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RHRI History

In the Fall of 2009, to promote an environment that fosters interdisciplinary rural health research activities at Georgia Southern University, Dr. Bryant Smalley of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) and Dr. Jacob Warren of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH) met with University Administration to form a structure that would promote cross-college collaborative projects focused on rural health.  Recognizing the vast collaborative potential of the rural health focus of both Colleges, the University supported formation of the Rural Health Research Alliance, creating a formal connection between CLASS and JPHCOPH under the joint direction of Dr. Smalley and Dr. Warren.  The goal of the Alliance was to increase external funding for rural health research and outreach at Georgia Southern University by creating interdisciplinary, cross-college research teams. Funding for the Alliance’s initial project, CHANGES, was awarded to the Directors from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office of Rural Health Policy to support a county-wide faith-based network to build health ministries and conduct health screening fairs in Bulloch County.  Soon thereafter, the Alliance’s Directors published the text Rural Mental Health, representing the first text of its kind to focus specifically on the mental health needs and treatment options for rural communities.

Based upon the success of the Alliance in securing funds and generating scholarly works, the Alliance was officially transformed into the Rural Health Research Institute (RHRI) in January 2011.  The Institute was charged with building capacity for rural health research at Georgia Southern University.  Dr. Smalley and Dr. Warren served as the Institute’s Founding Executive Directors until Fall of 2013, when Dr. Warren relocated to Mercer University and Dr. Smalley became the RHRI’s sole Executive Director.  Within 18 months of its official formation, the Executive Directors received an additional $6 million in federal funding, including NIH Center of Excellence funding through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.  The Center of Excellence funding, representing a collaboration between the Rural Health Research Institute and the Mercer University Center for Rural Health and Health Disparities (CRHHD), allowed for the completion of a comprehensive research, training, and community engagement initiative throughout rural areas of Georgia.  Other federally-funded initiatives led by the Executive Directors include HRSA-funded childhood obesity and diabetes education initiatives, as well as CNCS-funded work focused on senior wellness.

The RHRI continues to focus on novel methods to improve health within rural communities, and welcomes collaboration with new partners.

Last updated: 11/17/2017