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University of Iowa News Release


Aug. 31, 2007

$4.5 million in federal grants will aid health care access for Iowans

The University of Iowa College of Nursing and Des Moines University aim to advance Iowans' access to health care and health education with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

The three-year project is part of the national Area Health Education Centers program, which establishes local centers to create networks for recruitment and retention of health care workers in rural areas. These centers will address workforce and medical shortages in Iowa. With its $2.6 million HRSA matching grant, the UI will create three AHECs, focusing on 33 counties south of I-80, from the Mississippi River to the Missouri River.

Des Moines University (DMU) received a $1.9 million grant, which will be matched by the school, to create four AHECs focused on counties north of I-80. The project will involve three DMU colleges: Osteopathic Medicine, Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, and the College of Health Sciences. David A. Plundo, D.O., associate dean of clinical affairs for the College of Osteopathic Medicine, will direct DMU's effort. Each AHEC will recruit Iowans to health care careers by educating students as young as kindergarten age about health science career options. The centers will provide more clinical training sites for students and create more continuing education opportunities for current practitioners.

"This is an initiative we feel passionate about," said Kathleen Hanson, Ph.D., UI College of Nursing interim associate dean for academic affairs. "The funding will allow us to build strong networks to support health care professionals working in underserved and rural areas, and to encourage more young people to pursue health care careers for a healthier Iowa.

"Until now, Iowa was one of only four U.S. states without an AHEC," Hanson said. "The UI College of Nursing is one of only two nursing colleges in the nation to receive AHEC funding."

Hanson will act as the project director of the UI AHEC program, which will take an interdisciplinary approach, involving the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy and Public Health.

A long-term initiative, each AHEC will use university resources to enhance local community efforts in addressing needs specific to each location. By establishing a partnership with the local community, hospitals and clinics, the AHEC will augment current activities in each area. The universities will provide oversight for the centers, but each center will be governed by a local board of advisors.

"We are thrilled with this opportunity and look forward to improving the state of health care in Iowa," Plundo said.

The UI College of Nursing educates nurses at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels, providing both clinical experience and research opportunities. Ranked No. 1 in nursing administration education and adult and gerontologic nursing among the nation's public universities, the college also excels in child and family health, informatics and genetics. Known for the development of evidence-based protocols for care that are used throughout the nursing community, UI College of Nursing scientists seek to improve clinical outcomes and enhance nursing practice worldwide.

Des Moines University is the only private medical school in Iowa, offering graduate-level, professional degree programs in osteopathic medicine, podiatric medicine, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, biomedical sciences, anatomy, health care administration and public health. Founded in 1898, the institution offers superior academics in a collaborative environment. DMU students' pass rate on national examinations and board certifications is consistently higher than the national average and the rates at similar institutions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Nursing, 101 Nursing Building, Iowa City, Iowa 52242

MEDIA CONTACTS: Michele Francis, UI College of Nursing, 319-335-8960,; Coutney Tompkins, Des Moines University, 515-271-1576,