Rural Health Care

By Kirsten J. Barnes

Center for Community-Based Partnerships

Having grown up in Alabama, W. Sim Butler was familiar with health care issues in his home state. However, while working on his doctorate in Communication and Information Sciences, Butler discovered a connection between the medical and information fields.

"The negotiation of health care, especially within rural communities, created an intersection of these interests," said Butler, a Montgomery native working on his third degree from The University of Alabama.

By focusing on rural health care and the shortage of primary care physicians and specialists, Butler was able to gain insight into the medical needs of these communities. "I recently traveled to Greensboro, Ala., an amazing small town in the western part of the state," Butler said. "There, some wonderful community leaders are struggling with unique rural health care issues. Those leaders inspired me to learn more about the training and education of rural health care providers."

Although one-fifth of America lives in rural places, only about 10 percent of physicians practice there. Because they travel greater distances to reach a medical facilitiy, rural residents are nearly twice as likely as urban citizens to die from injuries. These and other issues related to rural life and health care led Butler to pursue his research. The title of his presentation is "Doc Out of the Box: Recruiting Doctors to Rural Communities."