#402. Growing Your Own Health Care

Posted on | The Agurban
Growing Your Own Health Care
From the Blog for Rural America –
Health care. Two words you’ve probably heard a lot lately. But if you live in a rural place, you know that health care isn’t always easy to access. There’s a long distance between you and the clinic; often a lack of medical professionals close by. How many small towns still have their own pharmacist or dentist anymore?

One initiative in Nebraska — the Rural Health Opportunities Program — is approaching this challenge by ‘growing their own’.

Started in 1988, the program partners Wayne State and Chadron State colleges with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) to identify bright rural students who aspire to work in the health fields. RHOP provides scholarships in clinical laboratory science, physician assistant, physical therapy, radiography, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, and dentistry.

“The thinking was the people who are going to return to rural are those that come from rural,” said Ann Kraft, program coordinator at UNMC.

And it seems to be working.

“I want to come back and have the small town atmosphere, know everybody and wear lots of hats…In small communities, that’s what you get to do,” said one student who will start medical school at UNMC in Omaha

Ann Kraft calls the RHOPers the “cream of the crop”. She says she’s impressed with the work ethic of students from small towns. “If you’re from a small town, there is no student council or volleyball team if you don’t step to the plate. In order to get good grades, you have to have time management skills. Those experiences develop a well-rounded, mature person”.

Thanks to the Rural Health Opportunities Program, well-trained professionals are returning to small towns to find jobs waiting for them. And in doing so, they’re improving health care and revitalizing rural communities.

We often talk about “growing your own” in the Agurban. We applaud the State of Nebraska for initiating this program.