|By MEGAN KUHN
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) was honored for his dedication to the improvement of rural health care when Union Hospital announced that its Midwest Center for Rural Health is being renamed the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health.
The announcement was made in front of more than 150 people, including Lugar, at a renaming ceremony on Monday at the center, which is housed in Union Hospital’s Family Practice Center in Terre Haute.
Dr. James Buechler, founder and Director Emeritus of the newly named Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health, indicated that “Sen. Lugar has been a tremendous champion for rural health in the state of Indiana, the United States and worldwide.
“We are extremely honored to be able to recognize his efforts and dedication through this renaming and are excited about the future of the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health.”
He said that the center started with lots of ideas, but little else and Lugar provided the needed federal support to get it up and running.
The veteran Indiana senator was introduced by the center’s current director Dr. James Turner.
Lugar told those gathered that he was touched when he learned of the center’s renaming.
“As I entered the room today and saw the letters spelling out the Richard G. Lugar center, I was overwhelmed,” he said. “This is truly a day of my life I will never forget.”
The mission of the center, which was established in 1992, is to prepare and train primary care physicians for successful rural practice and to expose individuals not yet decided on a career to the rewards of delivering health care services in a rural area.
“It serves as a pipeline for rural youth entering health care careers,” said Dr. Buechler.
The center’s model is built on three principles: an accredited Rural Training Track, a hands-on curriculum for future rural health providers; an understanding of how to incorporate computer and communications technology to support rural practices; and a commitment to a multidisciplinary team approach to providing health care, with the team consisting of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, mental health providers, public health providers, allied health professionals and local communities.
The center has four training facilities, including Union Hospital Family Practice Center and Union Hospital in Terre Haute; and two rural health clinics - Clay City Center for Family Medicine and Worthington Family Medicine.
Both are model-training sites that provide medical care and mental health services to rural Indiana communities.
Sen. Lugar said that the center employs a “hub-and-spoke” method.
“(Young health care professionals) get training here and then go out and practice,” he said. “That is a design that could be used by other institutions. We need to inspire individuals to practice in rural areas.”
As of June 2005, 122 physicians have graduated from the Union Hospital Family Medicine Residency program, which incorporates the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health’s rural training track curriculum.
Approximately 80 percent of the rural training track graduates have chosen to practice in rural and other underserved areas.
One of those graduates is Dr. Eric Beachy, a native of Middlebury in northern Indiana, who Dr. Buechler described as “one of those youth that went through our pipeline.”
At the renaming ceremony, Dr. Beachy said that he went into medical school wanting a rural family practice. A 2002 “graduate” of the Rural Training Track, he is now medical director of the Clay City Center for Family Medicine.
“I spent my third (residency) year at the Clay City site and really related to those people,” Dr. Beachy said. “I saw that technology made it possible to practice rurally without being isolated.”
On a visit to the Clay City site earlier in the day, Lugar said he was amazed by the office’s telemedicine capabilities and computerized record keeping.
He also was impressed with the center’s chronic disease management program. The program is designed to find new and innovative ways to help patients with chronic diseases, including hypertension, diabetes and asthma. Preventative care and patient involvement are keys to the program, Lugar said.
“Preventative medicine is a key factor in the future of health care in this country,” he said. “We need people to have self-involvement, self-discipline when it comes to their health.
“This is an extraordinary center with remarkable people,” he added. “This shows what is possible for preventative medicine, not only in a rural setting in Indiana, but in urban areas and worldwide.”
For more information about the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health, visit www.lugarcenter.org
This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.