Getting to Know Dr. Vera Bailey
Author: Caroline Jordan | Photographer: M.Kat Photography
Dr. Vera Bailey stands in the doorway at the Pregnancy Center and Clinic of the Lowcountry
My daughters put together my ensemble; I don’t have time for that,” whispered Dr. Vera Bailey. Several moments later, she stepped up to the podium, flashed her winning smile and welcomed her friends and sponsors to the Annual Dinner/Auction benefitting the Pregnancy Center and Clinic. Of course, everyone who knows Bailey sees her perfectly poised and professional appearance, but her children know her laser focus on important matters, and they wanted to make sure she was dressed for the special occasion. But don’t think Bailey is too serious, because she also spends every day spreading laughter and contagious joy.
On October 1, more than 230 supporters came out to celebrate and raise funds for the Pregnancy Center and Clinic of the Low Country. Out of love and respect for Bailey, Lisa and Al Robertson from the Duck Dynasty clan traveled to Hilton Head Island to advocate for the Pregnancy Center. The couple delivered an honest and inspiring message of hope, bringing closure to a propitious evening.
For the last 21 years, Bailey has been the executive director of the local pregnancy ministry that has been showing compassion to women and babies. Since 1990, the organization has helped over 26,000 uninsured women with a variety of services. Bailey senses there is still a misunderstanding about the nature of the consultation with the clients at the Pregnancy Center. Although their mission is unapologetically pro-life, there is absolutely no coercion. What is vitally important is for women to be informed and to carefully consider all their options before making decisions in a planned or unplanned pregnancy. The Pregnancy Center not only provides prenatal services for the first 16 weeks, but also offers 17 other health services to women in need. Their prenatal mobile unit ministry is available in Bluffton and Hardeeville.
Bailey is chairman of the Adequacy for Prenatal Care Coalition of Beaufort and Jasper County, an extension of the Human Services Alliance. The coalition is a collaboration of OBGYN-related service providers, working together to ensure all women receive proper care before, during and after pregnancy. Very soon, The PCCL will be expanding to offer prenatal care in Ridgeland.
Bailey was born in Liberia, West Africa. Listening to her voice, you hear an accent that is an amalgam of her African, British and American life experiences. When she was five years old, she was sent to Sierra Leone to commence her British education. At nine, she was sent to boarding school in England. After high school, she moved to Staten Island for college and obtained a nursing degree. She returned to her home country to share her medical knowledge, and taught nursing classes. Around this time, she met her husband, Joseph Bailey, who was also a teacher at the JFK Medical Center in Liberia. Both were awarded Fulbright scholarships and earned their masters and doctorate degrees from Tulane University in New Orleans.
Arriving back in Liberia in 1989, conditions began to deteriorate after a rebel military coup overthrew their democratic government. They ended up living in a three-bedroom house with 28 people and scarce food supplies; the family feared for their lives as bomb explosions and gun violence was rampant.
Subsequently, the Baileys were able to escape the bloody civil war that massacred thousands and created a refugee crisis with over 1,000,000 displaced people. They were eventually granted political asylum, and with Joseph’s expertise, he accepted a position as guest fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The family relocated to Hilton Head Island after Vera accepted the position at the Pregnancy Center. Described as a magnanimous leader, Bailey prefers to be called Vera; she insists her occupation is to be a servant. Her staff and volunteers love and admire her. One of her methods to entice helpers is a promise to cook a spicy native dish that will allow you to breathe fire.
Dr. Bailey and Liz Gray hard at work at the Pregnancy Center’s Hilton Head Island location off of Matthews Drive
Dr. Vera Bailey speaks to a group at a fundraiser for the Pregnancy Center of the Lowcountry
Bailey loves viewing ultrasounds with expectant mothers when they observe a unique personality growing in the womb. She has watched babies wave, give high five gestures, salute and even make the peace symbol to observing parents, relatives and nursing staff. The most rewarding moments seem to be spontaneous. Just recently, at Walmart, Bailey ran into a former client and was introduced to the beautiful teenage child that was almost terminated.
One thing is certain about Bailey: She has a rock-solid Christian faith. She is a living witness of God’s goodness. She feels blessed every moment and attends daily mass to give thanks to the God who made a way for her family to flee Liberia. Leaving home at an early age, Bailey knows she was carefully watched over. Her family survived the horrors of living in a war torn country and was brought to safety in America. The fact that both she and her husband were able to pursue high levels of education that opened doors of opportunity for them can only be described as miraculous.
She has been able to combine her career with her love of life and people. Vera credits God’s loving kindness for giving her the patience, passion, prudence and persistence needed to run a pro-life organization for over 20 years. She has just lost her husband, her lifelong companion, but is confident her faith will sustain her. She will rejoice always and hopes to be an inspiration to others.