Augsburg News

News Archives - 1996

Augsburg P.A. students take part in pilot Rural Interdisciplinary Health Project

Dec. 30, 1996

Augsburg physician assistant students are among the first groups taking part in a new "rural health school" that involves teams of P.A., medical, nurse practitioner and pharmacy students teaming up in rural Minnesota communities.

Teams representing at least three of the health disciplines are completing the first 12-week rotations of the Rural Interdisciplinary Health Project (RIHP) in New Ulm, Grand Rapids and Moose Lake. Another rotation will take place in March-May, and future rotations may include other kinds of health students in dentistry and public health. The initial students are from, in addition to Augsburg, University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD-medicine and pharmacy) and the College of St. Scholastica (nurse practitioner). Resources for the rural health school come from the institutions providing students, the State of Minnesota and the communities being served. UMD is the lead institution for the project.

The pilot program is also someting of a "virtual" school in that the students are electronically linked through interactive television and computers to instructors and other students at UMD and at the other training sites.

The program aims to increase the number of health care professionals practicing in rural Minnesota and to imprive their prepation.

"The model of RIHP matches what has always been the mission of the Augsburg P.A. program to place students and practitioners in underserved areas," said Dawn Ludwig, Augsburg's P.A. program director. "Now we're able to add the team concept to go along with our educational program.

"The trend in managed health care is to move toward a team practice model. The more students trained together in this team fashion, the easier they'll be able to work together later on. The students gain a better understanding both of different health care disciplines and of what rural health care is all about."

One of the first rural health school teams is in New Ulm, a farming town of 14,000 in southwestern Minnesota. On the team are Steve Hartland, an Augsburg P.A. student; Neil Mulrooney, a medical student from UMD; and Donna Westphal, a U of M nurse practitioner student. The three use case studies to learn how each might approach the same health problem, where there expertise overlaps and who should do what in a certian situation. The team's projects include a care program for homebound elderly during winter, preventive care for children of migrant farm workers, and preventive gynecological care for women ages 50 to 70.