Scarcity of surgery services in rural areas focus of Creighton symposium
Addressing the challenges of delivering surgical services to persons living in rural areas was the subject of a Creighton University symposium held Sept. 8 at the Omaha Marriott in downtown Omaha.
Leading national and regional experts gathered for the inaugural Creighton-CHI Health Equity in Rural Surgery Symposium, sponsored by the Creighton University Department of Surgery and jointly designed by the Creighton University School of Medicine, CHI Health and the Creighton University Office of Continuing Education.
Co-directors were Waddah Al-Refaie, MD, FACS, chair of surgery for Creighton and CHI Health, and Scott Shipman, MD, MPH, who holds Creighton’s CyncHealth Endowed Chair for Population Health.
Participants discussed rural surgery workforce training, health systems perspectives on rural surgery issues, Nebraska priorities and policies, research implications for rural access, and other topics related to supporting rural populations.
Al-Refaie says the symposium was designed for surgeons, nurses, residents, health professions faculty, professional staff and fellows and students interested in rural healthcare.
“The symposium specifically promotes equity in rural surgery,” says Al-Refaie. “The overarching goal was to develop a consensus around how to better deliver surgical care for patients at rural hospitals or who come from rural settings. How can we deliver better care and training?”
The symposium is the first in a series the Department of Surgery intends to sponsor and included the following prominent speakers:
- Bonnie Simpson Mason, MD, FAAOS, medical director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the American College of Surgeons.
- Tyler G. Hughes, MD, FACS, clinical professor of surgery and dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Salina who also serves as vice president of the American College of Surgeons.
- Sandra L. Wong, MD, MS, the William N. and Bessie Allyn Professor of Surgery and chair of the Department of Surgery at the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College.
- Jed Hansen, PhD, APRN, FNP-C, executive director of the Nebraska Rural Health Association.
Improving the availability of surgical services in rural areas of Nebraska is a priority of state government policy, Al-Refaie says.
“We live in a rural state, and some of us come from rural areas,” he says. “Addressing rural disparities is a state priority and a policy priority, which is why Creighton’s Department of Surgery funded and sponsored this symposium.”
Providing surgical services in rural areas is critically important, Shipman says. Telehealth is often proposed as a solution for providing access to physicians, he says, but surgical care requires local, hands on services.
“Access to surgical care is first and foremost a workforce issue, though telehealth can also play a role,” he says. “Creighton is training surgeons of the future, so we must ask ourselves, ‘How can we be thoughtful about how we train these surgeons so that they are prepared and open to serving underserved communities in rural parts of the state or the nation?”