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November 8, 2001

Rural health center established

Pitt has created a Center for Rural Health Practice at the Bradford campus. The cooperative effort of Pitt-Bradford, the Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC Health System and Bradford-area hospitals and health care providers was established to help identify and research health care needs in Appalachia.

"The purpose behind this initiative," said Richard E. McDowell, Bradford campus president, "is to determine the most important health care issues in Appalachia, conduct research involving those issues and ultimately improve the health care in this area."

Bradford received a $150,000 grant from the Office of Rural Health Policy, Department of Health and Human Services, to establish the center. While the center will address health care needs throughout Appalachia, McDowell said the initial focus will be on northwest and northcentral Pennsylvania.

He said the first project will be researching why the Medicare reimbursements that rural hospitals receive for home health care are lower than payments to hospitals in urban areas.

In establishing the center, McDowell collaborated with Margaret Potter, director of the Center for Public Health Practice at the Graduate School of Public Health, and Barbara Barnes, assistant vice chancellor for continuing education in the Health Sciences and associate dean for continuing education for the School of Medicine.

According to Barnes, "We felt there would be a lot of merit in creating a focus for the University in this area that would enable the University, UPMC and Pitt-Bradford to better coordinate their resources and create a more integrated effort in this regard."

Barnes said that by better understanding rural health care issues, the University can join with hospitals, physicians and consumers to push for necessary health care services.

In addition to helping to improve health care, Barnes and McDowell said the center will help their schools from an academic standpoint.

Having the center will help strengthen ties between the two campuses in several ways, McDowell said. He said the initiative offered faculty on both campuses an opportunity to work together; Pitt-Bradford students will have a chance to gather data for research projects, and Bradford-area physicians, faculty and staff will be brought in contact with their counterparts in Pittsburgh.

In Pittsburgh, Barnes said, students will have an opportunity to research rural health topics, which will introduce them to rural health care and the opportunities that exist in practicing medicine in a rural area. Ultimately, it could help Pitt recruit students who would be willing to work in rural areas, she said.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 34 Issue 6

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