USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/distance-learning-telemedicine-grants awarded a $500,000 grant to help the University of South Dakota (USD) www.usd.edu strengthen healthcare services in 24 rural South Dakota communities while giving medical school and nursing students firsthand experience in telemedicine. USD’s award was the second largest of 75 grants USDA in 31 states from a total of $23.4 million.
USD’s project called “A Bridge to the Frontier: Preparing South Dakota’s Future Doctors and Nurses for Rural Practice,” creates new telemedicine connections to link health education hubs at the USD campuses in Vermillion, Pierre, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls with rural hospitals and clinics throughout the state.
The education will also help existing healthcare professionals stay current on the latest best practices over the telemedicine network through simulation centers at USD campuses. The three year program will help 675 medical school and nursing students become more comfortable working in a rural environment which may increase the likelihood that they will return to rural areas to fill the need for rural healthcare.
“This telehealth initiative is critically important to advancing our curriculum for medical students and nursing students. We feel strongly that physicians and nurses of the future must be able to leverage technology to its fullest to maximize the health of our rural populations,” said Dr. Mary Nettleman, Vice President for Health Affairs at USD and Dean of the USD Sanford School of Medicine.