The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is among the members of a consortium that will receive funding support from federal agencies to help create new rural residency programs in badly needed medical specialties, which could eventually mean more residency slots in rural Ohio.
In October, the Health Resources & Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced that the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill had been awarded a cooperative agreement to provide technical assistance to future grantees of the Rural Residency Planning and Development (RRPD) program during fiscal year 2019. Funding for the program, which aims to expand the physician workforce in rural areas by supporting planning and development costs of new rural residency programs, is estimated to be up to $21 million over three years for up to 28 new programs.
Administered through the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy in collaboration with HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce, the new agreement calls for UNC-Chapel Hill to lead a consortium that includes the Heritage College, the University of Washington Family Medicine Residency Network and others. The consortium will work with future RRPD grant recipients to create new accredited, sustainable rural residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine and psychiatry.
The Heritage College’s connection with the consortium will consist primarily of providing consulting services from Randall Longenecker, M.D., assistant dean for rural and underserved programs and a nationally recognized expert in the development of rural residency programs.
The consortium will cover the cost for Longenecker to spend part of his work time providing technical assistance to entities – such as hospitals, clinics, health care networks, non-profits, or medical schools – who need help in the planning and development phase of creating rural residency programs.
“The purpose of the consortium is to be a technical assistance center for the development of rural residency programs,” Longenecker explained. He noted that in his role as executive director of The RTT Collaborative, a national nonprofit cooperative devoted to sustaining health professions education in rural places, he currently devotes 30 percent of his time on a contract basis to the cause of developing rural graduate medical education programs. “I already do this kind of work,” he said. “It’s exactly what the RTT Collaborative does.”
While the consortium’s territory is the entire United States, Longenecker said the program could result in new residency programs in rural Ohio, potentially meaning new residency slots for Heritage College graduates.
He also pointed out that while operational funding has been available for existing rural residency programs, there had previously been little or no support for their planning and development. “Nobody pays for that right now,” he said. Nationwide, he added, only 92 family medicine residency programs are located in rural areas, with six of them in Ohio – five associated with the Heritage College (Athens, Chillicothe, Lancaster, Gallipolis, and Sandusky).
HRSA has released a call for proposals on November 29, with a deadline to apply by March 4, 2019.