Preparing Students for a Career in Rural Healthcare

Preparing Students for a Career in Rural Healthcare

November 24, 20202 min read

As a recent guest on the Solutions for Higher Education podcast, Rita Osborn discussed Southern Utah University’s Rural Health Scholars program with SUU President Scott L Wyatt and host Steve Meredith.

Rita Osborn is the executive director of the Utah Center for Rural Health and founded the highly successful Rural Health Scholars program at Southern Utah University.

Osborn is most passionate about assisting and advising students who aspire for health career careers, particularly for first-generation students who hail from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The literature shows that a high percentage of the students deselect from choosing a healthcare career field very early on in junior high school/middle school,” said Osborn. “We want to keep that student motivated through high school and get them to one of our universities, so that their career goals can manifest themselves, and then hopefully return to practice in a rural community where they've grown up and served.”

Through a series of academic and non-academic experiences, Rural Health Scholars helps students increase their likelihood of being accepted into medical, dental, physical therapist, occupational therapist, physician assistant, nursing, podiatry, optometry, veterinary, healthcare administration and allied health schools.

“Many, many of our students choose to come to SUU because we offer some things that our larger counterparts don't offer,” said Osborn. “We offer engaged learning, experiential learning, we offer small class sizes, and our students benefit by that, especially when they come from a rural or an underrepresented background.”

“It's digging in and allowing these students to tell their story and finding time to listen to that story and then help them craft their personal experience into who they're going to become. You know, our students have so many multiple stressors on them right now, especially at a rural school like ours. We have a lot of first generation students, we have students that need to work to keep their debt low, we do experience a challenge with our students committing the time and energy, so helping them find that time and energy to get through these things is good. Our lessons learned? We wish we would have created some things earlier on to make it easier for students to stay in touch with us.”

Serving more than 500 students across southern and eastern Utah, Rural Health Scholars offers many benefits to members. Based on standards from the University of Utah School of Medicine, Rural Health Scholars focuses on several areas to best prepare students for a career in health care.

Rita Osborn specializes in healthcare in rural Utah. She has written and overseen successful grants and contracts to support many programs, including two recent $1 million federal grants to address the opioid crisis in several rural counties in Utah. Osborn is well known with media and available for an interview – simply visit his profile to arrange a time.

Connect with:
  • Rita Osborn
    Rita Osborn Executive Director of Utah Center for Rural Health

    Specializing in rural Utah healthcare, community building, and project management.

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