Last updated: September 13. 2013 2:24PM - 3858 Views
By - aholliday@civitasmedia.com

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HAZARD—Summer is over and students at most points on the education spectrum are getting settled into new classes. Some students and instructors at the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) are not only getting used to new classes, but brand new programs as well.

Dr. Fran Feltner, director of the CERH, said this was the first semester for a new bachelor of arts in social work (BASW) program at the center.

“The recent addition of the BASW is a shining example of many months of planning and coordination with faculty and leadership at the UK College of Social Work who have supported our efforts to meet local job market needs for this career,” Feltner said.

Feltner explained that previous to this semester, students in the area interested in a degree in social work who did not want to leave the area could only receive their associates’ degree at Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) and would have to go elsewhere for a bachelors’ program. Now, since the CERH also offers a masters’ degree in social work, students can receive all of their education without ever having to leave the area.

Evelyn Wood, director of public relations for HCTC, said students and staff at the college are excited for the new possibilities this opens up for the area.

“We just keep expanding the number of offerings that we’re having for students so they can get their education here and not leave home,” Wood said.

The CERH, which opened in 1990, held a celebration for students on Thursday to welcome them back to classes, giving students from HCTC and UK free T-shirts and a free lunch. Feltner addressed the students during the celebration.

“We do have many health disparities in the counties that we live in and one of the great things that we can do here to decrease our health disparities is to have students like you come through the health care field and be able to go out and provide services,” she said. “It’s very important that you get a good degree, that you learn and that you learn about your community, that you have community involvement, and be able to make a difference and maybe move the needle a little bit away from us being the worst in diabetes, the worst in heart disease.”

Feltner said the school has about 125 students currently enrolled and that around 80-90 percent of students that graduate from the CERH go on to work in rural areas like those they grew up in, many even staying in the area to work.

“As you graduate as UK students here at the center, you’ll be among 600 students to do so. So, you join the ranks of many, many successful people that are out in the field as doctors of physical therapy, as social workers,” Feltner said.

Feltner also said plans are underway for a bachelor of health sciences in human health sciences to begin accepting students in 2014, though those plans are not set in stone.

“We are very proud of these outcomes and we want students to understand a high quality education is attainable at the local level. The same curriculums, requirements, and accreditation standards are followed here just as they are on (the) main campus,” Feltner said.

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