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North universities join global forum to tackle rural healthcare challenges


By Alan Beresford

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TWO north-east universities are set to co-lead an international conference focused on understanding rural health challenges through education and workforce preparation.

RGU are set to co-host a rural healthcare conference along with Aberdeen University.
RGU are set to co-host a rural healthcare conference along with Aberdeen University.

Robert Gordon University (RGU) and the University of Aberdeen are putting the finishing touches to the ‘Converge Rural Healthcare Symposium 2021, in partnership with academics from Augusta University and the University of Georgia in the United States, which will put the spotlight on innovative and collaborative efforts to provide better care, with limited resources, through education and training initiatives.

Taking place tomorrow (Wednesday, October 27), the virtual event will explore creative solutions to address access to care, experiential learning, and connectivity challenges through catalyst talks. These presentations will foster discussions among breakout groups on ways these strategies might be replicated or enhanced while seeking opportunities for international collaboration.

Head of the Centre for Collaborative and Interprofessional Practice at RGU Laura Chalmers.
Head of the Centre for Collaborative and Interprofessional Practice at RGU Laura Chalmers.

Laura Chalmers, Head of the Centre for Collaborative and Interprofessional Practice at RGU and Co-Chair of the Converge Curriculum Committee, said: “Remote and rural healthcare in Scotland and United States share many similar significant challenges.

"Not only does geography, access to care, digital connectivity and workforce retention and recruitment contribute to the complex situation, but Covid-19 has disrupted an already stretched, complicated system.

“The Converge symposium is essential to bring expertise together to shape the future through the lens of education for the workforce, share best practices, and determine collaborations. Health and well-being are at the core of everything we do at Robert Gordon University. We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with health experts on both sides of the Atlantic to enhance healthcare and intend this to be the foundation for future partnerships that will impact our communities for the better.”

The multidisciplinary team will also include Professor Scott Cunningham, Isla Fairley, Donna Wynne, and Graham Macaulay from RGU, as well as Professor Alan Denison, Dr Angus Cooper, Dr Jerry Morse, and Professor Colin Lumsden from the University of Aberdeen.

Prof James N'Dow, Chair in Surgery at Aberdeen University.
Prof James N'Dow, Chair in Surgery at Aberdeen University.

Professor James N’Dow, Chair in Surgery at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The University of Aberdeen is delighted to be a partner in this exciting initiative geared towards transforming our approach to the delivery of quality care for those in remote and rural settings.

“There are currently many barriers to access and delivery of quality care. The Converge symposium is only the beginning; from there we look to strengthen the collaboration through staff/student exchanges, exchange programmes, PhD studentships and the establishment of other high quality research programmes aimed at improving quality of care in remote and rural settings.”

Throughout the event, students from Gray’s School of Art at RGU will also collaborate with students from Augusta University and take up positions as artists in residence, working together to develop artworks as a result of the experience. In addition, Masters journalism students from RGU will also hold a post-symposium press conference.



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