A Model for Creating Rural Health Policy Internships

Improving our nation’s rural healthcare system begins with good public policy. On April 28th, Shepherd University hosted a seminar on rural health policy, while also formally launching a new rural policy internship opportunity for the University students.

The forum, titled “Training a New Generation to Ensure Affordable, Quality Rural Healthcare,” included an announcement of two new internships, for ten years (though 2027) at the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) or Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP). The internships are designed to help teams of Shepherd University students and their faculty mentors learn about rural health policy, ensuring a “pipeline” of rural health advocates with first-hand experience in rural health policy.

The forum addressed how to ensure access to affordable, quality healthcare for rural residents, how to select Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement approaches that help rural healthcare facilities keep their doors open, and how to attract healthcare providers to rural communities.

Speakers included Tom Morris, associate administrator and director of FORHP, who discussed current issues in rural health policy from the federal perspective; Alan Morgan, chief executive officer of NRHA, who discussed current rural health issues from an advocacy perspective; and Dr. Marcia K. Brand, chair of Shepherd’s Board of Governors, senior advisor to the Dentaquest Foundation and former FORHP director, who will gave a brief overview and history of rural health policy and announced the internships, which she will sponsor.

Shepherd University President Mary J.C. Hendrix, a nationally renowned cancer researcher, provided opening remarks; and Amy Elizondo, MPH, vice president of the program services at the NRHA, discussed her previous experience as a rural health policy intern and internship opportunities for Shepherd students

Shepherd University hopes that this is a model that others in the community might replicate to support student and faculty engagement in areas of personal and professional interest that support students’ academic goals.