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$1.2 Million Grant to Expand Rural Heatlh Training

By Jeannine M. Hutson

The Eastern Area Health Education Center (EAHEC) has received the largest federal grant in its history for its Interdisciplinary Rural Health Training Program. The three-year $1.24 million grant from the Bureau of Health Professions, Health Resources and Services Administration will allow EAHEC to expand this program, which trains health professional students to practice in teams in rural communities.

The principal investigators for the grant are Dr. Maria Clay, associate professor of family medicine and director of Clinical Skills Assessment and Education at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, and Dr. Doyle M. “Skip” Cummings, a pharmacist and professor of family medicine and pediatrics at the medical school. Clay and Cummings also serve as co-directors of the ECU/EAHEC Office of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Education.

“I am pleased that Eastern AHEC, working with so many partners, can continue this important project that I think helps show a new way to provide for the health care needs of the people we serve,” said Dr. Stephen Willis, executive director of EAHEC and ECU associate dean for Continuing Medical Education.

Key partners with EAHEC in the initiative are ECU, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the community colleges in Duplin, Lenoir, Pitt and Beaufort counties, and the pharmacy and physical therapy programs at Hampton University in Hampton, Va.

This grant will focus on developing integrated health care teams through the training of approximately 300 health science students from both community college and university programs in 14 health science disciplines, including clinical laboratory science, health education, health information management, medicine, nurse practitioner, nursing, nutrition, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, physicians assistant, social work, public health and health services administration.

Cummings said that the rural health focus will be strengthened through partnerships with four federally funded community and migrant health centers along with a large number of local hospitals, health departments, social service agencies, and agribusinesses throughout a targeted seven-county rural health professions shortage areas. Those health centers are TriCounty Community Health Center in Newton Grove, Goshen Medical Center in Faison, Kinston Community Health Center and Greene County Health Care in Snow Hill.

“Historically, students from university and community college programs have had little framework for successful interaction,” Cummings said. “And yet, after graduation and employment in local work sites, they are expected to work together to provide quality patient care. More importantly, the community college has become a major training resource for minority, disadvantaged and displaced workers who are of tremendous importance in this era of health professions shortages because they are already committed to remaining in rural communities.”

This innovative program, which has trained more than 1,000 students to date, is designed to encourage health care provider recruitment in rural areas as well as the future development of interdisciplinary care as a standard in rural practice, Cummings said. Other EAHEC staff members involved in securing the grant are Bonita Harriett, Pat Royal and Annette Greer, who is now with the ECU Office of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Education.

10/10/05
This page originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2005 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/archives.cfm.