Rockford college students aim to expand rural health care

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 9:59 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - On average people who reside in rural or smaller communities live three to seven years less than people in urban areas. Experts attribute these numbers to being underserved when it comes to health care access.

While Illinois is trying to narrow that gap, healthcare students say there is a long way to go.

Blaine Calloni is a second-year med student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford. He says making sure rural health care matches that of urban communities is an issue that hits close to home.

“As somebody from downstate Illinois, it’s very, I mean, that’s the sentiment is that nobody’s listening,” says Calloni. “I just want to build that sense of community, who really the opportunity for students who might not have, you know, the most privileged backgrounds and be immersed in a program that rewards them for their unique kind of upbringing.”

More than 400 students who graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine’s RMED program now work in rural communities. Students like Blaine Calloni and Bella Swan are among the next generation who will try to enhance healthcare options.

“We actually get to go to the rural sites, and do some of these trainings, you know, in the communities that we talked about, and we learned about every single day,” says Swan. “We’re just a few months away from being able to meet these individuals, which is kind of exciting.”

On Wednesday the school honored those making a difference for rural patients. The Illinois Department of Public Health’s Director says those patients are the *true experts they need in order to make a difference.

“part of our focus is to better understand those deserts. Think about innovative solutions, use our funding and resources to create connection, connection of community but also connection of services,” says IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra.

The UIC College of Medicine also has $100-million project in the works to expand its facilities and programs that focus on rural health care, including dentistry and public health.

In 1989, IDPH established a Center for Rural Health to focus on enhancing health care access for those who live in rural areas.