CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dr. Blair Thrush and Sandy Wotring attended West Virginia University during the same four years in the 1960s.
On Saturday, the husband and wife will be honored with the same award -- as West Virginia Health Right's 2012 Volunteers of the Year. They'll be recognized at the clinic's annual fundraiser, where Health Right's 30th anniversary will be celebrated.
This is the first time the free clinic in Charleston has presented two people with the award. Health Right's executive director, Pat White, said because the two volunteer together, it makes sense to honor them both.
"When they volunteer, they both come in and see patients together," White said. "They exemplify the spirit of West Virginia Health Right. They've been volunteering for probably around 15 years. That's a long time to be helping folks out.
"It goes above and beyond what you might expect from somebody from the health-care profession to stay in that long and serve that many patients."
Thrush and Wotring each graduated from WVU with bachelor's degrees in 1967. They didn't know each other in college but Wotring joined Thrush's private practice as its nurse practitioner in 1990.
Wotring said she always knew she wanted to be a nurse. When she graduated from high school, most women became nurses, secretaries or teachers, she said.
After graduating from WVU and working at Charleston Area Medical Center, Wotring said she wanted to do even more in the health-care field.
"In West Virginia, nowhere in the state did they offer a nurse practitioner program at that time. Pittsburgh had a big master's program so I became a family nurse practitioner," Wotring said.
Wotring graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a master's degree in 1988.
Like Wotring, Thrush always knew what his career would be. Unlike her, it wasn't completely his choice.
"My dad told me I was going to be a doctor," Thrush said. "I'm the oldest of eight children. Seven out of the eight are doctors and my dad was a surgeon in Clarksburg."
After graduating from WVU's medical school in 1970, Thrush interned at the University of Wisconsin-Madison until 1973.
Thrush said he lucked into being an allergist -- "a perfect fit for me," he said -- when the U.S. Army needed an allergist. After being drafted during the Vietnam War, he spent a year in Japan and then trained as an allergist for two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He taught in the army's teaching centers in Hawaii and San Francisco.
But as a born-and-raised West Virginian, he wanted to come back home. In 1979, he started the allergy department at the WVU Medical Center.
"When I went back to West Virginia as a professor in 1979, it was the same job I had in the Army, I had just gotten out of the uniform and had gone to work for WVU," Thrush said. "If I hadn't done the allergy thing in the Army I'm not sure what I would have done, but I like being an allergist. I like the work we do."
Thrush and his partner, Dr. James Clark, spend a couple of hours with each patient -- performing allergy, skin and breathing tests -- at their office on Noyes Avenue in Kanawha City (they have another office in Teays Valley).
On a full day, Thrush said he will see four new patients and have 20 follow-up appointments.