Macon, Ga.—Medical students in Mercer University's student chapter of the Georgia Rural Health Association (GRHA), the first student chapter of a state rural health association in the nation, are inspiring fellow health care students across the southeast to become involved in rural health care issues.
"GRHA is an excellent way to learn how you can help improve the lives of others who have a difficult time accessing healthcare," said Crystal Bailey, president of Mercer's student chapter of GRHA. "It's also an opportunity to work with students who may be doing something you're interested in, such as achieving a master's in public health or becoming a physician."
Mercer's student chapter of GRHA was established in 2002 with 25 charter members from Mercer's School of Medicine. The chapter is actively involved with GRHA and the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), allowing them to network with rural health advocates and share their concerns and ideas about rural health care in Georgia.
To increase awareness of rural health care issues and opportunities for students to become involved, the chapter recently hosted its first annual Rural Health Symposium to discuss the future of rural health care.
Students from newly-formed Student Rural Health Association chapters at the Medical College of Georgia and the University of South Carolina attended the event, which included presentations from Steve Wilhide, president of NRHA, and Dr. Jean Sumner, a physician with Washington County Internal Medicine Associates in Washington County, Ga.
"We were the first school in the nation to create this type of organization, and host this type of event," said the third-year medical student from Young Harris, Ga. "And the idea is quickly catching on with more schools and students. Student rural health association chapters are a wonderful way to bring students together under one common theme—improving rural health care."
As a part of the organization, students are able to participate in discussion and education on the health care challenges facing rural communities nationwide. Mercer's chapter invites students pursuing a variety of degrees to contribute.
In addition to the doctor of medicine degree, Mercer University School of Medicine offers graduate degrees in public health, family therapy and family services. The School was established to improve the supply and distribution of primary care and other needed specialty physicians in Georgia's rural and other medically underserved areas. More than half of the School's graduates are practicing in federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Areas in Georgia.