Colorado is facing a shortage of medical professionals, especially in rural communities, causing some people to forgo preventive care or treatment for serious illnesses.
Kaiser Permanente is now teaming up with the University of Colorado Denver’s health sciences programs to provide a unique solution to the shortage by training more medical professionals interested in rural health practices.
As part of its community benefit program, Kaiser Permanente made a $2.4 million dollar grant to establish the University of Colorado Denver’s Interdisciplinary Rural Training and Service Program (IRTS).
“I applaud the University of Colorado Denver and Kaiser Permanente, two local health care leaders, for pushing the envelope and thinking innovatively about the type of public-private partnership that can address critical health needs in our state,” said Gov. Bill Ritter.
The IRTS program will build upon successful but independent programs in the School of Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine and the School of Pharmacy. It will combine the disciplines so students practice together, gaining a greater appreciation for the way their specialties can collaborate to improve patient care.
The ultimate goal of the IRTS is to apply an integrated training approach in order to increase the number of students and enhance access to care in Colorado’s Delta, Garfield, Routt, Jackson and other rural counties.
“We know first-hand that patients are happier with their care, physicians are more satisfied, and medical outcomes are improved when care is delivered in a coordinated fashion,” said Jandel Allen-Davis, MD, vice president of government and external affairs for Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “The beauty of this partnership between Kaiser Permanente and the University of Colorado Denver is that it aims to achieve these success points while focusing the resources where they’re needed the most – in our rural communities.”
Mark Deutchman, MD, professor of family medicine, will lead the IRTS and the Colorado Area Health Education Center (AHEC) will serve as the administrator and evaluator of the program. The different disciplines will interact in the following ways:
v School of Pharmacy: Students will focus on improving the health of patients with heart disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clotting and high cholesterol and other lipid disorders; and provide multidisciplinary clinical education in rural communities.
v School of Dental Medicine: Students will increase the number of rural communities served by the Colorado Smilemakers Mobile Dental Clinic, which provides screenings and basic dental treatment. The students will be encouraged to practice in rural areas upon graduation.
v School of Medicine: The successful program, which takes students into rural communities to shadow and train along side medical professional in hospitals and clinics, will expand to include shadowing of dentists and pharmacists currently practicing in rural communities.
The numbers demonstrate the need. According to the Colorado Rural Health Center, seven counties have no dentists, six have no full time primary care physicians, and one has no primary care physician.
“Colorado is largely a rural state and many of our rural counties are facing significant shortages in health care professionals living and working in their communities,” said Ned Calonge, chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “This innovative partnership will help address these shortages by supporting the recruitment and retention of new health profession graduates in currently underserved communities.”
Building upon already successful programs gives Kaiser Permanente’s IRTS grant a strong starting point. The School of Medicine’s Rural Track was founded four years ago and aims to increase the number of students who eventually enter, and remain, in practice in rural areas of Colorado. For the past 10 years, the School of Pharmacy has sent its students out for six-week, full time learning experiences at pharmacies throughout the state. The School of Dental Medicine’s Smilemakers Mobile Dental Clinic has been providing care to rural Coloradans for more than two years, creating rural practice opportunities for students in the dental hygiene, dental and international programs. What is unique about the Kaiser Permanente grant is the integrated approach for the different disciplines to deliver the care side by side.
“Rural track is a critical part of a long pipeline,” said Mark Deutchman, MD, director of the Rural Track. “That pipeline starts by getting rural young people thinking about health care careers in general during their early years, getting them properly prepared for college, getting them into professional schools and supporting them in returning to rural communities to live happily and be successful in their work. Kaiser Permanente’s IRTS grant is exactly the kind of help we need. ”
The IRTS grant is part of a combined $3 million grant from Kaiser Permanente Colorado to the University of Colorado Denver’s health sciences programs. The Colorado School of Public Health received $600,000 to support the creation of the Center for Public Health Practice, which will focus on improving the health of communities and individuals throughout Colorado. The grant was facilitated by the University of Colorado Foundation.
The University of Colorado Denver is one of three campuses in the University of Colorado system. Located in Denver on the Downtown Campus and on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo., the University of Colorado Denver offers more than 100 degrees and programs in 13 schools and colleges and serves more than 28,000 students in Metro Denver and online.
Kaiser Permanente Colorado is the state’s largest nonprofit health plan, proudly working to improve the lives and health of Denver, Boulder, and Southern Colorado area residents for 40 years. For more Kaiser Permanente news, visit http://kp.org/newscenter.