GRHIC to Host Free Training Conference for Pediatric Health Care Professionals on October 27 at Mercer University

The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, along with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Mercer University School of Medicine, is hosting a Rural Pediatric CME Conference for Georgia's pediatricians, family medicine physicians, advanced practice practitioners, and other providers involved in the medical care of children.

This free event is offered as part of the Rural Pediatric Health Initiative and will take place on Friday, October 27, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Mercer University's Presidents Dining Room on the Macon campus.


The conference will feature expert presenters from pediatric organizations, health center programs, and statewide health education systems.

New Ways to Maintain Pediatric Certification and the Value of the Portfolio Site — Keith Mann, MD, MEd, Vice President, Continuing Certification, American Board of Pediatrics

The Importance of Rural Pediatric Care — Jean Sumner, MD, FACP, Dean, Mercer University School of Medicine

Building Resilience: A Whole Child Approach — Rachel Whaley, MSW, Strong4Life, Wellness Program Coordinator, Behavioral Mental Health, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Addressing Suicide in the Pediatric Primary Care Setting — Erin Harlow-Parker, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, Strong4Life, Manager of Child Advocacy Programs, Behavioral Mental Health, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Capabilities of the Information Exchange and How to Subscribe to GaHIN — Kathryn Cheek, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician, Rivertown Pediatrics, Columbus, Georgia, and Denise Hines, DHA, PMP, FHIMSS, Executive Director, Georgia Health Information Network (GaHIN)

CME and CNE Credits Available

The total CME credits offered for medical participants attending this educational event are 5 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM, as provided through the joint providership of the Medical Educational Council of Pensacola (MECOP) and Mercer University School of Medicine.

The total CNE credits offered for nursing participants are 5 CNE credits, as provided by the Three Rivers Area Health Education Center.


Georgia Agricultural Wellness Alliance Begins Strategic Planning Process 

In 2022, researchers with the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center (GRHIC) at Mercer University School of Medicine and Georgia Foundation for Agriculture published a study about farm-related stress. The study was based on surveys completed by more than 1,600 Georgia farmers, spouses, farm managers, and farmworkers. The survey documented concerning levels of stress, negative coping strategies, and suicidal ideation. Given these results, several organizations with missions that include farm community well-being and outreach formed the Georgia Agricultural Wellness Alliance (GAWA). The founding partner organizations included GRHIC, Georgia Farm Bureau, the Georgia Foundation for Agriculture, the University of Georgia Extension, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. GAWA is funded by the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center.  

John McElveen, EdD, was named GAWA’s executive director in August 2023. McElveen and GAWA partner representatives met in Columbus in early October to engage in an intensive strategic planning process.

Welcomed by Jean Sumner MD, FACP, dean of Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM), and Don Nakayama MD, MBA, senior associate dean of the MUSM Columbus campus, the group began work on creating a strategic plan by reviewing, clarifying, and establishing GAWA’s mission, vision, and goals. Various strategies and priorities were identified to support these.

In the coming months, McElveen will engage in a statewide listening tour to learn first-hand about local community needs and identify local community members to partner with GAWA in fulfilling its mission. 

Mission, Vision and Goals:

  • GAWA’s Mission: Foster networks of well-being in Georgia agricultural communities through collaboration, advocacy, research, and educational outreach. 
  • GAWA’s Vision: We envision a safe, thriving, and healthy agricultural community in Georgia. 
  • Goal #1: Identify priorities in research, outreach, education, policy, and interventions. 
  • Goal #2: Identify strategic stakeholders, secure commitments, and create active partnerships to support farmer well-being efforts. 
  • Goal #3: Develop an outreach network to reduce stigma & improve communication about farm stress and health. 

Strategies and Priorities (including but not limited to):

  • Completion of the comprehensive strategic plan for GAWA 
  • Establishment of by-laws and membership structure for GAWA 
  • Identify additional organizations for representation on the Advisory Council of GAWA 
  • Establish a communication and awareness plan for GAWA 
  • Define the purpose of subcommittees and recruit members to serve 
  • Create GAWA membership orientation materials and schedule GAWA membership events 
  • Partner with UGA’s Extension Service and the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center to plan a Spring 2024 Farm Stress Summit 

For more information, contact John McElveen at mcelveen_j@georgiaruralhealth.org, (706) 223-5170 (office), (478) 230-5554 (cell), gafarmstress.org.

Alliance Representatives:

  • Glenda Grant, MBA, Executive Director, Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center 
  • Lily Baucom, B.A., Executive Director, Georgia Foundation for Agriculture 
  • Venessa Sims, MEP, GA CEM, Director of Emergency Management, Georgia Department of Agriculture 
  • Jennifer Ward Dunn, M.S., Rural Health Agent, UGA Extension, UGA College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences 
  • Maria Bowie, DrPH, Project and Grant Specialist, UGA College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences  
  • Justin Miller, B.A., Military Veteran Agriculture Coordinator 
  • Christina Proctor, PhD, MPH, Health Promotion & Behavior, Clinical Assistant Professor, UGA College of Public Health 
  • Noah Hopkins, MPH, doctoral student, UGA College of Public Health 
  • John McElveen, EdD, Director, Georgia Agricultural Wellness Alliance 

Kayla Stroud

Communications and Events Specialist

Kayla Stroud joined the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center in September 2023 and serves as the Communications and Events Specialist. She grew up in Leesburg, Georgia, but now calls Macon home. She graduated from Valdosta State University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and graphic design. She loves learning new skills and looks forward to using her experience to tell the stories of rural Georgians. In her free time, Kayla enjoys doing DIY projects around the house, reading, watching horror movies, and spending time with her family.

Morgan McLendon

Community Resource Coordinator

Morgan McLendon joined the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center in September 2023 as a Community Resource Coordinator. She received her Bachelor of Science in health care management from Winthrop University in 2021 and completed her Master of Public Health from Texas A&M in 2023. While pursuing her master's, she worked with the North Central Health District in Hancock County to promote health equity and active living practices. She is eager to bring her knowledge of health care and public health together to advocate for rural Georgia. Outside of work, Morgan enjoys attending concerts, volunteering with local organizations, and spending time with loved ones.

Haircuts and Hams Community Health Event to Kick Off in Randolph County

In partnership with the Randolph County Family Connection, the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center is bringing a new and innovative health and beauty services event to the community members of Cuthbert, Georgia, and surrounding areas. Haircuts and Hams is a program that aligns with Family Connection’s primary focus of health and wellness and will offer a wealth of health literacy, free medical services, and free haircuts and hams to program participants. Freddrick B. Cannon, owner and operator of Unique Images Barbershop and Salon, will host this event. Cannon is a native of Cuthbert with more than 10 years of experience as a barber and has owned Unique Images since 2015. The event liaison and planner is Kuanita Murphy, PhD, executive director of Randolph County Family Connection since 1999.


Haircuts and Hams pilot will kick off in early November with an anticipated participation from at least 100 males, ages 18 and older. It is a goal to make this an annual fall event during the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday as a vehicle for enhancing health literacy and addressing food shortages among rural community members. Additionally, the event is proposed to bring together men of different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. This is a valuable method by which to address the limited or lack of self-care and health care awareness.


During the event, participants will receive screenings, health resources, and information. As an incentive to complete the screenings, participants will receive a free haircut, shave, and a ham. The key partners will collaborate and recruit various local, regional, and state agencies to participate by providing free health screenings to the participants. Some organizations that have provided early commitments to attend and serve include Randolph County Health Department, West Central Health District, Mercer University School of Medicine students, Mercer Medicine Clay County, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, and Albany Area Primary Health Care. Other nonprofit organizations that provide health-related resources and other types of information will be invited to have a booth at the event.

Rural Emergency Department Staff Visit Children's

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is hosting emergency department staff from rural hospitals participating in Kids Alliance for Better Care (KidsABC) as we work together to strengthen emergency pediatric care in rural communities. Recently, Washington County Regional Medical Center and Upson Regional Medical Center staff visited Egleston Hospital, where they observed a trauma room simulation and learned about ED competency modeling. These visits provide valuable insight into the critical processes and procedures used in emergency pediatric care.

Pictured: Sharon Carnell, RN, Keelie Gleason, RN, Christen Colwell, RN, Treena Turner, RN, and Earnestine Zellner, CRT, all of Upson County Regional Medical Center and Katelynn Wright, RN, of Washington County Regional Medical Center

Rural Pediatricians Receive Guidance from Children's Expert

Dr. Larry Greenbaum, executive clinical director of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and chief of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at Emory School of Medicine, held virtual meetings with the rural pediatricians to share his expertise as a specialty physician, including best practices for addressing infectious diseases and kidney issues with their patients. Additionally, he presented the benefits of the newly created Children's Healthcare Rural Access Line, which allows physicians to directly contact providers for consultative support in specialty pediatric care.

Mental Health and Wellness Screenings

The communication plans and implementation plans for the mental health and wellness screening pilot during academic year 2023-2024 are underway. The Strength and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ) for the 4- to 10-year-old students and the 11- to 17-year-old students have been digitized. Also, the parents’/guardians’ consent forms and other forms of communications about the screening are being digitized and are also available in a paper format. We are striving to meet the needs of all parties while providing convenient access. These formatting innovations also increase the speed and accuracy of SDQ’s scoring and data collection. The GRHIC team met with the superintendents and key school contacts for Washington County Schools and Jefferson County Schools as well as the board of directors of Brentwood School to provide an overview of the mental health and wellness screening undertaking and to gain consensus and support.

Training and News for Rural Pediatric Health Care Providers

Rural Pediatric News is published bimonthly and highlights training and continuing medical education options, recommended reading, physician spotlights, seasonal health and wellness information to share with patients, and more.

The Pediatric Advanced Speakers Series is a free monthly training series for providers to earn CME credits, offered by Mercer University School of Medicine, through one-hour virtual training sessions with subject matter experts in a variety of topics. PASS includes peer-led rural pediatric patient case studies and an in-person CME fall conference.

If you are a rural pediatric provider, please click to register for trainings and subscribe to Rural Pediatric News.

DEA Extends Telehealth Prescribing Flexibilities

On August 28, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made a significant announcement that directly affects prescribing through telehealth. In collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the DEA has extended telemedicine flexibilities until December 2024. This extension grants all DEA-registered practitioners the authority to prescribe schedule II-V controlled medications via telemedicine, allowing the continuation of vital telehealth services that proved indispensable during the COVID-19 public health emergency.


The decision to extend these flexibilities came after a comprehensive evaluation, considering feedback from the health care community, including an impressive 38,000 comments on proposed telemedicine rules. Many providers voiced concerns about patients' ability to access in-person appointments within 30 days, a particularly challenging issue in rural areas. The DEA's extension is a direct response to these concerns and signifies the significance of telehealth in ensuring Americans' access to essential medications.


This development is especially crucial for rural health care providers as it not only allows for the continuation of vital services but also enhances access to opioid use disorder treatment, notably buprenorphine. This medication plays a pivotal role in addressing the opioid crisis, particularly in areas with limited health care access. While there have been significant improvements in rural access to buprenorphine treatment, disparities still exist, and many rural communities lack sufficient providers.


Providers should continue to follow these developments as policy changes are anticipated to occur on or before the expiration of the waiver extension in December 2024.

2023 Ongoing Center Initiatives

Maternal Health Improvement

All Rural Counties

Kedrick Williams

Maternal Health Observership

All Rural Counties

Kedrick Williams

Maternal Health Symposium

All Rural Counties

Joan Anderson

Community Health Reporter

All Rural Counties

Susan Barkley

Clinical Ethics ECHO

All Rural Counties

Chris Scoggins

Opioid Misuse Prevention Project

Rural Hospitals

Joan Anderson, Chris Scoggins

ASIST Suicide Training

All Rural Counties

Travis Crafter

Community Resiliency

Model (CRM)

All Rural Counties

Joan Anderson, Travis Crafter

Mental Health First Aid

All Rural Counties

Kedrick Williams,

Glenda Grant

Pediatric Mental Health Initiative

Ben Hill, Jefferson, Washington

Joan Anderson

Barber/Beauty Shop Project

Randolph County

Kedrick Williams

Rural Medicine Pathways Events

All Rural Counties

Glenda Grant

QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention

All Rural Counties

Joan Anderson

Hancock County COVID-19/Flu Vaccine Hesitancy Needs Assessment


Edson Jean-Jacques

Faith in Rural Health

Berrien, Putnam, Toombs/Montgomery

Paul Byrd

Health Fairs

Rural Partners

Amanda Livingston

Georgia Agricultural Wellness Alliance

All Counties

John McElveen

The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center works with rural partners to enhance health education through health fairs. 

Upcoming Health Fair:

Putnam County Health Fair | October 28, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Downtown Eatonton

Faith leaders, health care professionals, and community leaders are planning a full day of events in Eatonton in addition to the health fair. The 5K/Fun Run begins at 8 a.m. and the gospel sing and fall festival begin at 2 p.m.

Are you a vendor wanting to participate in a health fair?

Submit the application below.


ECHO is a collaborative learning community model used throughout health care to build skills and communities of practice. The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center is hosting the Rural Health Care Ethics Echo Series October 2023 through April 2024.

Pediatric ECHO: October 4, 2023; October 18, 2023; November 1, 2023

Mental Health ECHO: January 10, 2024; January 24, 2024; February 7, 2024

Organ Donation ECHO: March 6, 2024; March 20, 2024; April 3, 2024; April 17, 2024


Caroline Anglim, Ph.D. HEC-C, Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Professionalism, Mercer University School of Medicine; Donald E. Carter, MBA, M.Div., DBe, Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Professionalism, Mercer University School of Medicine; Brian Childs, M.Div. Ph.D. HEC-C, Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities, Mercer University School of Medicine

Sessions are noon to 1 p.m. via Zoom. Credits: 1 CME credit per hour provided by Mercer University School of Medicine. Registrants will receive Zoom event information for each session.



In 2018, Georgia lawmakers dedicated special funds to establish a new Rural Health Innovation Center tasked with confronting the complex health care challenges and wellness disparities facing rural communities. Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) was awarded the grant funds in 2019 and formally established the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center on its Macon campus. MUSM boasts a longstanding commitment to serving rural Georgia’s health needs, with a mission to educate physicians dedicated to tackling the health challenges in rural Georgia. The Rural Health Innovation Center serves as a critical resource to rural communities to improve access and effectiveness of health care by offering research, collaboration, and training opportunities.



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