Category Archives: rural health issues

Head for the Hills Agenda

GMEC is pleased to present the agenda for our 2016 annual conference and retreat, Head for the Hills, below! Come unwind, dine, and play with us for two days in the beautiful Hungry Mother State Park while learning from some of Virginia’s leading rural health experts. Families of attending medical professionals are very welcome and activities have been planned for your enjoyment.

Head for the Hills 2016 Schedule:
Hungry Mother State Park, Marion, VA

Friday Sept. 30

7:00 a.m.

Registration opens
Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available

Child care can be provided 8-noon for those requesting it.


Continental breakfast available


Kathy Hosig, PhD, MPH, RD Virginia Tech


Lorenzo Pence, DO, FACOFP, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education

9:40 -10:00

BREAK (fruit provided)


Clinical Documentation Toolbox
Nora Blankenbecler, Director, Health Information Technology Certification Program, Mountain Empire Community College


PSYCHIATRY IN SW VA: What Primary Care Physicians Should Know –
Sarah Hazelwood, DO, Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute, Marion, Virginia


HABIT AND HABITUS: A Faith-based Health Initiative (Resident Presentation) –
Dr. Troy Reece, PGY2, Johnston Memorial Hospital Family Medicine Residency



FREE REST OF DAY – Group rates are available at the historic Lincoln Theatre in downtown Marion. Hikes, the beach, paddle boats, and other activities are available within the park. Several restaurants are available in town. There is no communal dinner, but GMEC is happy to provide your evening meal in the park, same set menu, available during restaurant hours; because of the many options available via the park and town, we are not planning to offer children’s entertainment.

Saturday Oct. 1

7:30 a.m.

Breakfast and registration

Child care can be provided 8-noon for those requesting it.


Kathy Wibberly, PhD, Director, Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center at University of Virginia





Required check out from your cabin; luggage may be brought to the lecture hall


Jane Bennett, Cancer Survivor and Advocate


BREAKING BAD NEWS: Communicating a Difficult Diagnosis or Lifestyle Change –
Thomas Ward Bishop


Sue Cantrell, MD, LENOWISCO Health District Director, VDH


Secretary Bill Hazel, MD, Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources


Box lunches will be provided; eat at your leisure in the conference center, or take it with you if you need to depart.

Please feel free to stay and enjoy the park after the conference concludes!



The Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub) has a section of their website dedicated to model programs.   They recently highlighted Project PROMISE, a North Carolina program designed to encourage rural youth to pursue medical careers.

Project PROMISE (Providing Rural Opportunities in Medicine through Inspiring Service and Education) is the brainchild of two medical students who started the program to give high school seniors medical academic training, mentor relationships, and hands-on experience in rural North Carolina facilities.

Project PROMISE launched in the Fall of 2014 with their first group of students.  Since then, it has graduated 10 high school students, 5 of whom are pursuing an undergraduate degree with an interest in studying medicine.

Read more about Project PROMISE.

Emergency Residency

Tom Morris – HRSA’s Associate Administrator for Rural Health Policy – has a stump speech about rural healthcare vs. urban healthcare entitled; “Rural is NOT Mini Urban.”

To underline his point, he puts a picture on the screen of a huge tractor next to a lawn mower.  Guess which one is intended for use in rural areas?

By the same token, emergency medicine is different in rural communities.  A hospital in Idaho has recognized that difference in creating a rural emergency medicine program.

St. Luke’s Hospital and the University of Washington created the program after the university decided its students should be exposed more to rural medicine.  The students are overseen by emergency physicians and the students are able to help out in the ER during busy times.

Read more about this unique program.

Rural Residents Research Symposium

The agenda has been posted for the April 22nd
Rural Residents Research Symposium:

8:30 am – Continental breakfast and registration

9:00 am – 10:00 am – How to Conduct Community Health and Primary Care Research
Dr. Alexis Stoner, Faculty Instructor and Course Director of Epidemiology, Clinical Prevention, and Population Health, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Carolinas Campus

10am – 11am – How do I report data on rural populations to answer hypothesis driven research questions?
Susan L. Meacham, Ph.D., R.D., Professor, Nutrition
Discipline of Family Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Virginia Campus

11am – 11:30am –Rural Health Clinics: the Overlooked Option

11:30am – 1:00pm – Lunch

1:00pm – 2:00pm – Habit and Habitus: A Faith-based Health Initiative
Dr. Troy Reece, PGY-1, Johnston Memorial Hospital Family Medicine Residency will present with attending physician Dr. Giovani Ferrante, vascular surgeon at Johnston Memorial Hospital

2:00pm – 3:00pm – Residency Culture: Survival Tips

The Symposium will be held at the Slemp Center of UVA Wise.

Click here to register.  For questions, contact GMEC Director Wendy Welch at

Affordable Medications

One of the hard realities of serving in rural communities is that many of our patients have a hard time affording the medications they desperately need.

We’ve located a resource to help with that process.  The National Center for Farmworker Health has produced a series of easy-to-read fact sheets about the safest and most affordable medications to treat specific conditions or illnesses. Topics include diabetes, heart disease, menopause, depression, and many others.

Available in both English and Spanish, each fact sheet is based on extensive reports published by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs that share the results of research conducted to determine the most effective, safe and affordable medicines available in the market for each condition. Generic medicines, if available, were included in the analysis as well.

What other resources for affordable medications do you have?

Registration Now Open!

Registration for the Rural Residents Research Symposium is now open!

Scheduled for April 22nd at the Slemp Center of UVA Wise; this is a day for residents to present original research (not case studies) regarding topics of interest to rural primary care docs and their peers.

Slots at the Rural Residents Research Symposium are 30-45 minutes long; anyone interested in presenting must meet the criteria of rural focus and should apply through their residency coordinator.

A limit of two applications per residency program will be accepted with a total of 10 presentations.  The top two presentations will be invited to speak at the 2016 Head for the Hills event in October.

Click here to register.  For questions, contact GMEC Director Wendy Welch at


The Big-City Guide to Small-Town Living

The GMEC blog will be taking a break for the holiday season.  We leave you with this essay from the Daily Yonder:

I watched over the last decade or so as successful big-city professionals retire and move out to the fringes of my rural town. They typically buy farms or ranchettes and imagine themselves living in a sylvan or riverine setting with big horned owls hooting and coyotes howling in the distance after a kill. Some of them learn to fit in and truly find a home. Many others make it about five years and move back to the city or elsewhere, inevitably “to be closer to their grandkids.”

I wondered, what makes for a successful transition to the small-town life that I love so much. The following 10 rules I personally pulled out of a very authoritative hat.

Read the 10 Rules for Small-Town Living.