Business & Economy Georgia Impact Health & Wellness

UGA wins national award for helping rural community sustain local health care

The University of Georgia has received a national Award of Excellence from the University Economic Development Association for its work in rural Georgia to save a local hospital from closing and to improve medical service for community residents.

The Archway Partnership, a unit of UGA’s Division of Public Service and Outreach, won the top award during the UEDA’s annual summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oct. 21-23. Summit participants from across the U.S. cast votes to determine the winners after finalists presented their award entries.

“It is truly an honor to be selected for this national award by a group of our peers,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This is well-deserved recognition for our public service and outreach faculty and staff, who fulfill this university’s land-grant and sea-grant mission by addressing critical issues across the state.”

Taylor Regional Hospital in Pulaski County, about 50 miles south of Macon, was within days of shutting down in December 2015 because it did not have enough funds to complete a Community Needs Health Assessment of the hospital, as required by the Affordable Care Act. Without the assessment, the hospital would lose its nonprofit status and be forced to close.

The Archway Partnership and the UGA College of Public Health partnered with Taylor Regional Hospital to complete the assessment, with then-CPH doctoral students Ayanna Robinson and Sabrina Tyndal Cherry, helping to define the community and service area, create a community profile, conduct focus groups and administer a survey to residents of the area. The results showed a significant need for the facility and for the addition of a walk-in clinic for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

Since Taylor Express, a walk-in clinic next to the hospital, opened in June 2016, traffic in the emergency room has declined by 10 percent, saving the hospital money.

“The work of the Archway Partnership in Pulaski County truly stands out as exceptional,” said Dr. E.R. “Skip” McDannald, who retired as Taylor Regional administrator on Oct. 1 and accompanied Archway Partnership faculty and staff to the UEDA summit. “Our hospital benefited and the outlook improved as a direct result of this partnership with the university and our local stakeholders through the Archway Partnership.”

Archway Partnership Director Rob Gordon said that, following the success in Pulaski County, UGA faculty and students are working in other Archway communities to address health care concerns.

“This is a great example of how UGA’s commitment to rural Georgia through the Archway Partnership is directly helping Georgia’s communities,” Gordon said. “We appreciate the long-standing partnership that we have with the leaders of Hawkinsville and Pulaski County and are proud that our work has made a real and positive impact on their ability to keep Taylor Regional open and to continue providing quality health care for their citizens.”

Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Libby V. Morris said the project exemplifies how the university’s public service and outreach programs connect students and faculty with communities across Georgia.

“Participation in the Archway Partnership and service-learning courses challenges students to apply their knowledge to addressing the critical needs of our state,” Morris said. “These are the kinds of lessons that resonate with students long after graduation.”