SIU Board of Trustees Meeting Focuses on Rural Health and Community Engagement

February 12, 2021

The proposed creation of a system-wide Institute for Rural Health and an Office of Community Engagement which will lead efforts to expand the Southern Illinois University System’s health care and community development outreach were highlights of this week’s SIU Board of Trustees meeting. Conducted via Zoom to comply with state mandates regarding open meetings during COVID-19, the board also re-elected Phil Gilbert to serve as Board of Trustees chairman for the coming year.

“I am honored to receive this vote of confidence from my fellow board members and I pledge to them and to everyone across the SIU System that I will continue to do all I can to help our campuses grow. Our success has come from both within and without and my appreciation goes to our students, faculty and staff as well as our community and partners in local, state and federal governmental,” said Gilbert.

Last year, the SIU Board and President Dan Mahony charged two separate working groups to make recommendations to develop a system-wide Institute for Rural Health (IRH) and an Office of Community Engagement (OCT). The groups met virtually to determine the mission for both and today’s report was a preview of what the board will consider at its April meeting.

The Institute of Rural Health will combine the rural health strengths across SIU’s campuses to develop a coordinated array of rural health services, research and non-degree based education for Central and Southern Illinois and possibly beyond. Besides providing opportunities and best practices to promote SIU’s medical and health care services, it would serve as a resource for communities, governmental officials and agencies and health-related organizations.

The Office of Community Engagement will also maximize SIU campus resources to improve communities in Central and Southern Illinois. The office would serve as an outreach model to assist low-income cities and rural leaders in developing economic and infrastructure initiatives, pursuing state and federal grant funding opportunities and assisting in the identification of and utilizing the various SIU System resources.

“One strength of the SIU System is our people and we employ some of the best professionals in the world who will be coming together to lend their professional expertise and resources to our SIU System communities,” said Gireesh Gupchup, Vice President of Academic Innovation, Planning and Partnerships at the SIU System.

Already, faculty and staff at SIU Edwardsville and the SIU School of Medicine have been involved with the Leadership Council of Madison County (LCMC) to develop an infrastructural and health care plan to revitalize the communities of Venice, Brooklyn and Madison. At SIU Carbondale, plans are underway to use campus resources and expertise assist with the revitalization of the Eurma C. Hayes Center in Carbondale which provided critical social, medical and educational services to the once segregated African American neighborhood on the northeast side of Carbondale.

“The work of our teams who have visualized both the Institute for Rural Health and the Office of Community Engagement has been accomplished in record time, which signifies just how important we all believe this effort to be. I’m looking forward to our April meeting when we can provide the organizational details on how we will accomplish this important task for the individuals and communities in our SIU System footprint,” said Mahony.