with her father she started to jot down stories on the back of napkins in her lunch breaks.

The medical office closed in 2001 after 40 years of service to the Strawberry Plains area. Carolyn's mother, Elise, now spends much of her time working on genealogy projects and has written more than 30 books about Colonial American families. Paul still sees occasional patients, mostly the menagerie of animals on the Jourdans' East Knox County farm.

Carolyn now works as a writer and webmaster for the Great Smoky Mountains Association, a nonprofit education and publications partner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She chose to stay in East Tennessee to be with her parents and because she felt her "glitzy" life in Washington, D.C., didn't fit her anymore.

Her resume also lists her as the Founder and Director of the Nuclear Waste Documentary Project, a nonprofit scientific organization that produces educational materials on nuclear waste issues for public television, museums, and schools.

This article was originally published in August 2007, and has been updated for the August 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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