Q&A: Rural Health Practitioner of the Year, Larry Rhodes, MD

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , May 22, 2013

West Virginia pediatric cardiologist Larry Rhodes, MD, speaks passionately about his work at three community outreach clinics. "It is always easy to hide under the guise of 'this is for patient care,' but the best days of the month for me are when I am in my truck driving to one of these clinics."

Larry Rhodes, MD, interim chair of the West Virginia University Department of Pediatrics is a subspecialist who enthusiastically takes his expertise into the field at outreach clinics across the Mountain State.

As director of the WVU Institute for Community and Rural Health, Rhodes has also played a key role in a program that has enabled 400 medical students to complete 2,700 weeks of rural healthcare training in 2012.

For his advocacy of rural health issues and efforts to improve access, Rhodes this month was named the 2013 Rural Health Practitioner of the Year by the National Rural Health Association.

Rhodes spoke this week with HealthLeaders Media about the challenges and rewards of taking his subspecialty skills to the people.

HLM: Talk about your work with outreach clinics.

Rhodes: I do three outreach clinics a month. I'm in Morgantown in the northern part of the state. I go to Parkersburg, which is about two hours away twice a month. And I do a clinic in Beckley, which is about a three-hour drive once a month. Each of our cardiologists do at least one outreach clinic a month. We have almost all areas of the state covered.

There are a couple of reasons why we do it. One is there are a number of children born in these rural communities who have congenital heart disease and we in Morgantown are the only center in the state that does surgery for kids with congenital heart disease. We have two doctors going to Beckley on Friday and we have 40 patients scheduled. We will keep that many patients from having to drive up here for a follow up.

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