USC partners with HBCUs to ensure student talent enters rural health care

February 5, 2024

In a groundbreaking move, the University of South Carolina’s SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare (CRPH) has joined forces with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to address healthcare disparities in the state. The collaborative effort, known as the SC HBCU Health Discovery Program, aims to leverage the unique talents and perspectives of HBCUs to enhance health outcomes and bridge gaps in South Carolina’s rural communities.

At the heart of this initiative is a commitment to providing mentorship and networking opportunities, establishing a sustainable pipeline of diverse student talent destined for the healthcare workforce. The steering committee, comprised of student ambassadors, rural health experts, representatives from partnering schools, and legislative delegates, will play a pivotal role in guiding the program’s direction and impact.

Dr. Patricia Witherspoon, CRPH Medical Director, will lead the clinical outreach and medical workforce programs. Her expertise will be instrumental in increasing access to specialized healthcare services in the state’s underserved rural areas.

Joining her is Michele Stanek, an experienced professional with a background in practice improvement and transformation. Stanek has successfully implemented initiatives in rural health clinics and practices throughout South Carolina, contributing valuable insights to the program.

The collaborating HBCUs, Claflin University and Voorhees University, bring their distinctive initiatives to the table, each aimed at reducing health disparities and providing students with real-world experience.

Claflin University’s DEEP Wellness initiative, situated in rural Orangeburg, will introduce primary care services for both students and community residents. Utilizing Smart HOME technology and AI, the program will engage students and community members by promoting healthy behaviors, particularly focusing on chronic disease management. This innovative approach not only addresses immediate healthcare needs but also establishes a foundation for long-term wellness.

Voorhees University has received a planning grant to assess health needs in the community and on its Denmark campus. The findings will inform the creation of targeted interventions to alleviate the burden of chronic illness. Additionally, Voorhees aims to initiate a healthy campus program, providing students with comprehensive health resources for a holistic approach to well-being.

The significance of this partnership goes beyond academic collaboration—it speaks to a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare. By harnessing the talent and perspectives from HBCUs, the SC HBCU Health Discovery Program is poised to make a meaningful impact on healthcare disparities in South Carolina’s rural areas.