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(Senate - May 24, 2012)

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[Pages S3625-S3626]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


 Mr. NELSON of Nebraska. Mr. President, today I wish to 
recognize the 20th anniversary of a successful program in my home State 
of Nebraska called the Rural Health Education Network, or RHEN which 
focuses on increasing the health workforce.
  The RHEN program was established at the University of Nebraska 
Medical Center, UNMC, as an effort to develop a network of volunteer 
faculty in communities across the State who would serve as mentors for 
students entering into various health care professions to perform rural 
rotations as part of their training. This partnership between UNMC and 
these Nebraska communities provides hands-on training for these health 
profession students.
  Working with volunteer faculty across rural Nebraska communities, 
almost all UNMC students are able to complete a rural rotation during 
their education. Students spend up to 2 months living and working in a 
rural community under the guidance of a local health professional. In 
2010, more than 530 students from UNMC participated in 854 rural 
rotations in 74 Nebraska communities. The program allows these UNMC 
students to experience the good life in Nebraska communities, inspiring 
many students to launch a health career in a smaller community.
  The RHEN program has since expanded to promote career opportunities 
in health care to students in rural areas and smaller communities. In 
fact, RHEN has become the umbrella under which most of UNMC's rural 
outreach education activities are accomplished.
  One goal of RHEN has been to create innovative programs at the 
undergraduate level and establish a career pipeline for students from 
rural areas to become health care professionals in rural Nebraska. A 
key component in attaining this goal was the establishment of the Rural 
Health Opportunities Program, or RHOP.
  Built on the logic that persons raised in rural areas are more likely 
to return to rural areas after school, RHOP gives youth from rural 
areas a head start in pursuing a health care career. Under RHOP, 
qualified high school graduates receive tentative acceptance into one 
of nine UNMC health profession programs when they begin undergraduate 
studies at either Chadron State or Wayne State College in Nebraska. The 
undergraduate tuition is waived for these students, provided they meet 
all applicable academic standards.
  The RHOP program provides students a career path to nearly every 
health care field, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, 
dental hygiene, physical therapy, physician assistant, radiography, and 
clinical laboratory science. Since its inception,
  Seventy-five percent of all practicing UNMC RHOP graduates have 
worked in a rural community for at least part of their careers;
  Currently, 183 out of 359 practicing RHOP graduates are health care 
providers in rural Nebraska;
  Two hundred fifty-three RHOP alumni are practicing in 57 Nebraska 
counties; and
  Seventy percent of RHOP graduates stay in Nebraska.

[[Page S3626]]

  Based on RHOP's initial success, UNMC has since developed three 
additional early admission programs:
  The Kearney Health Opportunities Program grants students at the 
University of Nebraska-Kearney, UNK, pre-admission to UNMC in five 
programs including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, radiography, and 
clinical laboratory science.
  A collaboration between Peru State College and the UNMC College of 
Pharmacy reserves three slots each year in the College of Pharmacy for 
Peru State graduates.
  The Public Health Early Admission Student Track allows Chadron State, 
Wayne State, Peru State, and UNK to each annually select three students 
for direct enrollment into a UNMC Public Health graduate program to 
help relieve the critical shortage of public health workers in rural 
  Additionally, since 1993, UNMC has sponsored annual science meets for 
eighth graders in Nebraska communities to get students interested in 
science-based careers. More than 1,000 students have participated in 
these meets. Further, RHEN hosts a career day each year for more than 
250 students to visit and experience UNMC.
  Now recognized as one of the most effective health workforce 
development programs in my state, RHEN's anniversary provides the 
perfect opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of this amazing 
program and how it is making a difference across Nebraska. To 
illustrate, RHEN's focus is one of the reasons why U.S. News & World 
Report ranks UNMC's primary care medicine program among the top 10 in 
the country.
  In closing, the Rural Health Education Network program has made a 
significant difference in helping students become health care 
professionals for rural Nebraska, and I extend my congratulations to 
this program on 20 years of making a positive impact and increasing the 
health care workforce across Nebraska.