HHS announces $1,498,983 in grants to develop rural WA residency programs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday that two Washington organizations will receive a total of $1,498,983 in grant funding as part of the Rural Residency Planning and Development Program (RRPD).

Washington’s two recipients — Grays Harbor County Public Hospital District 1 and Washington State University – will each receive nearly $750,000 over three years to develop new rural residency programs while achieving accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The funding comes as part of $20 million awarded to 21 different states by HHS.

 

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RRPD is a program aimed at creating new rural residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, and psychiatry, and supporting the expansion of the physician workforce in rural areas. Recipients of the awards across the entire county include hospitals, community health centers, tribal organizations, and schools of medicine.

The program is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and is one of a series of health care workforce programs in their Bureau of Health Workforce.

“The health challenges in rural America are clear: rural communities face a greater risk of poor health outcomes than their urban counterparts,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D., in a press release. “Programs like the Rural Residency Planning and Development grants take aim at one of the most persistent disparities: access to high quality healthcare providers. HRSA is committed to increasing the number of providers serving rural communities and improving health in rural America.”

The funding awarded to WSU will be used by the university’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine for a family medicine residency program at Pullman Regional Hospital.

“WSU is working closely with numerous partners to expand rural residency opportunities in eastern Washington,” said WSU President Kirk Schultz. “This funding is an exciting step in our collective goal to address rural health care needs and solve workforce shortages by effectively training physicians to practice in, and meet the clinical needs of, populations in rural and underserved communities.”

According to WSU, only 6 percent of the graduate medical education and training programs in the state are located in Eastern Washington. WSU Health Sciences Chancellor, Daryll DeWald, says this money will go toward helping reduce that disparity.

“WSU Health Sciences is grateful to its partners and their commitment to increasing the number of providers serving eastern Washington’s rural communities and ultimately improving health and lives. This grant is a generous start toward ending the disparity rural areas face in accessing high quality health care providers,” said DeWald.

The money granted to Grays Harbor County Public Hospital District 1, Summit Pacific Medical Center, is slated for the district’s critical access hospital.

“We are both honored and excited to be highlighted by HRSA for our work in rural family medicine training, and we look forward to their visit. We are proud to showcase the innovative work of Summit Pacific in addressing the health needs of our community,” said Summit Pacific’s Rural Family Medicine Residency Program Director, Dr. Laurie Belknap.