Student Corner: Improving healthcare in rural Texas

Improving healthcare in rural Texas has its challenges, but a team of Baylor medical students was ready with innovative solutions at the Shift 2019 – Texas Health Challenges Case Competition.

Presented by Texas A&M University College of Medicine, the two-day contest helps medical school students from across the state gain experience working in collaborative teams to design novel approaches to address major healthcare issues impacting the state of Texas.


From left to right: Kallie Kram, Grace Reynolds, Rachael Muschalek, Christina Magyar and Sophie Lin.

The Baylor team — Kallie Kram (MS4), Grace Reynolds (MS2), Rachael Muschalek (MS3), Christina Magyar (MS2) and Sophie Lin (MS3) – earned third place in the competition, held Oct. 5 – 6 at the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Students participated in a clinical challenge, which included diagnostic evaluation and treatment, as well a second challenge, which was focused on responding to rural health issues like hospital closures, lack of adequate health resources in underserved communities and distance to treatment.

“The competition is a unique experience for BCM students to engage in rural health issues that we may not be able to experience in Houston,” Muschalek said. “It provides a nice exposure to different populations and encourages students to creatively address health issues on a population level.”

The Baylor team was presented with a challenge that included:

  • Patient with multiple adverse child events presents to emergency center in acute psychotic episode secondary to substance use.
  • After stabilization of patient, lack of funding for home services leads to frequent relapse.
  • Patient lives in underserved community with no hospital in his home county and limited resources for substance users in surrounding community.

The team also was tasked with considering several other factors in their response, including hospitals that were unwilling to accept patients without insurance, limited inpatient psychiatric resources, financial burden on small hospitals that provide care to substance users, and lack of outpatient follow-up.

The team developed a comprehensive approach that included creation of a multi-hospital initiative that pooled resources and alleviated financial burden on any one hospital; telehealth mental health services; resource optimization through data science and machine learning; development of a detox center that is more cost-effective than in-patient care and connects patients with community healthcare and resources; and creation of community health centers throughout a multi-county area to encourage follow-up care.

Developing strategies to respond to healthcare issues is important in rural Texas, where 35 counties have no doctors and 25 percent of the Texans under 65 have no health insurance. Learn more about SHIFT.

By Dana Benson