Indiana State University Newsroom

Two from ISU among RHIC Scholars

May 17, 2012

A May graduate of Indiana State University and an alumnus who is pursuing a master's degree at Indiana State are among five students from Rural Health Innovation Collaborative partners who recently completed service as spring 2012 RHIC Scholars.

The first class of scholars was chosen to assist the collaborative in its ongoing development of inter-professional education to help current and future professionals better utilize the team approach to health care. The students were nominated by their individual institutions because of their success in their programs and knowledge of their subject area.

RHIC Scholars included Alexa Larkin, who completed a bachelor's degree in communication with a journalism concentration, and Gage Thoma, who holds one degree from Indiana State and is pursing another.

Larkin, who is from Fort Wayne, learned how interdisciplinary health care training works and helped developing marketing materials for the RHIC. Gage, who was among four health care students to serve as spring semester RHIC Scholars, participated in a non-credit, four-week pilot course for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease using an interdisciplinary model. The online course was part of an action plan by the RHIC to develop a full-semester course for health care students.

Larkin, the daughter of Sherrie Larkin and Robert Larkin, is a graduate of Southside High School, where she served as news section editor and editor of the school newspaper and a Chase Bank Leadership Academy graduate. A President's Scholar at Indiana State, she worked as media relations assistant in the Office of Communications and Marketing at ISU and as a RHIC communications intern providing marketing support for the collaborative.

Thoma, of Georgetown, Ill., is the son of Doug and Robin Thoma and a graduate of Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School, where he played football and soccer. He has an undergraduate degree in exercise science from Indiana State and is in his second year of a seven-semester program to become a physician assistant.

Physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine independently under the supervision of a physician.

Other students in the inaugural group of RHIC Scholars were:

• Milissa Eley-Alfrey, Winchester, Indiana University School of Medicine• Megan Dunford, Farmersburg, post-graduate pharmacy resident, Union Hospital• Christina Mills, Carlisle, respiratory care, Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley.

A Healthy People 2020 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services enabled the RHIC to award the scholarships. The RHIC will select another group of scholars this fall to refine the interdisciplinary curriculum. Next semester's class is expected to include a nutrition student and social work student in addition to the health care disciplines represented by the Spring 2012 Scholars.

Dr. James Buechler, director emeritus of the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health and author of the pilot case study, said the students had great insights.

"It is exciting to think that we at the RHIC have completed what to our knowledge is the first online, multi-institutional pilot project on inter-professional education ever done," Buechler said.

Established in December 2008 and incorporated in December 2009, the RHIC has found inter-professional education to an effective approach to addressing healthcare shortages in Indiana and one which works especially well for rural areas that are medically underserved. The inter-professional model ensures that future doctors train with nurses, therapists and other technicians to make decisions about a patient's treatment and to achieve better patient care. The collaborative opened a simulation center at Union Hospital in April 2011 to facilitate inter-professional training in the health care field.

The partners in the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative now number 10. Partners, in addition to those represented by the spring 2012 RHIC Scholars, are the city of Terre Haute, the Terre Haute Economic Development Corporation, Vermillion Parke Community Health Center, Hamilton Center, Indiana Rural Health Association and Indiana Area Health Education Center (AHEC).

Media contact: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, and chair, communications committee, Rural Health Innovation Collaborative, 812-237-3743 or