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RHRI Receives National Rural Health Award

RHRI-Logo-315x169The National Rural Health Association presented Georgia Southern’s Rural Health Research Institute (RHRI) with the “2016 Outstanding Rural Health Program Award” for its DESRE program, which trains undergraduate and graduate students in rural health.

The DESRE (Disparities Elimination Summer Research Experience) program is a collaborative training partnership with the Mercer University Center for Rural Health and Health Disparities (CRHHD). The program brings together undergraduate and graduate students from across the country to participate in an intensive, full-time, six-week residential training experience designed to help them develop skills as rural health disparities researchers. The program includes didactic coursework and hands-on rural health research experience, and guides students through a comprehensive community immersion program which provides professional development to help advance their careers.

“We’re especially proud of this year’s winners,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, which gives the award each year following a nationally competitive process. “They have each already made tremendous strides to advance rural health care, and we’re confident they will continue to help improve the lives of rural Americans.”

Bryant Smalley, Ph.D., Psy.D., executive director of RHRI, and Jacob Warren, Ph.D., director for the CRHHD, created the DESRE program as part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center of Excellence grant, awarded to the directors in order to enact a comprehensive rural health disparities elimination research, training and outreach initiative. Since its creation in 2013, DESRE has grown exponentially, now boasting a pool of more than 500 applicants for its upcoming 2016 program. Participants have come from 17 universities in 12 different states, representing 18 different majors.

“DESRE is truly a unique program that provides students the opportunity to explore careers focused on rural health and health disparities issues,” said Smalley. “The program has grown tremendously in the past four years, and we are honored to receive this recognition from the National Rural Health Association.”

Several additional Georgia Southern and Mercer faculty and staff collaborate in the program’s implementation, including Kathy Anderson, Ph.D., ARNP, PMH, LMFT (Nursing); Janie Wilson, Ph.D. (Psychology), Beverly Graham, Ph.D. (Communication Arts), and Nikki Barefoot, Psy.D. (RHRI) at Georgia Southern; and Cherell Cottrell-Daniels (CRHHD), and Maya Robinson (CRHHD) at Mercer University. DESRE is funded by grant P20MD006901 through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

The Rural Health Research Institute is an interdisciplinary hub of rural health research and outreach within Georgia Southern University. Its mission is to improve health in rural areas by promoting cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research and outreach that connects faculty from diverse fields and promotes the development of researchers examining rural health issues. To learn more about the Rural Health Research Institute, visit


Posted in Awards, Faculty