Dr. Sandra Bresnahan returns residence to assist the Lexington neighborhood

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UNK and UNMC work collectively to deliver extra medical professionals to rural Nebraska

When Dr. Sandra Bresnahan was a toddler, she usually got here together with her mother and father to physician’s appointments. Her mother and father have been immigrants from Mexico and did not converse a lot English. In order that they wanted her to clarify their signs to the physician and translate what they have been being informed.

“As a younger child, it’s kind of tough,” stated Bresnahan, who now works as a household doctor at Lexington Regional Well being Heart. “Youngsters needs to be secure from having to do that or discover out what their mother and father’ well being points are as a result of it creates nervousness they needn’t develop up.”

Bresnahan is a graduate of the College of Nebraska at Kearney and the College of Nebraska Medical Heart. She grew up in Lexington, a city of about 10,000 folks in central Nebraska. As with many small cities in Nebraska, Lexington is diversifying. The town’s Hispanic inhabitants has exploded lately as immigrants have been drawn to work in native meatpacking crops. Which means an increasing number of sufferers in Lexington want medical doctors who converse Spanish.

“We are inclined to bond with people who find themselves like us,” Bresnahan stated. “For somebody, if they’ve a physician who speaks Spanish, who understands their cultural beliefs, it makes them really feel slightly extra understood or safer in that atmosphere.”

Bringing Bresnahan to follow as a physician in his residence neighborhood was a coup for Lexington. Lexington Regional Well being has been monitoring Bresnahan since highschool, after they first realized of her curiosity in drugs.

“(We stated) ‘Hey, we actually need to comply with this individual and see the place issues go,'” stated Dr. Francisca Acosta-Carlson, chief medical officer at Lexington Regional Well being Heart. “And when she lastly acquired into medical college, there was positively extra strain to recruit her.”

However the want for Spanish-speaking medical doctors in Lexington is only one piece of a way more complicated puzzle. Rural cities in Nebraska face a extreme scarcity of all varieties of medical professionals. In response to a 2020 examine by the Nebraska Area Health Education Center Curriculum and UNMC, 14 of Nebraska’s 93 counties shouldn’t have a main care doctor; 16 counties don’t have any dentists; 17 don’t have any pharmacists; and the north central area of the state has just about no occupational therapists, speech pathologists, or medical vitamin therapists. The examine stated Nebraska’s inhabitants shifts are exacerbating the issue, and the result’s rising inequality and unmet well being care wants.

A part of the problem is that it may be tough to persuade folks to maneuver to a small city, particularly medical doctors and different healthcare professionals who could take into account alternatives in large cities and wish to make sure they will repay excessive medical college tuition. However the UNK and UNMC are dedicated to altering the established order.

Sandra Bresnahan, a graduate of UNK, works as a family physician at Lexington Regional Health Center.
Sandra Bresnahan, a graduate of UNK, works as a household doctor at Lexington Regional Well being Heart.


In 2010, the 2 teamed as much as create the Kearney Health Opportunities Program. KHOP provides college students all for healthcare careers a full scholarship to attend UNK and assured admission to UNMC if all necessities are met. At present, greater than 100 UNK college students obtain their pre-professional coaching in one in all 10 medical fields. In 2015, the UNMC-UNK Health Sciences Education Complex opened, providing entry-level nursing and allied well being packages on the Kearney campus. These packages have been confirmed primarily based on the 50/50 maxim: 50% of graduates discover employment inside 80 km of the place they accomplished their residency.

“If we would like well being professionals to follow in rural communities, we have to practice them in rural communities,” stated Nicole Carritt, director of rural well being initiatives at UNMC.

The good thing about protecting well being professionals in rural communities is a number of. Not solely do small cities want the companies offered by these practitioners, however in addition they want their financial influence.

“A complicated follow registered nurse contributes about $250,000 a yr to the native financial system,” Carritt stated. “And once we’re speaking about a physician, we’re speaking about $1.3 million yearly. They’re subsequently actually vital for rising entry to care and the well being of the inhabitants, but additionally for the financial viability of our rural communities.

Extremely educated graduates additionally grow to be leaders of their communities, taking up volunteer roles or serving on boards of administrators.

Dr. Andy Craig is a household doctor with Kearney County Well being Providers in Minden. He grew up in Minden and stated he all the time needed to be a physician.

“We had a household physician that I actually appeared as much as,” Craig stated. “So whilst a child, I knew I needed to be a physician.”

Craig earned his bachelor’s diploma at UNK and enrolled at KHOP in one of many program’s first cohorts of scholars. He stated his expertise there helped him achieve each Kearney and Omaha, the place he accomplished medical college and residency at UNMC.

“Trying again on that have, it was so optimistic,” he stated. “When your aspirations are to do one thing (which requires one other 4 years of coursework), you might have individuals who assist you, individuals who need to push you to do your greatest, and individuals who care about your success.”

It additionally helped that his youthful brother Cade adopted in his footsteps.

“It isn’t one thing that I fussed over him or something,” Craig joked, “however I all the time thought it might be nice to work collectively.”

Dr. Cade Craig attended UNK 4 years after his older brother and adopted him to medical college in Omaha after getting his bachelor’s diploma. He stated when his brother began speaking about going into medical college in seventh grade, the thought caught, and now he feels fortunate that they will work collectively on the identical clinic of their hometown.

“Drugs is type of a group sport lately,” Cade Craig stated. “Particularly in complicated circumstances, having colleagues you belief and like to debate the outcomes and see what their ideas are primarily based on that knowledge is essential to having the ability to actually take care of folks.”

Drs.  Cade and Andy Craig are brothers from Minden who attended UNK, obtained KHOP positions, went to UNMC College of Medicine, and returned to Minden to practice family medicine.
Drs. Cade and Andy Craig are brothers from Minden who attended UNK, obtained KHOP positions, went to UNMC Faculty of Drugs, and returned to Minden to follow household drugs.


Cade Craig stated working towards in a rural neighborhood has many benefits, together with the number of experiences of GPs versus specialists. Andy Craig agreed and stated the relationships medical doctors construct with their sufferers are what make the job enjoyable.

“Constructing these relationships throughout generations of households is really a pleasure,” he stated. “And it actually supplies a extra holistic alternative to take care of the affected person as a result of you recognize what is going on on of their life – their stressors, their joys. This lets you higher take care of the affected person as a result of you recognize what’s going on behind the scenes.

The Craigs reside their dream they usually would not have it every other approach. However their careers could not have turned out the best way they did. They every spent seven years finding out and finishing their residencies in Omaha, and as Carritt stated, “life occurs” when folks transfer away. Generally it is laborious to come back again.

“As soon as you’ve got taken that step, typically it is actually laborious to return,” Carritt stated. “You might be uncovered to new issues; you meet folks. The truth is that the nearer we are able to hold them to residence and the place we would like them to follow, the extra doubtless they’re to remain in our rural communities.

UNK and UNMC work laborious to make sure that college students’ ties to their rural communities are nurtured all through their college profession, whether or not they’re in Kearney or Omaha, stated Principal Peggy Abels. of Well being Sciences at UNK. KHOP college students are grouped into studying communities; they stay collectively and kind bonds that final past commencement, and UNMC supplies alternatives for rural rotations at any time when doable.

However not solely can finding out in Omaha draw college students away from their rural roots, the prospect of shifting to an enormous metropolis will also be a deal breaker for some college students contemplating a profession in healthcare.

“Forty p.c of our college students are first-generation college students,” Abels stated. “For lots of them, shifting to a metropolis with a number of purple lights is type of a monumental transfer after they begin school.”

Medical college can be one of the crucial tough instructional experiences, and leaving a assist community could make the duty much more daunting.

Bresnahan, who was additionally a scholar at KHOP, stated she would have cherished the chance to attend medical college a brief drive from her residence.

“Medical college is admittedly overwhelming,” she stated. “I might attempt to come again as a lot as doable. However with the quantity of labor there’s, it was actually tough to come back again even on weekends. So it might have been good to be simply close to my residence.

UNK and UNMC are working to develop their collaboration to create extra alternatives for future medical doctors, pharmacists, public well being professionals and others to finish their research nearer to residence. These efforts obtained big assist when Nebraska lawmakers permitted $60 million through the spring legislative session to assist fund the UNK-UNMC Rural Health Education Building, which is able to price $85 million in whole. However the work just isn’t but completed. Non-public assist will probably be essential to elevating the extra $25 million wanted to finish the venture, and collaboration will probably be key to its success.

“There may be not one piece of this puzzle that’s extra vital than the opposite,” Carritt stated. “It isn’t the sources or the neighborhood or the college system. All of us have to work collectively to unravel the issues and hold our finger on the heartbeat.

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