Growing a healthier South Carolina
SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare improving access to quality care
By Alyssa Yancey, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-216-3302
When second-year medical student Kylie Stevens started medical school, she wasn’t sure what specialty she wanted to pursue, but an email from the School of Medicine’s financial aid coordinator quickly focused her direction.
Stevens is one of two inaugural recipients of the Rural Health Student Recruitment Loan, which is offered through the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare at the University of South Carolina. Loan recipients are required to commit to rural South Carolina practice in a primary care specialty or another critical need specialty for each year of scholarship funds received.
“The loan program got me thinking about going into rural health care. Before I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, I was interested in anything that I saw,” Stevens says. “At first, I didn’t want to limit my options, but the more I thought about it, I realized it would be a good opportunity to reduce my debt.”
Chuck Carter, M.D., directs the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare and hopes more students like Stevens will give rural care a second look because of the loan program.
“We face a significant shortage, so each new provider is essential to the future health of South Carolina. Our rural communities are already underserved and access to care will continue to decline if we don’t intervene,” Carter says.
The American Association of Medical Colleges projects a total physician shortfall of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians nationwide by 2030. In South Carolina, 45 of 46 counties currently have designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).
In 2017, the USC School of Medicine established the S.C. Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare in an effort to expand programs for training, recruiting and retaining primary care physicians in South Carolina’s rural and underserved areas as well as enhance service to rural patients. To date the center has received more than $12 million dollars from the state to further its mission.
“Lots of organizations and researchers already are doing great work related to rural care; we want to be the force that can help connect those dots and amplify the work that is being done statewide."
Michele Stanek, associate director of the SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare
The current loan program supports two recipients each year. Beginning in 2018 it will open to students at all publicly affiliated South Carolina medical and health professions schools.
Second-year medical student Jonathan Gallimore was the second recipient of the Rural Health Student Recruitment Loan. Gallimore grew up in the South Carolina Upstate and says he is looking forward to giving back to the community.
“Rural care is something I’ve kind of always been interested in, but I hadn’t thought a lot about it until I got to medical school, and then I realized it would be a good fit since it would allow me to be a healthcare leader and the ‘go to’ provider for my community,” Gallimore says.
The loan program is only one of the many ways the center’s small, but dedicated staff members are working to improve access to quality care statewide.
“Lots of organizations and researchers already are doing great work related to rural care; we want to be the force that can help connect those dots and amplify the work that is being done statewide,” says Michele Stanek, associate director of the center.
Research is another focus of the center, which provides funding opportunities for research related to rural health care in South Carolina. Current grantees include the University of South Carolina’s College of Social Work, College of Nursing and the College of Pharmacy and the Arnold School of Public Health.
The center is accepting applications for its Innovations Cooperative Agreement program, which will fund select projects that support and identify innovative programs and/or strategies that promote and improve health, access to care or health outcomes for rural patients, populations and/or communities in South Carolina. Through this new program, the center hopes to fund a wide range of organizations focused on improving the health of rural communities. In addition to research grants, the center also sponsors grants for infrastructure or provider and/or staff development at rural practices through a partnership with the South Carolina Office of Rural Health.
Additionally, the center is helping increase access to specialists by bringing providers to underserved communities through the ICARED program and other avenues.
ICARED has partnered with the Palmetto Health and the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group to provide subspecialists, including pediatricians, immunologists, maternal fetal medicine specialists, psychiatrists and cardiologists to augment the care being provided in the local community. The center partners with sites in Society Hill, Hartsville, Orangeburg, Sumter, Lancaster, Winnsboro, Aiken and Florence, and is planning to expand in the coming year.
“The School of Medicine is dedicated to serving the people of South Carolina and beyond through exemplary medical and health education, transformative research, and compassionate patient care. The work being done by the SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare checks all of those boxes and is making a big impact on our state,” says William Anderson, M.D., associate dean for clinical affairs and chief medical officer for the School of Medicine.
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