Auburn University Rural Health Initiative: Partnering with communities to increase access to high quality and affordable health and wellness care throughout rural Alabama.
Auburn University’s Rural Health Initiative employs a community-based approach to serve local healthcare needs through the innovative technology of the OnMed® Telehealth Station coupled with hands-on wellness care provided by University faculty and students.
University Outreach is addressing significant health disparities across rural Alabama in partnership with Pharmacy, Nursing, Human Sciences, and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. This accessible and innovative healthcare option combines the state-of-the art OnMed® telehealth station with hands-on wellness care provided through university faculty and students in health-related fields. The telehealth station provides users with an affordable, private and efficient experience by facilitating a real-time patient encounter with an Alabama licensed clinician in a virtual setting through the use of diagnostic tools available for practitioner-guided self-use.
The Auburn University team members have worked closely with leaders from the City of LaFayette, Alabama and the Chambers County Commission to develop and launch this project. This collaboration resulted in identifying a vacated health clinic as the ideal location for the Chambers County Community Health and Wellness Center.
Once complete, The Center will engage university students and faculty from diverse disciplines with community members to support their overall well-being. Nursing students will support diabetes management and asthma education. Pharmacy students will provide medication management education. Speech, language and hearing students will support communication needs. Ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations and testing will be provided during all hours of operation. Examples of other disciplines committed to engagement are kinesiology, social work, nutrition science, human development and family science, and counseling.
In the News
- City of LaFayette accepts bid for Community Health Center
- LaFayette to request bids for OnMed facility
- Rural Health Project bringing telehealth to LaFayette
- $400,000 CDGB grant awarded for OnMed project
Discussions and regional convenings to focus upon solutions to address rural health disparities with campus and community-based partners began in October 2020. The team formalized their commitment to launch the rural health project in Chambers County through a Memorandum of Understanding in August of 2021. Other key junctures in the project plans as well as the intended launch date are noted by interacting with the timeline below.
Introductory meetings and program proposal discussions.
October 2020 - Present
Conceptualizing and planning meetings with AU faculty.
December 2020 - June 2021
Budgeting, Securing Funding
July 2021 - January 2024
Continued Community Engagement
August 2021 - December 2021
Secure MOU, Licensing Agreement, ADECA Grant
March 2022 - July 2022
Station Demonstration and Health and Wellness Activities
Grand opening of Chambers County Community Health and Wellness Center
As a community based-and collaboratively led initiative, Auburn University campus and community partners work to ensure that community health and wellness remain at the forefront. For this reason, each partner plays a key role in all planning and decision-making. Auburn University is honored to spearhead the rural health project in Chambers County and work alongside stellar community leaders in Chambers County and the City of LaFayette as equal partners. Key project leaders are listed and updated regularly as the project evolves.
- Auburn University
- Project Leadership
- Royrickers Cook, Vice President of University Outreach and Associate Provost
- Paul Brown, Associate Director, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
- Hollie Cost, Assistant Vice President of University Outreach and Public Service
- Linda Gibson-Young, Professor of Nursing
- Jennifer Kerpelman, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, Graduate Studies and Outreach, College of Human Sciences
- Tim Moore, Associate Dean for Research, Pharmacy
- Rachel Snoddy, Chambers County Extension Coordinator
- Chippewa Thomas, Director, Faculty Outreach and Engagement
- Department/College/School Affiliations
- Academic Effectiveness: Kyes Stevens (Alabama Prison Arts and Education Program)
- Business: James Barth, Uzma Raja
- Education/Kinesiology: Kristina Neely, Austin Robinson
- Education: Chippewa Thomas, Malti Tuttle, Margie Taylor, Nick Derzis (Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling), Sean Forbes (Educational Foundations, Leadership and Technology)
- Engineering: Cheryl Seals (Computer Science and Software Engineering), Richard Sesek (Industrial Systems Engineering)
- Human Sciences: Alicia Powers, Katrina Akande, Onikia Brown, Donna Burnett, Portia Johnson, Corry Cobb
- Industrial and Graphic Design: Jerrod Windom, Shea Tillman
- Liberal Arts: Tannista Banerjee (Economics), Joan Harrell (Journalism), Jennifer Robinson (Psychology), Laura Plexico, Erin Reynolds, Laura Willis, Kelli Watts (Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences), Felicia Tuggle (Social Work and Sociology
- Nursing: Linda Gibson-Young, Tiffani Chidume, Katilya Ware, Rachel Sweeney, Sarah Watts
- Pharmacy: Tim Moore, C. Edward Chou, Kimberly Braxton Lloyd, Jeanna Sewell, Heather Whitley, Courtney Gamston
- Veterinary Medicine: Melisa Camus, Douglass Martin (Administration), Nancy Merner, Kelley Steury (Pathobiology)
- Project Leadership
- Chambers County
- Sam Bradford, Chambers County Commissioner
- Chris Busby, Deputy Director, Chambers County Economic Development
- Debra Riley, Chambers County Commission, Chair
- City of LaFayette
- Louis Davidson, City Clerk
- Jim Doody, Fire Chief
- Kenneth Vines, Mayor
In the true spirit of collaboration, the Chambers County Community Health and Wellness center is supported through grants and monetary contributions by The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), the Alfa Corporation, Auburn University, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Chambers County Commission, and The City of LaFayette.
The Chambers County Community Health and Wellness Center is located at 404 9th Avenue, LaFayette, AL, 36862, conveniently within walking distance of the Department of Human Resources as well as grocery, dining and other establishments. Housed in a vacated medical clinic, the building provides space for expansion as well as full accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
Future site of the Chambers County Community Health and Wellness Center
The Center will feature these services as well as other areas as needs emerge:
- Diagnostic evaluations conducted through telehealth services
- Speech, language and hearing evaluations and treatment
- Medication management strategies
- Asthma self-care
- Diabetes management
- Health and nutrition programming
- Pop-up clinics providing health and wellness education at locations throughout the community
Auburn University Outreach began exploring options to expand healthcare access, particularly in regions adversely impacted by COVID-19. By partnering with university leaders in Pharmacy, Nursing, Human Sciences and Alabama Cooperative Extension System the team vetted telehealth and service delivery options.
The Rural Health Initiative partners with communities to increase access to high quality and affordable health and wellness care throughout rural Alabama. In addition, it offers a growing network of educational programming addressing physical, mental, and relational health needs.
The Center will be the physical location in LaFayette where the services developed by the Rural Health Initiative will be housed. Project leadership aim to develop similar programming throughout rural Alabama.
The OnMed® telehealth station features the most advanced technology available in telehealth. This standalone unit enables patients to have a life-size, private, real-time virtual experience with a licensed medical professional using self-guided diagnostic tools. Upon exit, patients receive prescriptions for any necessary medication, or the unit dispenses the medication instantly.
The project is supported through in-kind and financial contributions by all key partners as well as corporate grants. Partners and funders include the City of LaFayette, Auburn University, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Chambers County, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alfa Corporation and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Once the OnMed® station is installed and operational, community groups will be invited to interact with the station through a simulated experience. This experience will enable the team to fully evaluate the readiness of the station for a full-scale launch, slated for Spring 2023.
There are no costs associated with attending events or participating in health and wellness education at the Center. The cost for a telehealth station visit is $45 per patient.
Last Updated: October 24, 2022