OMAHA, Neb. -- Rural health care shortages continue to be a serious problem across Nebraska. Daunting challenges confront Nebraskans seeking medical care and those who provide it.
There is a strong dose of hope, however, emerging through the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Student Association for Rural Health (SARH). The program promotes interest in health careers in rural areas of Nebraska by hosting monthly seminars on rural health issues.
"This is something Nebraska really needs," Adam Wells, president of SARH, told The World-Herald. "Outside of Omaha and Lincoln, there is a definite shortage of people to come back to all areas of rural Nebraska for health care.
"We bring in rural students across the state to UNMC and show them, 'Here's what you can do.' Being from a rural town doesn't mean that you can't be a rural health provider."
Wells, a second-year medical student, embodies that aspect of the program's mission. He is a graduate of St. Paul High School and Chadron State College.
"A lot of people don't know much about the shortages we're facing," Wells said. "If we're really lucky, we'll find someone interested in going back to rural Nebraska who wasn't interested in the first place."
The program has taken great strides toward meeting that goal: A sizable portion of its students return to rural practice following their residencies. This influx not only places medical resources where they're needed most but also helps to stem the "brain drain" malady that afflicts the Midlands.
The SARH monthly speakers have been especially effective. One notable example was Earl Rudolph, who has 35 years of experience in emergency medical services. The Nebraska-based instructor spoke to UNMC students in November about farm injury management, including treatment of injuries unique to rural areas. Tractor rollovers, for instance, generally require a different rescue approach than other situations because of the heavy machinery involved.SARH has bolstered the medical center's already strong reputation as one of the nation's best medical schools for rural health and primary care medicine. UNMC's Rural Health Education Network as a whole deserves praise for being at the forefront of this crucial and challenging health issue.