Health professionals and medical students gathered at the Hilton in Jackson to attend the first day of the 27th annual Mississippi Rural Health Conference 2022 on Nov. 17.

The first day of the two-day event included sessions with topics such as strategies for marketing and improving communication with hospitals and utilizing holistic approaches to improve rural health care in the Delta. 

“I am attending the conference because I really believe that this is an important part of our health care system,” Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said. “With so many of our patients being in rural areas and the number of rural hospitals that are experiencing financial difficulties, this event highlights those issues even more. I think highlighting opportunities and joys of living in smaller communities is really important.”

Recipients of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program from colleges around the state were also in attendance to present needs assessment posters of their hometowns. 

“The job of a rural physician is to take into account what a community needs and go from there,” Will Sutton, a junior biology student at the University of Southern Mississippi, said. “If you want work in these communities, make relationships and help people, you have to know where you are going. So this helps us understand where we are from, so we can use that in future if we go back to work in our hometowns.” 

Several awards were giving out during the event’s annual business meeting and lunch. U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was not in attendance, was awarded with the national legislator of the year award, and Sen. Ben Suber, R-Bruce, was awarded as the state legislator of the year. 

The event wrapped around noon the following day with plenary sessions on the organization Mississippi Thrive!, foreign medical graduates in medically underserved areas in the state, hot topics in health care and networking breaks between sessions. 

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Eric J. Shelton was a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018. He rejoined Mississippi Today as our health photojournalist in January 2022.