Larry Rhodes, M.D., interim chair of the West Virginia University Department of Pediatrics and director of the WVU Institute for Community and Rural Health, has been named the 2013 Rural Health Practitioner of the Year by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA).
The award recognizes a direct service provider for leadership in bringing health services to rural populations. The Practitioner Award is meant to be inclusive of all health disciplines (e.g. dentistry, optometry, nursing, etc.). Factors taken into consideration include providing outstanding care, involvement in the community and lasting contributions to the healthcare system.
"I am truly honored to receive this award. I must admit, I was surprised at being chosen, in that I am a pediatric subspecialist. Upon reflection I realized that much of my work in the state occurs in rural areas. When you live and work in a place you love, such as West Virginia, you sometimes need to be reminded that you are rural," Dr. Rhodes said. "I also believe that the bulk of the credit for this award goes to the staff of the WVU Institute for Community and Rural Health who are committed to improving healthcare for people in rural West Virginia."
A native West Virginian, Rhodes received his medical degree from the WVU School of Medicine. He completed residency training in pediatrics at WVU and fellowship training in pediatric cardiology and pediatric electrophysiology at Boston Children's Hospital. Before returning to WVU permanently, he spent 10 years working at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He is now chief of the WVU Section of Pediatric Cardiology.
"We at the WVU School of Medicine are totally focused upon doing all we can to improve the health and wellness of West Virginians, who, by and large, live in rural areas," Arthur J. Ross III, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the WVU School of Medicine, said. "To have one of our leaders be recognized for his dedicated commitment to rural health is a huge honor, both for Dr. Rhodes as well as for us."
Rural West Virginia and the people who live among its rolling hills hold a special place in Rhodes' heart.
He volunteers at outreach clinics serving rural West Virginia. He founded and volunteers each summer at Camp Mountain Heart - a week-long adventure where his patients and other kids with heart problems participate in fun activities under close medical supervision. In 2012, the WVU Institute for Community and Rural Health, which is under his leadership, enabled 400 students to complete 2,700 weeks of rural health training. To-date, it has also provided $475,000 in scholarships to WVU dental and medical students in exchange for a commitment to practice in a rural West Virginia community in areas where healthcare professionals are needed the most.