National Rural Health Day

November 15, 2013

Next week, KU Medical Center will join in activities marking the third annual National Rural Health Day on Nov. 21. Created by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health to "Celebrate the Power of Rural," the day recognizes those addressing the unique health care needs of rural Americans.

Our Wichita-based Rural Health Education and Services (RHES) will set up events on both the Kansas City and Wichita campuses next Thursday. I encourage faculty, staff and students in Kansas City to stop by the Murphy Lobby for a few minutes any time between 1 and 2 p.m., and I hope folks on the Wichita campus will stop by the Sunflower Room between 2 and 3:30 p.m. Both events include a reception and an opportunity to vote for your favorite Kansas photographs submitted through RHES' annual Rural Kansas Photography Contest. This friendly contest helps RHES in its mission of recruiting health care providers to rural communities by providing the office with images showing all of the ways in which Kansas is a great place for health care providers to live, work and play. This year, Kansans sent in a record 915 photographs. RHES' Jennifer Yuza and team have worked hard to narrow down the pool of finalists to 30 photos - six photos in each of the five contest categories.

Also on Nov. 21, Salina medical students will set up a display from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., next to the Salina Regional Health Center's cafeteria entrance. Volunteers will hand out sunflower sugar cookies and share information with hospital staff and visitors on their rural-minded campus and program.

National Rural Health Day is an opportunity for us to enjoy our accomplishments and programs while reminding us to maintain our resolve as we work to improve access and care to all areas of our state.

We can be proud of the various ways our schools of health professions, nursing and medicine help students experience life as rural health care providers as well - including opportunities such as rural preceptorships and other programs I discussed back in June.

And in August, we were excited to learn of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita's residency program's No. 6 ranking for producing primary care graduates. Of course, we already knew the Wichita campus excels at graduating physicians who want to go into primary care, particularly in underserved areas. To help tell this great story, the Wichita Public Affairs team produced a set of videos spotlighting alumni who are now Kansas' rural primary care physicians. I encourage you to share these videos widely - they're great for showing students the lifestyle of rural health care providers and demonstrating for our stakeholders throughout the state how KU Medical Center produces doctors for Kansas:

 We also work to bring care to communities whose needs are not being met through the traditional health delivery system. Telemedicine has been an integral piece in bridging the gaps of specialty and sub-specialty health care services in our underserved rural communities. With more than 100 sites throughout the state, the KU Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth eliminates distance as a barrier to health care.

Collaborative efforts and innovative programs, such as the Kansas Sepsis Project and the Kansas Initiative for Stroke Survival, help health care professionals in rural Kansas learn the latest and most effective ways to identify symptoms and better respond and treat patients. (A great story about Colleen Lechtenberg's work with the Kansas Initiative for Stroke Survival is posted here.

Rural Kansans also benefit from health fairs and screenings by organizations like the Community Partnership for Health (CPH), Midwest Cancer Alliance (MCA), American Indian Health Research Education and Alliance (AIHREA) and Juntos. In fact, Juntos is sponsoring health fairs in Liberal, Kan. on Nov. 23 and in Garden City, Kan. on Dec. 14. I especially want to commend Juntos director Paula Cupertino, AIHREA director Christine Daley and their teams for the innovative efforts to improve the health of Latinos and American Indians in the region.

Our outreach programs and efforts are impressive, and there are many more stellar groups that I could mention. I am proud of all of you who help support our efforts to improving the health and access to care in rural Kansas. From those who schedule student clerkship rotations to those who drive or fly to all corners of the state to provide care - we have a responsibility to our fellow Kansans and I thank you for your efforts.

Last modified: Nov 15, 2013