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Rural Health Group in partnership with East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, has begun and will continue to develop a rural residency program at its RHG at Halifax Medical Specialists location. 

The program is designed to train physicians to practice in and provide medical care to patients in rural, medically underserved areas, and assist RHG in recruiting physicians to serve its rural population. 

The program will welcome its first three residents to the Roanoke Rapids community on July 15 at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn.

In the gallery from left: Onyeanunu, Okafor and Hoosen

The inaugural class is Joy Onyeanunu — MD 2023 from American University of Antigua College of Medicine; Tobi Okafor — MD 2022 from Xavier University of Medicine Aruba; Tanweer Hoosen — MD 2021 from the University of Medicine and Health Sciences St. Kitts and Nevis.

They will practice for their first year of residency on Thursdays at RHG at Halifax Medical Specialists location under the leadership of Dr. Timothy Cox and other providers within the community. 

In their second and third year of residency, they will practice fulltime in the community.

“We look forward to growing the program welcoming three additional residents per year, with nine residents over the next three years,” RHG said.

Rural Health Group is a non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center dedicated to providing primary medical, dental, OB/GYN, behavioral health care, pharmacy and many other supporting services to the underserved citizens of its service area. 

The health center grew out of a community collaboration of concerned citizens to provide low cost and/or free health care services to the people of Northampton County. 

Over the years, the service area has grown to cover five counties and one census tract in northeastern North Carolina.

In the early 1970s, physicians and other leaders in Northampton County saw the need to work together to secure medical care for the future of their county. “Because of their efforts, Northampton Medical was established in 1976. In June 1978, the practice joined with Haliwa Health Center, Lake Gaston Medical Clinic, Roanoke Rapids Family Practice, and Rich Square Medical Clinic to form Roanoke Amaranth Community Health Group,” RHG said. “On January 14, 1985, Roanoke Amaranth selected a managing partner, merged its practices, and was incorporated as Rural Health Group.”

Rural Health Group serves approximately 35,000 patients across its service area.

The Brody School of Medicine at ECU was founded over 40 years ago to train primary care physicians to provide care for this medically underserved region. “Residents in this rural program will benefit from the school’s solid commitment to primary care and will work and train in a supportive, family medicine-focused environment,” RHG said. “Their program offers cutting-edge academic medical center resources and training coupled with the unique challenges and opportunities of rural community-based clinical training in FQHCs and rural community teaching hospitals.”

The health group said rural residents often encounter barriers to healthcare that limit their ability to obtain the care they need. Access to healthcare implies that healthcare services are available and obtainable in a timely and high quality manner. “Yet rural residents often encounter barriers to healthcare access as well as appropriate levels of healthcare access — urgent/emergent care versus primary care. Even when an adequate supply of healthcare services exists in the community, other factors may impede healthcare access. 

“RHG understands the importance of healthcare, and has and will continue to invest in programs to assist our patients and the community in receiving the highest quality primary healthcare.”