Search within:

Immersion event connects incoming RUSP students with community

October 4, 2022

by Lauren Patterson
Communications Assistant, Office of Rural and Underserved Programs

Between August 8-10, 40 new students in the Rural and Urban Scholars Pathways program participated in  RUSP Summer Immersion. We visited rural and urban underserved communities in Columbus and in Glouster. We not only learned about the social determinants of health but also learned about the assets that exist in these communities.

RUSP students participate in summer immersion program
Forty new RUSP students participate in the Summer Immersion event.

“If there was one word I would use to describe the entire RUSP Summer Immersion experience, it would be ‘authentic,’” said RUSP student Libbie Milks.

“Each student and facilitator displayed such a profound and genuine sense of compassion and gentleness that not only affirmed my place in RUSP but reaffirmed my calling to enter medicine in the first place. Each site we visited provided a new clinical pearl-- whether it was learning how to destigmatize the language surrounding opioid use and harm-reduction approaches, developing an appreciation of the breadth and interconnectedness of community resources, or simply learning how to effectively demonstrate empathy. What impacted me the most was the opportunity to actively engage with the residents of the communities we visited. We were able to hear their story and glean what they find most valuable in their communities and in a physician. More often than not, it boiled down to wanting to be heard and treated like a person, not a disease,” she said.

The opioid crisis has impacted both rural and urban underserved communities.  Part of the RUSP program helps students to gain the skills they need to be effective practitioners in underserved communities. RUSP graduate Megan Zaworski spoke to students during immersion about addiction medicine.

RUSP graduate Megan Zaworski
RUSP graduate Megan Zaworski speaks with incoming RUSP students.

“It was pretty special to me that I was invited to speak with the incoming RUSP students and share my experience working in the field of addiction medicine,” she said. “I hope everyone was able to take something away from the discussion and lead to better relationships between physicians and the people we work with.”

Food insecurity is a persistent and significant concern in rural counties in Ohio. According to the Southeast Ohio Foodbank website, food insecurity affects seniors, children, working adults, veterans and students. In Southeast Ohio alone, one in six individuals struggle with hunger.

During immersion, RUSP students visited the Southeast Ohio Foodbank and learned about ways in which they are addressing this challenging issue.

RUSP students at foodbank
RUSP students packed boxes at the Southeast Ohio Foodbank.

At the foodbank, we packed 425 boxes. Opportunities to volunteer at Southeast Ohio Foodbank are plentiful and available in both single experiences and commitments. More information about volunteering is available on their website here.

Access to healthy foods is limited in rural areas across the state.  The Community Food Initiatives has mobilized a Veggie Van to provide access to fresh healthy local food to rural residents.

Veggie Van representative speaks to RUSP students
A representative from the Veggie Van speaks with RUSP students in Glouster.

During immersion, a representative from the Veggie Van spoke to RUSP students in Glouster. In collaboration with numerous Athens County based organizations, the Veggie Van self-defines on their website as “a donation-based farm stand that carries locally-grown fruits and veggies to rural communities in Southeastern Ohio, 10 months out of the year.”

Part of the immersion experience also involved community conversations with community members served by HAPCAP in Glouster and Central Community House in Columbus.

RUSP students debrief on their experiences.
RUSP students debrief and reflect on their experiences during immersion.

We toured the federally qualified health center, Primary One Health, in Columbus and Hocking Valley Community Hospital, a critical access hospital, in Logan.

Federally qualified health centers have been shown to improve health outcomes for patients in underserved communities, and critical access hospitals provide important services to residents in rural and remote areas.

RUSP students talk to PrimaryOne Health staff
RUSP students talk to PrimaryOne Health staff member about Healthcare for the Homeless, which is described as a a program "dedicated to providing access to services that improve the health status of individuals that are homeless, particularly those who have experienced barriers to health care."
RUSP students at Burr Oak State Park
Even downtime was an opportunity to build community at Burr Oak State Park Lodge.