Rural Health Crisis: Bringing Providers and Care to Rural Alabama
In many urban areas of the United States, there is no shortage of healthcare professionals. Whether those professionals are in private practice or in the hospital system, many are accessible geographically and specialists are common. Unfortunately, residents in more rural areas don’t always have the same experience. In many rural areas in the United States, residents are facing multiple roadblocks to care: physicians and nurses are not always available, residents may have to drive several hours to seek care, trust in healthcare professionals may be low, and the potential financial burden of a doctor’s visit may be high because of gaps in healthcare coverage. These roadblocks lead to fewer doctor visits, fewer wellness checkups, and a resulting higher likelihood of larger health concerns as residents age or don’t seek treatment for early symptoms. Join us for a conversation with Roger Smalligan, MD, MPH, as he discusses a program through the University of Alabama at Birmingham-Huntsville that works to train doctors to serve rural areas of Alabama and increase access to care for rural residents.
Roger Smalligan, MD ’87, MPH ’93, joined the University of Alabama at Birmingham-Huntsville as Dean of the Regional Medical Campus in 2017. This position allowed him to combine his passion for providing outstanding clinical care, teaching the next generation of physicians and facilitating research at smaller centers. He received his MD at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, completed Med-Peds training at Vanderbilt, and a Master of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Nine years leading in a rural hospital in the Amazon region of Ecuador later led to academic endeavors from Tennessee to Texas to Alabama. He has published over 40 articles in the peer-reviewed literature and over 100 abstracts at regional and national meetings.
One of the realities Smalligan encountered in Alabama was a severe shortage of physicians in the many rural counties. He was able to support and encourage a small but strong faculty team that was working hard to identify talented rural young people and help prepare them for life as rural physicians in the state. These efforts have been successful and Smalligan is now applying lessons learned to bolster the diversity of the student body at the same time.
Smalligan enjoys spending time with his wife and friends in activities such as running, hiking, playing tennis, and attending cultural and church activities.