TRUCKEE, Calif. — Employees and supporters of the Tahoe Forest Health System gathered Friday in Olympic Valley to celebrate the launch of the hospital's Rural- PRIME initiative.
The initiative partners Tahoe Forest again with the University of California, Davis, training third and fifth year medical students to work with medically under-served population in rural communities to improve access and reduce disparities in health care.
It's one of multiple partnerships with UC Davis, including the Cancer Care Network, which brings urban cancer care to Truckee and the Tahoe Forest's designation as an Institute of Rural Health Research.
As a part of the Rural- PRIME program, medical students from UC Davis complete their training at Tahoe Forest rather than urban hospitals. The result, according to officials, is more involvement with procedures and the real-world challenges for doctors who don't have a legion of specialists at their disposal — like medical students at university health centers do.
"Increasing the number of primary care physicians who plan to practice in rural areas and using telemedicine connections to offer access to speciality care are two ways UC Davis is working to address the health-care needs of residents living beyond major urban areas," said Thomas Nesbitt, UC Davis vice chancellor for Strategic Alliances and Partnerships and a national leader in rural health. "Tahoe Forest Health System has been redesigning the way health-care services are delivered in a rural community and it offers and excellent learning experience for our students."
According to a Davis press release, rural communities often lack the full spectrum of medical services urban areas enjoy. In California 20 percent of the population lives in rural communities, but only 9 percent of physicians practice in these areas.
Liz Benowetz and Jack Becker were two UC Davis students in attendance Friday at the welcome barbecue hosted by Fred and Barbara Ilfeld. UC Davis is training the students in OBGYN, pediatric and primary care.
Tahoe Forest named Rural Center of Excellence
For Taking on medical students in the rural setting and continuing commitment to the improvement of rural medical care, the UC Davis Health System named the Tahoe Forest Health System its first "Rural Center of Excellence" last week.
The designation is partially owed to Tahoe Forest's addition of medical students and its willingness to embrace new approaches to rural health care services, according to a Friday release.
UC Davis Health System has established the Rural Centers of Excellence designation to help advance the delivery of health care in rural areas.
"Being designated a center of excellence recognizes our long-standing commitment to offer quality care for our community," said Robert Schapper, chief executive officer for the 60-year old Tahoe Forest Health System. "One of our primary goals is to bridge the gaps in health care services that challenge rural providers. Whether it's linking patients to medical specialists or giving our physicians access to the latest in medical education and training, our mission is to be able to provide everything right here in our own community."
UC Davis plans to partner with other health systems around the state committed to improving rural health and willing to become teaching sites for medical students. Tahoe Forest Health System, for example, is addressing the challenges facing many rural health providers by integrating and focusing resources on the delivery of high-quality clinical care, creating a continuous learning environment for doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals and providing medical research opportunities and easier access to innovative treatments for local residents.
It is part of the UC Davis Cancer Care Network, a program which improves cancer care in rural areas through technology. Cancer specialists from around California can quickly and easily attain information about patients in Truckee and use that information to create a more thorough diagnosis and treatment plan, which patients previously would need to travel more than 100 miles to recieve.
Sierra Sun reporter Kyle Magin contributed to this report.