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Radford University is among a small group of regional public colleges and universities across six states receiving funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to help plan for improved healthcare worker training opportunities in the central Appalachian region.

ARC is awarding the $250,000 planning grant through its Appalachian Regional Initiatives for Stronger Economies (ARISE), which works to strengthen and grow Appalachian businesses.

Radford is the only university in Virginia to participate. The other universities involved include East Tennessee State University (ETSU), which will serve as the lead institution on the project; Appalachian State University; Eastern Kentucky University; Marshall University; Ohio University; and Shawnee State University.

Empowered by the ARISE award, the consortium will explore a variety of strategies for working together and impacting health and economic outcomes in central Appalachia. Those strategies include articulation agreements, local pipeline development, cross-institution internships, in-state tuition arrangements, elective options, streamlined applications and preferred admissions.

Radford and the consortium members will implement five major activities as part of the multi-state effort: formalize relationships between university partners, perform a needs and gap analysis of healthcare workforce training, conduct a research review, develop an implementation plan and develop a landing page for the Regional Public Colleges and Universities’ Central Appalachia Health Consortium.

According to Jeanne Mekolichick, associate provost for research, faculty success and strategic initiatives, Radford University is partnering with Marshall University, located in Huntington, West Virginia, on healthcare workforce training and needs gap analysis.

Mekolichick and Professor of Health and Human Performance Pam Frasier will lead Radford’s work in the collaboration.

“The ultimate goal is to develop a consortium to drive enrollment in healthcare programs at partner institutions and support economic development in the associated service regions by filling healthcare talent needs in these areas,” Mekolichick said. “As stewards of place, the goals of this project are mission-central to Radford University, and we are thrilled to have the support of ARC to advance this initiative.”

This project encompasses 235 counties in Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. Only six of those counties are not in an area designated a primary care health professional shortage area, and just four are not in a dental care health professional shortage area.

“Central Appalachia faces persistent challenges in healthcare recruitment, and this collaborative effort seeks to address these issues to increase economic vitality in this region,” said Michael Meit, director of the Center for Rural Health Research in the College of Public Health at ETSU. “Together, the institutions involved in this project will play a pivotal role in preparing a healthcare workforce tailored to address the specific needs of local communities.”