UMB President Perman, Md. Secretary of Agriculture Hance Host Eastern Shore Town Hall
A first-time town hall meeting between residents and business leaders of Maryland's Eastern Shore and senior officials of the University of Maryland's six professional schools and Graduate School in Baltimore produced a lively and informative exchange on current and potential partnerships with the Shore.
University of Maryland President Jay A. Perman, MD, said the 115-mile trip from the Baltimore campus to the Wor-Wic Community College in Salisbury with representatives of the schools of dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work, and the Graduate School was needed. "I wanted to come and express to each of you that while we are in Baltimore, the University is a resource for the state and certainly a resource for the Eastern Shore," he told the audience of Shore residents. The program included explaining dozens of educational and information services available to citizens in the region.
Perman introduced himself by telling of his experience learning about rural health and rural work force issues while dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Kentucky for six years. He expressed his passion for getting more health care providers "to embrace rural practices. Areas of the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland, and Southern Maryland are critically low in primary physicians, many medical specialists, pharmacists, and nurses.
"There is no way we can prepare our 6,500 students [in the professional schools] just in Baltimore," said Perman, who floated an idea of possibly developing a University family medical center on the Shore. "We need to churn up more interest in rural practice in our students and physicians often stay in the area where they are trained."
The forum was co-hosted by Earl F. "Buddy" Hance, the state Secretary of Agriculture and a member of the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents. As Hance had anticipated, many in the audience were farmers and other agricultural professionals who came to ask questions and criticize a specific program of the School of Law. Last year, some environmental law students provided pro bono assistance to two environmental groups, in filing suit against a Perdue-contract chicken factory farm in Berlin, Md., and Perdue Farms, Inc.
Teresa LaMaster, JD, associate dean for planning and external relations for the School, said that while legal ethics constrain her from directly commenting on the ongoing case, she said the many suggestions by more than a dozen farmers will be considered in future planning by the School. For more than 35 years, students at the School of Law have worked alongside faculty on real-life legal cases.
The forum also allowed officials of the schools to address questions ranging from access to the School of Pharmacy's Maryland Poison Center to tuition costs for state and out-of-state residents.
Claudia Baquet, MD, MPH, associate dean for policy and planning at the School of Medicine, said, "The greatest thing that can be done in health care reform is to assure health literacy." She said the School's Center for Health Disparities is providing understandable information to the public. "It is a very important part of what we do."
David George, DDS, MBA, associate dean of finance and clinical operations at the Dental School, said the School's new clinic in northeast Maryland serves upper Eastern Shore patients as well. The clinic, which is in rural Cecil County, serves children and adults with many of the families on Medicaid.
The School of Nursing is working with health community organizations on the Shore to get the University's Wellmobile back on the road, following partial loss of state funding in 2010, said Kathryn Montgomery, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, assistant dean. The Governor's Wellmobile Program has provided episodic and common acute primary care services, health screenings, and health education to uninsured and underserved Marylanders at multiple community-based sites. Montgomery said the Wellmobile "is a very important place to educate our students and bring in our services."
Cynthia Boyle, PharmD, FAPhA, executive director for experiential learning at the School of Pharmacy, told the audience that poison specialists at the Maryland Poison Center are "very glad" to speak at educational events on the Shore. About 10 percent of calls to the center have served citizens on the Eastern Shore.
Reba Cornman, MSW, director of the University's Geriatrics and Gerontology Education and Research program, said the program provides educational programming for family caregivers through area agencies on aging and the federally funded Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center. "We provide a lot of training for students on the Eastern Shore, not only those at the University of Maryland, but also at Salisbury University, and University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
Bob Fitzgerald, Somerset County farmer, asked LaMaster of the School of Law, "How can the law school help the land owners challenge the state on environmental issues and [Maryland] Critical Area [Program] issues?" He explained that in some cases a farmer who feels that rules and laws are out of balance may not have resources available to hire a lawyer. LaMaster said, "I think that is the sort of thing the law school can be involved in." The School has "faculty that can help in those kind of cases," but she said deciding whether a certain case matches up well with a current faculty member would take further discussion, which she offered to the audience. Perman added, "That is the very thing that an individual should bring to our law school so we can consider it."
Some Eastern Shore farmers do not have access to affordable health care insurance products, said Andrea Mathias, MD, who has a family practice in Berlin, Md. She asked what the University can and will do to help, considering Maryland is a leading state in health care reform efforts. "Our schools, combined, have an extraordinary role to play in caring for the underinsured, and the uninsured," and are engaged with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and others in the Governor's Office "to move forward with more efforts," answered Perman.
Montgomery added, "To fill some of those gaps, this new day [in health care reform] leaves an opportunity for new models of care with our federally qualified health centers, with the health departments in a very different way than we did in the past, and with the [School of Medicine's] patient care medical home initiatives." She added that the current health care reform movement lets the schools "step back and see how we fit into this new fabric" of providing health care.
"As the new policy begins to be implemented," Montgomery continued, "we as leaders in health care are part of shaping that, as well as innovating new ways of assuring that people who have struggles with getting access to health care and being able to navigate the health care system." Health care professionals on the Wellmobile help some who are currently underinsured get help from programs they are eligible for and don't know about, she added. ý
Jennie Bloom, MSW, associate dean for administration and registration, represented the University of Maryland School of Social Work.