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Augusta University Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Neil MacKinnon, PhD, announced the latest round of Converge grants to support rural health research. [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Augusta University awards Converge grants to four collaborative research projects focused on rural health

Neil J. MacKinnon, PhD, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Augusta University, and Zach Kelehear, EdD, vice provost for instruction, announced this week that four collaborative research projects stemming from the Converge International Rural Health Symposium will each be awarded $10,000 grants this year.

At the inaugural Converge symposium in October 2021, MacKinnon announced the Office of the Provost would offer this grant funding.


Converge International Rural Health Symposium is a multidisciplinary conference created to encourage joint research between four universities, exchange programs for faculty and students and potentially even joint certificates and degrees with a focus on rural health. Fall 2022 marked the second year Augusta University, The University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University in Scotland, and the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy worked together to host the international rural health symposium.

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Zach Kelehear, EdD

“Converge continues to grow, and last year’s presentations featured an impressive collection of speakers and researchers from the different partners,” Kelehear said. “Dr. MacKinnon and I are very excited to be able to support these four research projects that show true collaboration and innovation between researchers from not only different universities, but different backgrounds and disciplines, as well. This grant program reflects our investment in rural health, and we look forward to collaboratively working together with the universities in Scotland to find some solutions to the issues we both face.”

While health care in Scotland compared to Georgia can be different on many levels, the two regions share in the persistent challenges of educating for rural health care contexts and of supporting health care professionals once they are in the region, Kelehear said.

Neil J. MacKinnon, PhD
Neil J. MacKinnon

“This funding is intended to invite and support multidisciplinary collaborative partnerships that investigate issues around access to care, experiential learning and connectivity in rural communities,” MacKinnon said. “These four funded projects reflect a mix of new collaborations and building off of previous research. I look forward to hearing these groups speak about their project at the Fall 2023 Converge Rural Health Symposium.”

The selection of projects was led by Catherine Clary, JD, director of the Center for Rural Health at the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University. She was assisted by Ashwini Tiwari, PhD, director of the B-STRONG Lab within IPPH and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Andrew Balas, MD, professor of public health and health management in the College of Allied Health Sciences, and Sharon Cosper, EdD, vice chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy within CAHS.

“Dr. MacKinnon and I greatly appreciate the tireless efforts of Catherine in assembling her selection committee and identifying the four projects to receive this funding,” Kelehear said. “She dedicated a lot of time and effort to gather an esteemed panel and create a scoring rubric. Without her hard work, this process would not be as efficient.”

Any individual or group from Augusta University, University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, University of Aberdeen or Robert Gordon University was invited to develop joint applications. The research projects could focus on, but were not limited to, clinical practice, health care delivery, research in rural health context, education for rural health care and artistic representation from a rural perspective.

The following four applications were each awarded a $10,000 grant from the Office of the Provost at Augusta University:

  • “Using app-based digital healthcare intervention to encourage total skin self-examination by melanoma survivors,” submitted by Kendall Buchanan, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at MCG, and Peter Murchie, PhD, a physician and professor of Primary Care at the University of Aberdeen
  • “How can hybrid healthcare education drive change in remote, rural, and island practice?” submitted by Denise Kornegay, associate dean and executive director of Area Health Education Centers at MCG, and Anita Laidlaw, director of the University of Aberdeen’s Center for Healthcare Education and Research
  • “Study of rural residents using urgent care and emergency departments for dental care: Examination of the relationship between visits to urgent care facilities and emergency departments due to non-traumatic dental conditions among residents of DHPSAs in the state of Georgia (GA) as well as Aberdeen and surrounding areas,” submitted by Travis McMaine, DMD, assistant professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Dental College of Georgia at AU, and Ekta Gupta, PhD, a lecturer for the Institute of Dentistry at the University of Aberdeen
  • “Maternal health- delayed antenatal care: Understanding barriers to care through the perspectives of new mothers who experienced delayed antenatal care in rural Georgia and rural Scotland,” submitted by Preethi Reddi, a student at MCG and Joanna Shim, a research fellow at Robert Gordon University

The awards will be managed by Augusta University’s Department of Sponsored Program Administration.

Each team will present their findings during the next Converge International Rural Health Symposium hosted by the University of Georgia School of Pharmacy Nov. 8–9.

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Milledge Austin

Milledge Austin is the manager of external communications for Communications and Marketing at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at

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man with glasses standing in front of blue background Written by Milledge Austin

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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