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Gift helps launch Rural Health Initiative at WSU

Panorama of Ellensburg, Washington and the Yakima River.
The Rural Health Initiative at WSU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is a 10-year plan to improve access to health care in Washington’s rural communities. (Ellensburg, Wash. and the Yakima River basin; Adobe stock image)

A $2.2 million gift to Washington State University’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) will increase opportunities for PharmD students to focus on the health care needs of residents in rural Washington.

This extraordinary anonymous gift has helped to launch CPPS’ Rural Health Initiative (RHI) to improve access to health care in the rural communities of Washington. Started in the fall of 2021, RHI is an ambitious 10-year plan to create opportunities for student pharmacists and post-graduate pharmacists to specialize in delivery of rural health care. Access to health care providers in rural Washington continues to be a challenge for the nearly 800,000 residents living in these areas. It’s estimated that Washington needs 600 new providers to eliminate this gap in access to care. The Rural Health Initiative aims to alleviate this problem.

“As someone who grew up in rural Washington, this initiative is personal for me and a labor of love,” said WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Dean Mark Leid. “Our Rural Health Initiative will serve the underserved citizens across rural Washington, create pathways so that our students and graduates specialize in delivery of rural health care, and catalyze economic development in these underserved areas.

“Our efforts will initially focus on rural areas in the central and eastern regions of the state, but my hope is that the solutions and programs that we develop together will be scalable to include all rural areas of the state and beyond. My sincerest thanks to our donor for this transformational gift that, to my knowledge, is the largest single gift the college has ever received.”

WSU President Kirk Schulz praised the program for the difference it will make for rural communities who often find themselves many miles from adequate health care and guidance.

“This innovative initiative will help deliver access to health care to hundreds of thousands of people where they are, while also creating opportunities for WSU students to benefit from valuable real-world experiences,” Schulz said. “The impact of this program and the philanthropic investments made in it will change lives and make a tangible difference for the people and communities WSU serves, regardless of where they are located.”

Expanding skills, empowering communities

Funds invested for the initiative will help recruit students from rural areas, train students with a focus on rural health care, and embed faculty and residencies in these communities. Through this steady pipeline of trained health care professionals, the college aims to increase the number of health care workers serving rural populations over 10 years.

“We are setting into motion our vision to make health care more accessible for Washington’s rural and underserved communities in the context of our mission as a land-grant university,” Leid said. “If you know of a student who has great potential to return to their rural community armed with knowledge to treat patients, we encourage you to refer them to our PharmD program.”

Students in the rural health track will have exclusive coursework that emphasizes rural health topics, hands-on experiences in rural clinics, and completion of a capstone project focused on improving an aspect of rural health care.

For more information about the Rural Health Initiative at Washington State University’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, visit pharmacy.wsu.edu/rural-health-initiative.

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