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Students selected for program that aims to prepare graduates for rural practice

MSW students Jazmyne Jones and Patrick Palladino have been selected to participate in a new university program that was created to identify, recruit, and nurture healthcare graduate students with a passion for rural healthcare.

Jones, who is enrolled in the three-year Triangle Program and Palladino, a student in the three-year Winston-Salem Program, are among a group of eight UNC students accepted into the Rural Interprofessional Longitudinal Scholars (RIPLS) Program. The new initiative is funded by the Kenan Trust and aims to empower scholars to practice in a rural community upon graduation.

The program also provides students with an interprofessional experience that promotes learning from, with, and about other healthcare professionals. The program targets students from the schools of social work, allied health, dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and public health.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our MSW students and for other health professionals to be exposed to social work,” said Lisa Zerden, the School of Social Work’s interprofessional education director. Zerden and Meryl Kanfer, co-director for UNC-PrimeCare, are involved in the RIPLs program, including with student selection.

“Our professional expertise in cultural competence, cultural humility, the interplay of micro and macro systems, and our ethical responsibility to social justice makes social workers valued members of interprofessional health care teams, particularly those in rural communities,” Zerden added.

Over the course of two years, RIPLS scholars will participate in supplemental seminars, trainings, and conferences each semester to increase their understanding of the complexities of providing health care in rural communities, while also learning how to work and collaborate on an interprofessional team. Scholars will also participate in a summer immersion experience for four to six weeks in a rural community in North Carolina.

During this immersion experience, students will work in health care teams to assess needs, provide care, and engage with community stakeholders. Zerden and Kanfer will be part of an interprofessional group of faculty to support students in their clinical and seminar learning.

To support this supplemental learning, selected students receive a scholarship of $7,500 per year and $2,000 for participation in the summer immersion. In total, this opportunity amounts to $17,000 in financial aid and a specialized training experience to enhance learning and expertise.

The program, which began this fall, will continue through spring 2021.