McPherson College and McPherson Hospital announced a partnership forming a new community health initiative Thursday morning.
"The initiative aims to create a new model for rural health care in Kansas by combining new academic programs and program in the community with outreach," said McPherson College President Michael Schneider.
As part of the initiative, McPherson College will offer a new health science degree beginning in the fall of 2020.
"We have lots of needs across the community so we need to train students in a little bit different way," Schneider said. "That's what we're good at with the liberal arts. We think that partnership makes sense and can be an important part of creating graduates and programming out in the community that affects a lot more people."
Health science students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on training with internships, field experiences and observation at McPherson Hospital to learn about clinical health care and health care management.
"Mentoring and working with students is not new to us," said Terri Gehring, president and CEO of McPherson Hospital.
Also familiar to Gehring is the challenge of recruiting and retaining employees for McPherson Hospital
"We struggle with nursing, we struggle with many of our ancillary departments like our lab and radiology," Gehring said. "We have a lot of competitors near us and so we're constantly looking to recruit the same individuals."
With the new community health initiative, McPherson College students can be exposed to a broader spectrum of roles needed to run a hospital.
"It is our hope that some of these students will chose to live and work in McPherson following graduation," Gehring said. "The opportunities that this partnership provides to improve the health in our community are tremendous."
Gehring also noted changes in technology will allow for expanded services at rural hospitals. McPherson Hospital is already using telemedicine to provide hospitalists and mental health screenings.
"I think we can come together to solve some of these evolving challenges that everyone is seeing in health care," Schneider said. "...This initiative and this partnership has the ability to transform McPherson and rural Kansas."
"We recognize that by combining our resources, talents and expertise, we have the opportunity to accomplish so much more than we could individually," Gehring said.
Schneider also announced the creation of the McPherson Health Care Advisory Board, whose members include National Rural Health Association CEO Alan Morgan, former American Medical Health Association executive Modena Wilson, Michael Bloustine of McPherson Hospital, Linda Helmer, LSCSW with Client Centered Counseling, KU School of Medicine-Salina Dean Bob Moser, Mayor Tom Brown, McPherson County Community Foundation CEO Becky Goss and Rep. Roger Marshall.
During the announcement Thursday morning, Marshall praised McPherson for looking to its own array of local resources to create the new community health initiative.
"(McPherson) has a great college, a great hospital (and) a strong economy, so the assets are already here," Marshall said.
The future of health care will include not only by doctors who are physically present in a community hospital, but through expanded resources offered by telemedicine.
"We need to make sure, as our kids go through our education system, that we're training them for the jobs we have and there's a clear opportunity in health care," Marshall said.
Giving students a good foundation for a number of careers is not only vital for their careers, but for the continued sustenance of rural populations, Marshall pointed out.
"One of the biggest challenges of rural America is mental health," Marshall said.
A survey of all health-related opportunities for students in central Kansas is planned in the near future as part of the initiative.
Schneider said there will also be opportunities for community members to become involved in the initiative, especially those who work with children and older adults.
"The approach we're taking with the initiative is to work broadly across our community," Schneider said. "We know that health is much more than just treating sick people; we need to take care of our older adults, our youth and address major mental health needs within our community and in rural areas."
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.