Lecture series, mentoring program to address rural healthcare concerns

rural road with blue sky

Feb. 23, 2024 – DENTON – Those who live in Denton or its surrounding area are familiar with traffic, construction and the sprawl along U.S. Highway 380. Past the congestion, though, are winding roads that link farms and smaller towns. Many rural residents must make a lengthy trek to larger cities for healthcare needs.

The Texas Department of Agriculture reports that 70% of Texas counties are designated Health Care Shortage Areas (HCSA) and/or Medically Underserved Areas (MUA). 

Noralyn Pickens, PhD, OT, FAOTA, Erika Armstrong, PhD, CCC-SLP and Kristine Morris, PhD, RN, CNE are trying to engage the community in addressing rural health care access through a lecture series focused on rural health and leadership that starts at Texas Woman’s on Feb. 27. The series is funded through a grant from TWU’s Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership. The grant also will help fund a student mentorship program aimed at addressing rural health concerns. 

“We recognized the scarcity of services and opportunities for health care in rural communities immediately surrounding our campus centers,” Pickens said. “We believe Texas Woman’s can make a difference in those communities through education and training of health leaders and healthcare providers to serve rural communities.”

Pickens, the associate dean for interprofessional education and strategic initiatives at the College of Health Sciences and College of Nursing; Erika Armstrong, the CHS associate dean for academic affairs; and Morris, the interim assistant dean of nursing on the Dallas campus, will bring attention to the rural healthcare shortage while engaging students with interprofessional activities surrounding rural healthcare professions. 

Through this grant, the College of Health Sciences and the College of Nursing will host current leaders in rural health from a range of professions over the next two years. The series – Empowering Women for Rural Healthcare Leadership – focuses heavily on women in leadership. In all, the lecture will include six lectures open to the community. Pickens, Armstrong and Morris assembled a broad, diverse group of speakers who will serve as mentors to selected students and alumni.

Register in advance for in-person or webstream attendance. 

profile picture of Alva Ferndinand
Alva Ferdinand will be the first lecture speaker

“Texas Woman’s has a long history of developing women leaders – this aligns with our core values,” Pickens said. “The lecture series, and importantly the mentoring program, will create space for conversation and action on campus and in the communities where our participants live.”

Research from the World Health Organization shows that women make up 70% of the healthcare workforce, yet just one quarter of its leadership. 

“Healthcare systems need women in leadership, at all levels of management, from local to regional, national and global – in all sectors including rural environments,” Pickens said. “Rural areas are less likely to have women leaders in health care. Healthcare professionals with transformational leadership behaviors and entrepreneurial aims are necessary to serving the community’s specialized care.”

Women in healthcare do not always see themselves as leaders, even when they are. By providing an opportunity for mentorship, we hope to empower women who have big ideas to realize them,” Morris said.

Alva Ferdinand, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M School of Public Health and the director of the Southwest Rural Health Research Center, opens the lecture series at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 27.

Registration link 

“Dr. Ferdinand will set the stage for our programming by addressing national- and state-level priorities, including Healthy People 2023 goals and priorities for immediate action,” Pickens said. “Her background in public health will highlight our growing public health program and its influence.”

Ashley Anthony, a CEO at a certified rural hospital, will discuss her leadership journey in March, and Tara Haskins, a consultant for a rural school-based telehealth program, will speak in April.  

The series will continue with three more female speakers in the fall, including two alumni of Texas Woman’s.

Rural community members are invited to apply for participation in mentoring toward careers in
rural health leadership through individual rural health projects. Reach out to Dr. Pickens for more

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Amy Ruggini
Digital Content Manager

Page last updated 10:28 AM, March 7, 2024