Six S.D. towns to welcome health professions students

This summer, 12 university students will learn first-hand about providing healthcare in rural South Dakota. This is thanks to six communities' collaborations with a grant program designed to raise awareness for the healthcare services needs in underserved areas of the state.

The six communities were selected as "Best Practice Model" sites for the Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students Program (REHPS) in 2012. The REHPS program connects interprofessional groups of students enrolled in medical, physician assistant, doctor of nurse practice, and pharmacy programs through the University of South Dakota (USD) and South Dakota State University (SDSU) with medical professionals practicing in six rural South Dakota communities. The program has expanded from three sites in 2011 to six in 2012.

Students were selected in a competitive process to participate in REHPS.

  • Parkston: Danielle Schroeder, Doctor of Nursing Practice student from Pierre; Megan Bechen, Pharmacy student from Winfred.
  • Philip: Tandis Hoffman, Physician Assistant student from Lennox; Kimberly Livingston, Pharmacy student from Yankton.
  • Redfield: Miranda Tracy, Medical student from Pierre; Alyssa Osborn, Pharmacy student from Brookings.
  • Wagner: Amber Burke, Pharmacy student from Round Lake Park, Ill.; Mikaela Miller, Medical student from Spencer, NE.
  • Wessington Springs: Anthony Loewen, Medical student from Huron; Trent Harris, Pharmacy student from Valentine, NE.
  • Winner: Tia Haines, Physician Assistant student from White Lake; Justin Cunningham, Pharmacy student from Bloomfield, NE.

In addition to the enriching career experience, students will also be involved in a community project designed to provide interaction with people outside of a clinical setting. The students will call their new communities home for four weeks.

Kassy Youmans, REHPS Program Manager, said the REHPS program provides a framework for community leaders to follow in an effort to successfully recruit and retain healthcare professionals.

"Students are more likely to return to facilities and communities where they have had rich, positive experiences early in their training. The REHPS program is designed to allow communities and students to make this happen," Youmans said.

South Dakota is experiencing a shortage of healthcare workers. The number of high school graduates in the state decreases as the number of retirees is increasing. Between now and 2018, 10 percent of the new jobs in South Dakota will be healthcare related. Fifty- nine of South Dakota's 66 counties are designated as medically underserved.

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