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[Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

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

Dr. Neil J. MacKinnon, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Augusta University, and Dr. Zach Kelehear, vice provost for instruction, proudly 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.

Last fall, Augusta University partnered with The University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University in Scotland, as well as the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, to host an inaugural international rural health symposium.

This multidisciplinary conference, Converge International Rural Health Symposium, was created to encourage joint research between the four universities, exchange programs for faculty and students and potentially even joint certificates and degrees with a focus on rural health.

Letters were sent out last week congratulating the applicants and co-applicants of the four collaborative research projects chosen by the Converge Application Review Committee to receive the $10,000 grant, Kelehear said.

“During the all-day symposium on rural health last fall, we had speakers from the different universities and it was really a strong showing,” Kelehear said. “We were very excited about the inaugural symposium, and, as a follow up, knowing what we know about rural health and the shared concerns we have across the waters, we wanted to see how we can work together to address these rural health issues that we face in a mutually helpful way.”


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

“The purpose of this funding opportunity is to invite and support multidisciplinary collaborative partnerships that investigate issues around access to care, experiential learning and connectivity in rural communities,” MacKinnon said last year. “Each funded project must involve at least one partner from each side of the Atlantic, and those who are funded must agree to speak about their project at the Fall 2022 Rural Health Symposium to be hosted by Robert Gordon University.”

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.

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:

  • “Remote Rural Nursing Practice International Collaboration (RNPIC) between Augusta University’s College of Nursing (AU CON) and Robert Gordon University’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedic Practice (RGU SNMP),” submitted by Drs. Colleen Walters and Carol Hunter of Augusta University and Dr. Heather Bain, Debbie Wilson and Jane Mair from Robert Gordon University
  • “Health Care Student Rural Experience Learning in Scotland and Georgia,” submitted by Dr. Nancy Havas, associate dean for Learner Affairs at the Medical College of Georgia; Laura Chalmers, head of the Centre for Collaborative and Interprofessional Practice at Robert Gordon University; Denise Kornegay, associate dean for Georgia Statewide AHEC; and Dr. Kathryn Martin, associate dean for Regional Campus Coordination at MCG
  • “Impact of an international interprofessional education experience designed to equip future health care professionals with skills to care for rural and marginalized populations,” submitted by Dr. Elena Prendergast, assistant professor of nursing at Augusta University; Dr. Devin Lavender, clinical assistant professor of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Georgia; and Laura Chalmers, head of the Center of Employability and Community Engagement at Robert Gordon University
  • “A comparative study of associations between time to first antenatal appointment and preterm births in rural Georgia and rural Scotland,” submitted by Preethi Reddi, a student at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and Joanna Shim, a research fellow at Robert Gordon University

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

After reviewing the awarded research projects, Kelehear said he looks forward to hearing each team’s findings during the next Converge International Rural Health Symposium this fall hosted by Robert Gordon University.

“Our commitment is to make a difference in rural health in Georgia and Scotland with our colleagues,” Kelehear said. “And this reflects our investment in rural health. We look forward to collaboratively working together with the universities in Scotland to find some solutions to the issues we both face.”

Dr. Donald Cairns, an emeritus professor of the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences at Robert Gordon University in Scotland, said he is encouraged by the staff and faculty exchange between the universities in Scotland and Georgia.

“I think it’s good for students to see another health care system and compare that to the national health care system that we have in the United Kingdom with a more private-based health care system in the States,” Cairns said. “We need to keep this collaboration between Georgia and Scotland alive.”

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Written by
Stacey Eidson

Stacey Eidson is Senior News & Communications Coordinator at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-522-3023 or

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Written by Stacey Eidson

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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