Virginia Rural Health Association - Weekly Update
VRHA Weekly Update
In this Issue September 14, 2015

VRHA News Virginia News National News Mark your calendar
Funding Opportunities


Newsletter available





Save Money!

How can you save money?  By registering NOW for the VRHA Conference!  Conference registration rates will go up to $245 for members and $295 for non-members starting September 15th. (Student rates will remain the same).

Get the best deal for the best event!  Click the conference logo for registration and conference details.
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VRHA Annual Conference
October 13 & 14
Staunton, VA

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And the Winners Are...

VRHA has awarded eight student scholarships which will provide complementary registration to the VRHA Annual Conference to help students in their quest to serve rural Virginians.  The winners are:

  • Alison Hess - University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Seth Wood - University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Cory Caldwell - University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Mackenzie Dunn University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Lindsey Kennedy University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Abigail Thomforde - James Madison University
  • David Carter - Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Christopher J. McLaughlin - Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Congratulations to all!  Thanks also to the Southwest Virginia Graduate Medical Education Consortium for sponsoring the scholarship program!

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Members in the News

SternRicardo Guzman - Chair of the Board, NACHC, Nancy Stern - CEO, Eastern Shore Rural Health, Gary Wiltz, MD - Immediate Past Chair of the Board, NACHC 
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) has honored [VRHA member] Nancy Stern, Chief Executive Officer at Eastern Shore Rural Health System in Onancock, VA with the 2015 John Gilbert Award.  The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a level of excellence in the community health care field.

“Nancy has been a tireless champion for the health and well-being of the people of Virginia and we are so honored to work with her. We are very greatly pleased that her commitment to 
the people of the Eastern Shore, our Commonwealth, and our Association has been recognized in this way. Nancy is the embodiment of the community health mission. For more than thirty years, she has inspired us through her leadership and business acumen, her enthusiasm, and her courage as she helped to establish health centers on the Eastern Shore which provide citizens access to high-quality primary care,” said Neal Graham, Chief Executive Officer of Virginia Community Healthcare Association.


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Virginia News

Telemedicine Can't Help...


For people living in Wyoming or South Dakota or rural Virginia, a trip to the cardiologist isn’t a simple undertaking. “They’re taking a whole day off work to drive 150 miles, go the appointment, and drive 150 miles home,” says Deanna Larson, senior vice president at Avera Health. That’s why Avera, which runs a network of over a hundred clinics and hospitals in the upper midwest, has invested in telemedicine, allowing doctors to pop into rural clinics by video from hundreds of miles away.

Telemedicine has been a buzzword for years now, but the rural communities that could benefit most from it also have the least access to fast and reliable Internet—an obvious prerequisite. 

Telemedicine infrastructure is lagging on two fronts. First, many rural clinics have Internet access that is still too slow and unreliable. Second, telemedicine is increasingly moving from the clinic into the home, with at-home monitoring and mobile apps. Here, the facts on the ground are even worse: According to the FCC’s 2015 Broadband Progress Report, 55 million Americans still do not have access to broadband speed Internet access, which includes more than half of rural Americans.

Read the full article and related story from Daily Yonder.

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Funding Denied

By Kaylan Brickey - Bristol Herald Courier

An Alliance for Rural Health request for funding was turned down by the Southwest Economic Development Committee of the Virginia Tobacco Commission. The alliance asked for $10 million for the upcoming year, but the total allotment left over for special projects allocations was only $3.33 million, commission Chairman Terry Kilgore said Thursday.

This isn’t the first bump in the road for the project. Originally, it was the King School of Medicine that was proposed by then-King College, which handed it off to a privately held non-profit organization, then it evolved into the Southwest Virginia School of Medicine to the current alliance, which is an education and work force development collaboration.

Over the past two years, the project’s leaders have been called to quarterly Tobacco Commission meetings for updates. More than a year ago, the $25 million promised to the project, minus $1 million released for set-up costs, was frozen, and then reduced by $5 million.

Read the full article.

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National News

A Lure for Mental Health Providers 

By Lauren Silverman - NPR

In her third year of medical school, Karen Duong found herself on the other side of Texas. She had driven 12 hours north from where she grew up on the Gulf Coast to a panhandle town called Hereford. Hereford is one of many areas in Texas lacking adequate access to mental health care.

"You have a patient that comes in and they need immediate care or something more acute, and then you tell them that the soonest they can get in for an appointment is six months from now," Duong says. "It's not really what we want to tell our patients."

So how do you persuade students to become psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists and then be willing to work in rural areas? Republican state Sen. Charles Schwertner is trying cash. He sponsored a law that, starting in 2016, will help around 100 medical health professionals repay loans if they go to work in underserved areas. Schwertner says the investment will pay off.

"Where we don't have those services for mental health patients, they wind up cycling back through our jails and our emergency rooms," he says.

Read the full article.

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Hospital Conversion

By Susan Morse - Healthcare Finance

As rural hospitals continue to struggle to stay afloat, the Kansas Hospital Association is hoping to persuade the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to alter the way it reimburses so hospitals can focus more on outpatient and emergency services.

Current CMS rules mandate critical access hospitals, like the ones in the KHA, give around-the-clock emergency services. But the association wants primary health centers to replace some critical access hospitals. 

The hospitals within the association could continue to run their 24-hour facilities -- with or without transitional care -- or cut down to 12 hours. Both options would provide for ambulatory, urgent and emergency services. 

Read the full article.

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The Last Pediatrician 

By Farida Jhabvala Romero - NPR

For more than 35 years, Dr. Bill Mahon examined patients day in and day out at his small clinic, next to Mendocino Coast District Hospital, the only hospital for miles. He handled everything from regular checkups to broken bones to very sick kids who might need a spinal taps or IV treatment. He got to know families closely. Going anywhere in town almost certainly involved bumping into a former patient.

Now Mahon is mostly retired. He only works at the hospital on call a few days a month. Families in most of the Mendocino Coast region no longer have access to a pediatrician who lives there permanently. The doctors that Mahon joined in the '70s have long since retired, and other pediatricians have come and gone.

The practice of medicine has also changed since Mahon came to the coast. Today, many young doctors don't want to practice by themselves and independently treat the wide range of diseases and behavioral disorders in babies and children that Mahon did.

Read the full article.

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Residency Slots

By Rick Green - the Oklahoman

Oklahoma does a good job of producing new physicians, but not enough of them want to practice primary care medicine in the state, particularly in rural areas. 

Health officials announced Wednesday they will fight that problem with a $3.8 million, six-year grant that will be used along with federal funds to open dozens of medical residency slots. The hope is that once the new doctors finish residencies in places like Ada and Ardmore, they will put down roots and continue to provide much-needed medical care in these under-served areas.

The grant from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust to Oklahoma State University Medical Authority will fund up to 118 osteopathic physician residents in six hospitals across the state.

Read the full article.

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Mark Your Calendar

For more information about these and other events, visit the VRHA Calendar

September 29-30: Rural Health Clinic Conference - Kansas City, MO
September 30-October 2: Critical Access Hospital Conference - Kansas City, MO
October 13-14: VRHA Annual Conference - Staunton
October 15: REVIVE! Training of Trainers - Staunton
December 3: TCI Policy Summit

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Heart of Virginia Healthcare 
One of only seven cooperatives in the country funded by the Agency for Healthcare and Quality’s EvidenceNOW initiative.  The HVH collaborative is aimed at helping  primary care practices incorporate patient centered outcomes research findings while improving team function, and patient/ clinician satisfaction. HVH offers personalized coaching and consultation at no cost to the practice and reimburses for completed surveys and data pulls.

Chartbook on Rural Health Care
With rural populations as one of ten priorities for AHRQ research and quality measurement, the chartbook puts a rural lens on more than 250 measures – including access to health care, affordability, and leading causes of morbidity and mortality - found in the agency’s National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report (QDR) released earlier this year.  

Pinch Hitting
Provides an overview of the role community paramedicine can play in meeting rural healthcare needs, with examples from several states. Highlights the pros and cons of this approach, describes how it's paid for, and identifies states that have taken legislative action on the issue.

Scholarships, Loans, and Loan Repayment for Rural Health Professions
An overview from the Rural Assistance Center on available programs.

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Funding Opportunities

For funding opportunities without a specific deadline, please visit the VRHA Resources page

Lawrence Foundation
Deadline: 11/01/15
Grants for organizations and projects in the areas of the environment, education, human services, and disaster relief. 

Health Policy Fellows
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows program provides the nation’s most comprehensive learning experience at the nexus of health, science, and policy in Washington, D.C. It is an outstanding opportunity for exceptional midcareer health professionals and behavioral and social scientists with an interest in health and health care policy. Fellows participate in the policy process at the federal level and use that leadership experience to improve health, health care, and health policy. The fellowship requires, at a minimum, a 12-month residential experience in Washington, D.C., with additional support for health policy leadership development activities. The program will select up to seven fellows.
Application deadline: November 12, 2015

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