GRHIC and Randolph County Family Connection Host Haircuts & Hams Health and Wellness Event for Men

by Harvey Lee Moody III, Community Resource and Assessment Specialist

Freddrick B. Cannon, owner of Unique Images Barbershop and Salon in Cuthbert, gives a free shave to a participant of the Haircuts & Hams event.


The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center (GRHIC) embarked on a challenge to meet the health and wellness needs of rural Georgia citizens through a state-of-the-art approach via partnerships with barbers and beauticians. The sole mission of the Barbershop & Beauty Shop Health Initiative is to bring health promotion programs where many people feel most comfortable in their communities.

On November 4, GRHIC partnered with Randolph County Family Connection for a Haircuts & Hams wellness event, which aimed to bridge the gap in engagement with the male demographic in the county. More than 80 men attended the event held at Unique Images Barbershop and Salon in Cuthbert.

Kuanita Murphy, PhD, executive director of the Randolph County Family Connection, saw a need to directly engage with the male population after noting their absence from community events. “I always noticed that we have plenty of women and children at events,” said Dr. Murphy, “but the male demographic was not engaged at all.” Inspired by a similar event done in the surrounding area and the success of Family Connection’s previous barbershop talks, a plan for Haircuts & Hams was developed. 

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Bailey Boyd, a second-year student at Mercer University School of Medicine, demonstrates the proper way to take a patient's blood pressure.


GRHIC, Mercer School of Medicine, and Georgia 4-H Partner to Provide Pathways to Higher Education for High School Youth

by Be-Atrice Cunningham, Director of Pathways, Programs, and Events for Mercer University School of Medicine

High school students from thirteen counties explored pathways to higher education at the Weekend in the Classic City (WICC) event, coordinated by Georgia 4-H and held October 21-22. Specifically designed for ninth through twelfth grade 4-H members, this annual event provides broad and diverse seminars and shows youth a comprehensive picture of the career options available in the state of Georgia.

About 30 students gathered at UGA for the weekend to get a taste of college life. Mercer Day at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, held on Sunday, was sponsored by the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center (GRHIC) at Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM). GRHIC and the School of Medicine joined forces with Mercer University Undergraduate Admissions and Georgia 4-H for this day of interactive learning focused on health care.

The morning began with Jean Sumner, MD, FACP, dean of MUSM, speaking about the state of rural health and the dire need for more healthcare professionals in rural, underserved areas of Georgia. Dr. Sumner also shared how the School of Medicine and GRHIC are tackling the challenges facing rural Georgia by preparing the next generation of physicians and health care professionals.

Participants were introduced to seven Mercer medical student volunteers, who shared about their Georgia roots and why they chose Mercer.

The 4-H’ers participated in the MUSM Experience with hands-on activities at three rotating stations, where medical student volunteers led engaging activities. 

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Nash Named Director of Rural Pediatric Projects

Jennifer Nash joined Mercer University School of Medicine as the Director of Rural Pediatric Projects. She received her Bachelor of Science in public service from Middle Georgia State University, and Master of Arts in executive leadership from Liberty University. Her background is in practice management and health care operations. Jennifer is a Georgia native and is passionate about working to bring better health care to underserved rural communities across the state. She is married and has three children. Tyler is a fashion model, Brayden is an undergraduate at Mercer and plays on the football team (#21), and Evelyn is a middle school student who plays five sports. Jennifer spends much of her free time at sporting events watching her children. She also enjoys refurbishing old furniture and other DIY home projects.

Moody Joins GRHIC as a Community Resource and Assessment Specialist

Harvey Lee Moody III joined the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center in October 2023 and serves as a Community Resource & Assessment Specialist. Harvey is a proud alumnus of Georgia Southern University and graduated with his Bachelor of Science in public relations in 2020. After graduation, he served as a Logistics Management Specialist with the United States Air Force at Robins Air Force Base for three years. During that time, he obtained his Master of Science in communication from Walden University in 2022. Harvey is passionate about community relations, public education, and effective communication. In his free time, he enjoys watching television series, spending time with family and friends, and dining at local restaurants.

Crafter Attains License to Supervise Mental Health Providers

Travis Crafter, a License Professional Counselor, has recently become a Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor (CPCS). As a CPCS, he will supervise upcoming mental health professionals in Georgia. Our goal at the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center is to address the shortage of mental health professionals by supporting new professionals in the mental health field by offering them supervision.

Ian Sellers, Mercer University School of Medicine second-year student, talks about bike safety with a health fair guest.


Faith in Rural Health: Started in March 2022, Faith in Rural Health is a collaborative program between the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center (GRHIC), Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM), and McAfee School of Theology. It aims to support the physical, mental and spiritual health of people in rural Georgia counties by coordinating the efforts of clergy, physicians, and health care professionals. The purpose of the three-year project is threefold: to assess areas of need and opportunities for collaboration, to collaborate with existing sites for holistic care modeling and student training, and to create relationships between medical professionals and local clergy for synergetic work. The program is underway in Berrien, Putnam, Toombs and Montgomery counties.

GRHIC, MUSM, and the School of Theology worked with community leaders of Putnam County for the first-of-its-kind Putnam County Collaborative Health Fair on Saturday, Oct. 28, in downtown Eatonton. Paul Byrd, the Faith in Rural Health director, shares his reflection of this meaningful event.

A Reflection: Putnam County Collaborative Day of Health


By Paul Byrd, MDiv, BCC, Faith in Rural Health Director


The strength and compassion of Putnam County was on full display Saturday, October 28 at the Faith in Rural Health Putnam County Day of Health, a first-of-its-kind event in the county. This collaborative event, held in Eatonton, was planned through a partnership of the county’s churches and health institutions. In the words of Putnam General Hospital’s CEO Alan Horton, “It was wonderful to see all the churches come together with the different health facilities in support of Putnam County residents … to enrich our community’s well-being.” The day’s events included a Fun Run and 5K, Fall Festival, and Gospel Sing.


Eatonton First United Methodist Church hosted the 7th Annual Steeple Chase as young runners left the starting line of the Fun Run at 8 a.m. The energy there was delightful and the air was filled with children’s laughter. The 5K followed with twice as many participants as the previous year. Runners were of every age and race and came from all over the county.


The health and wellness fair was held at Eatonton’s Main Stage, where services from all over the county and state were on display. New Life Outreach Christian Center, Texas AME, First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church, and many other churches took part in the fair. Putnam County Family Connection, Putnam General Hospital, Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, Mercer School of Medicine, Georgia College School of Nursing, and Mercer Medicine Putnam County, and more provided health services and education. 


Blood pressures and glucose levels were checked, information on mental health and access to counseling and psychiatry was given. The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, in support of its opioid misuse program, gave out Narcan, which reverses opioid overdose; Dr. Brian Wright of Mercer Medicine demonstrated how to administer it and answered questions regarding opioid overdose. CORE and the health department offered immunizations for free to those without insurance. Children filled their passports by visiting kids’ zone vendors — including a bike safety talk by Ian Sellars, a Mercer University School of Medicine student — in hopes of winning a cycling prize of a bike, helmet, and pads. Hearing screening, vision screening, and the American Red Cross blood donation team were set up at Eatonton’s First United Methodist Church just blocks away. Sandwiches, fruit, and bottled water were provided for vendors and visitors alike by Rock of Salvation Ministries, an organization that helps communities with food insecurity.


Charlene Swain, RN, of New Life Outreach Christian Center and Mercer Medicine, reflected on the event: “We reached a lot of people in the community. I witnessed many familiar faces. I was able to tell quite a few people about the services that were offered at the church.” She added, “The participation from the team was awesome. Everyone seemed to be very engaged and very helpful … We worked well as a team.”


The health fair gave way to a lively fall festival and gospel sing in the evening, which featured activity booths for kids, singing groups from churches and organizations all over the city, and food trucks. A combined choir with representatives from various churches kicked off the event. 


"What a wonderful day full of good conversations and excellent collaborative work to support Putnam County's health and healing,” said Craig Williamson, pastor of First Baptist Church Eatonton. “How nice to see resourceful people come together to serve, cherish, and inform the community! May such a grace abound among us."


Putnam County is truly an amazing place. This event has revealed a new vision of what it looks like for a community to come together, run together, play together, sing together, worship together, and work together to save each other’s lives.


The impact of the day was summed up nicely by Cecil Kilgore, of Reach2Teach and New Life Outreach Christian Center, who said, “It was a great example of how the people in Putnam County can set aside their differences and work together to save lives no matter where you come from. We can learn a lot from each other by having a spirit of love and listening to each other. It is important to know that everyone needs to be heard and respected no matter who you are. We are looking forward to working together in the near future to continue saving lives in Putnam County.”


Pastor Simone Jones, of Texas African Methodist Episcopal Church, expressed the hopes of the planning committee, “It is my prayer that this becomes an annual event in Putnam County. It was a wonderful first collaboration of local pastors uniting the community as one body of Faith.” She continued, “I have received numerous requests to make sure we do this again. I stand amazed at God's glory and the work He can do through us when we come together. I look forward to 2024's event being better.”


This is the kind of collaboration between the faith community and health care providers that the organizers hope spreads to include even more churches and clinics in the county. The more it grows, the greater it lives into the vision for this remarkable day, “Saving Lives in Putnam County.”  

Rural Pediatric Continuing Education Conference

The Pediatrician Support Team, along with assistance from many, successfully hosted the first Rural Pediatric Continuing Education Conference on October 27. This conference was attended by 50 participants, which included physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed marriage and family therapists, social workers, hospital administrators, students, and government officials. These participants who had the opportunity to gain up to 4 continuing medical education or continuing nursing education credits, received knowledge from four pediatric subject matter experts who presented on topics spanning rural pediatric care. The conference also opened many doors of collaboration as a number of participants made introductions and bridged connections for workforce development, sharing of best practices for pediatric care, health workforce mental wellness, and continuing education opportunities for the future. Participants left the conference educated and empowered to continue their great work in pediatric health care as the last quarter of this year quickly draws to a close. At the beginning of 2024, details will be announced for the next in-person pediatric care and continuing education conference, to be held in the spring or early summer of next year.

Emergency Department Stakeholders Meeting

On November 2, emergency departments participated in the first all-stakeholder meeting. The gathering brought hospital representatives together in Washington County to discuss pressing issues facing the EDs, innovative approaches to caring for children in their communities, and to hear about program updates. Dr. William Border of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta provided a presentation on staff burnout, mitigation strategies, and best practices. The group will reconvene quarterly to continue to collaborate and network around enhancing pediatric emergency care for rural communities. Participants found the collaboration experience highly beneficial and informative with many great ideas to take back to their facilities. The rich conversations also helped to inform program goals for year two and help refine our focus to better serve the unique needs of rural hospitals.

Mental Health and Wellness Screenings

The GRHIC team met with the superintendents and counselors of Washington County Schools, Jefferson County Schools, and Brentwood School to create a communication plan to reach parents, guardians, faculty, staff, and community leaders. Multi-faceted communications strategies will be used to educate and inform individuals about the screening pilot for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Oren Moore, left, was treated in the Crisp Regional Emergency Department by Stacey Alberson, RN, Sheila Southerland, MD, and Amy Hester, RN, ED Director.


Children’s Rural Access Line a Lifesaver for Crisp Regional Emergency Department Patient

In June, Amanda Moore was teaching summer school in Sylvester, GA, when her mother-in-law called.


“Oren had fallen off the back of a golf cart,” Moore said.


Her four-year-old son hit his head after the cart jolted with the start.


After waking from a nap following the fall, Oren was particularly drowsy, complained of his head hurting, and vomited — all concerning symptoms of a head injury. His father and grandmother took him to the emergency department at Crisp Regional Hospital in Cordele.


Moore would arrive minutes later.  “He didn’t even know I was there,” she said.


Oren was not acting appropriately for his age, and it was clear to Dr. Sheila Southerland, the physician who treated him, that something was wrong. “Most kids his age are very playful, getting into trouble in the emergency department, interested in everything and touching everything,”


Oren vomited again and remained unresponsive, even to a needle stick. His ability to move was greatly subdued. He received a CT scan in less than fifteen minutes of arrival to the ED, according to Dr. Southerland. It was apparent that his injury was more than a concussion. The scan showed abnormalities, and it was rushed to radiology for reading.


The report was returned quickly: Oren had a skull fracture and a small bleed. The physician and staff knew he needed to be under the care of pediatric specialists. Time was of the essence.

Read More on Oren's Diagnosis and Recovery

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.

2024 Physician Fee Schedule and Telehealth Eligible Codes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released their Final Calendar Year (CY) 2024 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS), which outlines a variety of proposed modifications to telehealth policy in the Medicare program for 2024. The Center for Connected Health Policy released an in-depth fact sheet on the telehealth-related items. For other telehealth news, read the CCHP November newsletter here.

You can receive CCHP legislative updates by signing up for their newsletter at You can also find additional resources at

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

Harvey Moody

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 Project


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

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.


Volunteers needed for a qualitative study of the understanding and attitudes of rural Georgians toward organ and body donation.

Researchers at the Mason Center for Organ Donation and Transplant Education and Policy, at Mercer University School of Medicine, are looking for residents of rural areas in Georgia who would be willing to participate in a one-time guided interview.

— Researchers are enrolling 15-20 participants. 

— Participants may select an in-person or virtual interview.

— Upon completion of the interview, your personal information will be appropriately discarded.

— Upon complete of the interview, you will be eligible for a gift card.



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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