The new NMU Center for Rural Health has received a $100,000 federal development grant that will focus on diabetes prevention and treatment, as well as access to emergency medical services, across much of the Upper Peninsula. It also has its first director. Elise Bur of Marquette has most recently served as administrative director of Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center.
The NMU Center for Rural Health was one of the investment initiatives approved by the NMU Board of Trustees in December 2019. It is a collaborating center of the Michigan Center for Rural Health (MCRH) and based on campus, with some programs delivered using distance technology. Its goals are to create an integrated health care network that better serves U.P. residents and improves their health outcomes. It also will identify related academic programs to meet regional demand.
“A lot of people are doing great things, but residents don't always know what's available, how to access it and if insurance will cover it,” said NMU Provost Kerri Schuiling, who completed groundwork on the initiative with board liaison James Haveman, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “One of the goals will be to better coordinate those activities. This collaborating center of the MCRH is modeled after the collaborating centers of the World Health Organization and the first of its kind.
“The $100,000 development grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration will assist in that effort the first year, particularly related to diabetes and emergency medical services. It was the maximum amount that could be requested and NMU scored a perfect 100 from the reviewers. I've never seen a score like that with no identified weaknesses, in my experience.”
Network partners in the effort are NMU, Bay Mills and Lac Vieux Desert Indian Communities, the U.P. Diabetes Outreach Network, Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center in Houghton and the MCRH.
Bur will implement the grant as director of the NMU Center for Rural Health. She also will develop a strategic plan, identify workforce needs in the region, seek out other grant opportunities and use NMU's Educational Access Network to extend the reach of continuing education programs offered by the MCRH.
“This position will allow me to expand my current responsibilities in managing grants, public relations and advocacy to a larger region,” Bur said. “There are unique characteristics of the U.P.—compared with other rural areas in the state—that need to be taken into consideration as we further strengthen and develop a health care workforce. For example, the winters are more difficult for ambulance services with 300-plus inches of snow in the Keweenaw and a definition of ‘roads' that can differ quite a bit from areas downstate. I plan to reach out, introduce myself and my role, listen to people's views regarding healthcare challenges throughout the region, and then collaborate with others to develop and implement solutions”.
In her six years as administrative director of Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center, Bur has developed professional relationships with organizations, foundations, agencies and legislators. She previously served as executive secretary and assisted the center's vice president with oversight and day-to-day operations of six outpatient clinics.
Bur assumes her director role with the NMU Center for Rural Health on July 6.