The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust has awarded the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $1.5 million to establish clinical experiences for health professions students in rural areas of the state, launching the UNC Rural Interprofessional Health Initiative (RIPHI).

The proposed UNC Rural Interprofessional Health Initiative is a joint effort of the health professions schools at UNC, each of which has a similar mission – improve and promote the health and wellbeing of North Carolinians, improve public health and eliminate health inequities, advance and advocate for health care through education, practice, research, innovation and collaboration.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt said, “By bringing together the specialized talents of faculty and students from across the Carolina Community, we can make a positive impact in health care delivery. Rural communities will see the benefit through direct service and the development of a health workforce prepared to best serve their needs.”

The award from the Kenan Trust will launch a three-year pilot to provide faculty and programmatic support that will enable UNC health professions students to serve and learn in underserved rural clinic settings in North Carolina. Goals of the project are to inspire a rural health care workforce and to help transform clinical care in underserved areas.

“This collaboration will develop health professionals in rural settings, and will optimize interprofessional faculty efforts in cooperation with practicing clinicians in rural North Carolina,” said Meg Zomorodi, PhD, RN, CNL, Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Nursing. Zomorodi will serve as the Director of Interprofessional Education through the UNC RIPHI.

“These efforts will yield shared curricula, support innovative clinical delivery models with population health management strategies, and generate a health profession pipeline for rural settings.”

The aims of the UNC RIPHI include the following:

  • Cultivation of rural sites for interprofessional learners
  • Creation of interprofessional curricula focused on rural and population health
  • Mentoring and development of RIPHI Faculty Champions for interprofessional collaboration
  • Partnership with community practices to improve care of rural populations
  • Investment in rural teaching and clinic development

In addition to supporting UNC RIPHI Faculty Champions at each of the UNC Health Affairs Schools – UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, UNC Schools of Dentistry, Nursing, Social Work, and UNC School of Medicine and its Department of Allied Health Sciences, the Kenan Charitable Trust will also provide support for the UNC RIPHI Rural Site Investment Fund to foster clinical community site development and implementation.