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KU School of Medicine creates Salina-based Kansas Center for Rural Health

The center will provide the infrastructure needed so that researchers, educators and rural health stakeholders can work together to find ways to reduce or eliminate health disparities in rural Kansas.

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Rural areas face many challenges, including higher percentages of uninsured people, aging populations with more chronic conditions and shortages of health care providers.

The University of Kansas School of Medicine today announced the formation of the Kansas Center for Rural Health, which will address health disparities in rural parts of the state.  Housed on the Salina campus shared by the KU schools of Medicine and Nursing, the center will advance the missions of the school and the University of Kansas Medical Center: improving lives and communities in Kansas and beyond through innovation in education, research and health care.

Rural areas face many challenges to bettering the health of their communities, including higher percentages of uninsured people than in urban areas and aging populations with more chronic conditions. Moreover, attracting and retaining health care providers to practice in rural communities can be difficult, and many rural areas suffer shortages of physicians, nurses and other professionals.

“Through the creation of the Kansas Center for Rural Health, we can find ways to reduce or eliminate these health disparities in rural Kansas by providing the infrastructure needed to support collaborations among researchers, educators and rural health stakeholders across the state,” said Akinlolu Ojo, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, executive dean of KU School of Medicine and professor of medicine and population health.

The center was developed over the last two years by the Rural Health Task Force, which comprises faculty and staff from the KU schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions as well as community partner representatives. After evaluating existing programs and identifying areas of need to chart a path toward improving the health of all Kansans, the task force developed comprehensive strategies in key areas of rural health, including medical school admissions, medical education, graduate medical education and multi-specialty practice-based research.

The Kansas Center for Rural Health was created with support from the Patterson Family Foundation and the Salina Regional Health Foundation.

Robert Moser, M.D., dean of KU School of Medicine-Salina and professor of population health, will serve as executive director. Karen Weis, Ph.D., the Christine A. Hartley Rural Health Nursing Endowed Professor for the School of Nursing-Salina, will serve as director of research, and Dorothy Hughes, Ph.D., assistant professor of population health and assistant dean of student affairs for the School of Medicine-Salina, will serve as associate director of service and education.

“The center will work with rural physicians, providers and health systems to improve access and support quality health care for rural Kansans while considering the unique social and economic factors that determine health outcomes for people in rural areas,” said Moser. “It is critical to our mission that citizens in all parts of the state have comprehensive care.”

The center will provide a forum for members of the KU Medical Center community to come together with external partners to champion rural health across the state, facilitate ongoing discussions and collaborations around rural health and elevate awareness of research opportunities and rural-focused initiatives.

“As an integral part of the rural health care workforce, nurses bring a crucial perspective to the health disparities in these parts of the state,” said Lisa Larson, Ph.D., RN, dean of KU School of Nursing-Salina. “I look forward to working with the new center to enhance the well-being of all Kansas citizens.”

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