New UW scholarship helps future pharmacist fill rural health care need

A new scholarship at University of Wisconsin-Madison will support students who want to make a different in rural health care, and a third year pharmacy student
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 4:53 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new scholarship at University of Wisconsin-Madison will support students who want to make a difference in rural health care, and a third-year pharmacy student was the first to receive it.

The Lyle L. Vandenberg Rural Health Scholarship was introduced in Feburary and will be awarded annually to a UW student devoted to improving health care access and reducing disparities in small towns and rural communities.

Having grown up in Bruce, Wisconsin, a town with less than 800 people, it didn’t take long for Kara Graves to find her passion for expanding rural health care.

“That was just kind of the experience growing up and once I knew my interests were chemistry and math and helping people, and I originally went for engineering and ruled that one out because you didn’t get that direct kind of bond with people and in pharmacy, I was able to find that,” Graves said. “I knew that pharmacists were trusted, they were the most accessible health care provider growing up for me, you didn’t need an appointment to go see them, you go talk to them about your problems and they can help you out.”

The third-year pharmacy student’s commitment to expanding accessibility didn’t go unnoticed.; her ambition is exactly what Brian Vandenberg was looking for when he established the scholarship after his late father, a UW-Madison alumnus and rural health care provider.

“He came out of University of Wisconsin Pharmacy School in the late 50s, went back home to his hometown where he worked in the local drugstore as a kid, and spent his life’s work and his career with the community, serving patients in that community and then expanding beyond to bring care to nursing homes and seniors in the area as well,” Vandenberg said.

He said those living in rural communities have a mortality rate 23% higher than those in urban area due to lack of access to care.

“Whether it’s Wisconsin, or other states that share the demographic of significant rural population, this is an unmet need, so the scholarship is intended to recognize the need, the shortage of positions: pharmacists, nurses, and try and do something as a positive step to fill those gaps.”

Graves said she has already found fulfillment in providing care and resources to disadvantaged and rural patients and the scholarship funds will go directly toward her final year at UW-Madison.

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