Category Archives: rural health issues

Strengthening the Rural Health Workforce to Improve Health Outcomes in Rural Communities – COGME 24th Report

Link to Full Report

Recognizing the care inequities and the changing needs of rural America, the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) provides this report and recommendations to strengthen rural health workforce training and improve access to health care through evidence-based, patient- and community-centered health workforce investments spanning education, training, and practice.

To address the crisis in access to care for rural populations and develop a health professional education system that increases rural health workforce capacity, COGME developed a series of three issue briefs on the rural health workforce, each with its own set of recommendations.

From these briefs, COGME calls on Congress and the Department of Health & Human Services to prioritize the following six (6) recommendations:

  • Federal funding for a comprehensive assessment of rural health needs to identify gaps in essential care.
  • Federal training investments should follow the National Academy of Medicine recommendation to link GME funding to population health needs.
  • Direct the HHS Secretary to develop a set of measures that ensure value and return on public investment in GME financing with a focus on rural areas
  • HHS should invest in sustainable solutions that focus on building a stable healthcare workforce in rural communities
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services work with the Health Resources and Services Administration and other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services to identify and eliminate regulatory and financial barriers and create incentives to health professional education, training expansion and innovation that promote rural population health
  • CMS should support and test sustainable alternative payment models (APMs) that enhance the delivery of team-based interprofessional education and practice

View Full Report Here.

Congress Needs YOU!

The National Rural Health Association hosts an Annual Policy Institute, in which people with a passion for improving health in rural communities visit Washington, DC to encourage Members of Congress to support that passion. While I have experienced this event sixteen times, I will never forget my very first Policy Institute. Unsure of myself, terrified that I would make a mistake, I was absolutely positive that the meetings I had scheduled with Congressional staff were pointless because none of them would care about what I had to say.

Because, too often Rural America is made to feel like we should have to beg for resources. We’re like a little kid at Thanksgiving Dinner and everyone keeps passing plates over our heads. We ask for more and are told that we’ve already had more than our share.

What they forget, what we forget, is that we shouldn’t have to beg, because those resources are ours. The food on that table? It came from Rural America. The wood that made the table? It came from Rural America. The electricity that powers the oven and the lights are from a coal plant or nuclear plant or hydro dam or wind farm or solar field in Rural America. The water that washes the dishes? It’s rural too.

The resources urban America uses comes from rural farms, rural mines, rural rivers, and rural forests. And those resources travel to suburbia on rural roads.

I don’t say this to drive a wedge between urban and rural, but to remind each other that there is value in more than the number of people per square mile. Rural and urban need each other to make this nation function, and if rural starts to fall, it will drag urban down with it.

We need to all work together to find solutions. Which is why, during that very first Policy Institute all those years ago, I was surprised to discover that Congressional staffers did want to talk to me. They were interested in what I had to say and asked questions to learn more about our rural hospitals and clinics and how federal policy plays out in our communities.

At the end of that long, confusing day, I trudged to my last appointment at the Office of Representative Virgil Goode to meet with his Legislative Aid. The receptionist asked if we would mind waiting a while, because Congressman Goode wanted to meet with us.

When Congressman Goode arrived, he didn’t just agree to support the policy proposals we brought to him, he requested our support for a bill of his own. A Member of Congress needed me.

And they need you. Please be a lifelong advocate for rural America, even if you never make a Hill visit of your own. We’re all in this together.

Beth O’Connor, M. Ed.
Executive Director
Virginia Rural Health Association
National Rural Health Association

AHECs Provide Students Opportunities to Help the Underserved

Posted March 31, 2022 by Emil Chuck – The Student Doctor Network

For decades, rural and highly urban communities have had challenges accessing healthcare due to a lack of available providers.  Passion to work with underserved communities in rural or underserved urban settings often wanes once a student begins preclinical coursework.  

Area Health Education Centers, or AHECs, consist of around 300 locations that address primary care and family health needs in underserved communities. These sites provide pre-health and health professional students with opportunities to experience serving in healthcare shortage areas and working with health professional students from other disciplines.

Read the Full Article:
The Student Doctor Network – “AHECs Provide Students Opportunities to Help the Underserve”

Found out more about your local AHEC!
Southwestern Virginia Rural Area Health Education Center (AHEC)

Rural Infection and death rates on the decline

For the ninth week in a row, COVID-19 infection and death rates in rural locations have continued to fall, hitting lows that have not been seen in 9 months. Since their peak during the second full week of January, new weekly cases have dropped by 83%. The number of weekly deaths has fallen by two-thirds during the same period. For more information, please visit the link below!

AMerican Rescue plan to reach every U.S. County

On , March 11th, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan as a COVID-19 stimulus package into law. The American Rescue Plan will distribute more than $130 billion to local governments, including almost $9 billion for rural county governments, plus additional funds for the cities located in those counties. Additionally, The American Rescue Plan will provide funds to each of the nation’s 3,143 county-level governments, plus more than 26,000 municipalities. To read more, click the link below!

If You Like to Write…

Request for Proposals –

The Graduate Medical Education Consortium of Southwest Virginia has proposed a collection of essays to McFarland Press. Titled Healing Ourselves, with a tentative subtitle along the lines of Physicians Respond to the Opioid Crisis in Appalachia or Healthcare Providers tell their stories of Appalachia’s Opioid Epidemic.

We are looking for a wide range of approaches to the topic, with the intent that these individual narratives should tell together the larger story of what is happening in the region. If you are actively involved in treating pain and/or addiction in Appalachia, we would like to hear from you. We are particularly interested in stories that focus on reflective awareness or solution-driven activity. If you’ve been part of a working solution, tell us about it.

We understand that many substances continue to play a role in Appalachia’s addiction story; your proposed story should not focus on other substances to the exclusion of opioids.

Please send a one-page write-up of your approach to telling a piece of the big story on opioids/substance abuse in Appalachia. Do not put your name on this page but please include why you are well-positioned to write this unique piece.

On a separate page, please give us your name, profession and titles, geographic location, work location (are you based out of a hospital, private or free clinic, college or university, etc.) and why you are interested in writing for this collection. Please include e-mail and phone contact details.

McFarland is primarily an academic publisher; we are looking for writers who can address their topic with narrative skill and present data or complicated terms in language appealing to readers overloaded with faceless statistics. Tell us a story. Tell us YOUR story.

We look forward to reading your proposals on Monday, Sept. 9. Email them to



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.