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U. of I. a recipient of grant funds to upgrade rural health network

Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois is one of 12 institutions in Illinois to receive funding from the Federal Communications Commission Rural Health Care Pilot Program, an initiative to improve health-related communications infrastructure nationwide. The university will share in the $21 million grant to the state of Illinois. The money will be used to enhance the state’s cyber-infrastructure, improving the communications capabilities of health providers all over the state.

That part of the grant received by the U. of I. will go to CITES (Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services) for coordination of the university’s role in establishing the infrastructure reaching into all parts of the state. The College of Medicine will develop health-education programs to be disseminated through the network.

“CITES is very excited to be part of this project,” said Sally Jackson, CITES chief information officer. “Advanced networking really can have enormous societal benefits, and it is particularly satisfying to us to be able to contribute in this way to improved health care throughout the state.”

“This grant, and the work it will make possible, is an example of the University of Illinois’ commitment to our mission as a 21st-century land-grant university,” said Bradford Schwartz, the dean of the College of Medicine. “This project also demonstrates the importance of Illinois as a top-flight research university in bringing the benefits of new knowledge directly to the citizens of our state.”

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn announced the $21 million grant Wednesday in Springfield, calling it “a godsend for rural Illinois.”

Quinn said that the network will allow medical facilities to expand the menus of services they offer, improve emergency care, allow physicians to consult experts hundreds of miles away and give patients access to specialists around the state without leaving their hometowns.

Forty-two states and three U.S. territories received funding through the Rural Health Care Pilot Program. The Illinois grant will go to the Illinois Rural HealthNet Consortium, which is coordinated by Northern Illinois University. Grant funds are going to Northern Illinois University, Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Ben Gordon Centers, Carle Foundation Hospital, Delnor Community Hospital, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, Janet Wattle Centers, Metropolitan Research and Education Network, Sinnissippi Centers and Tri-Rivers Health Network.