Center for Rural Health History

Four Decades in the Desert: The AZ Center for Rural Health

"Four Decades in the Desert: The University of Arizona's Center for Rural Health, 1970-2015." Author: Michael Joe Dupont, published in 2015.

The Center for Rural Health (CRH) - serves Arizona through its mission to “improve the health and wellness of rural populations.” Established as the Rural Health Office in 1981 with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it coordinates statewide rural health initiatives.  Center staff, faculty and collaborators have expertise in population, rural and border health; rural and critical access hospitals; community health centers including rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs); health workforce assessment, planning and policy development; community engagement; service-learning training; practice based research; and rural health policy development, implementation and assessment.

The Center houses programs funded in part by the state, the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and other sources to support the Arizona State Office of Rural Health (AzSORH), the Arizona Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (AzFlex), and the Arizona Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (AzSHIP).  In 2014, CRH collaborated with Dr. Doug Taren as Principal Investigator for the Western Region Public Health Training Center, with other State Offices of Rural Health, awarded for fiscal years 2015-17. 

From the Rural Health Office (RHO) founding director - Dr. Andy Nichols, to Alison Hughes MPA who transitioned the RHO, founded the Center for Rural Health (CRH) and served as its first Director, to Dr. Gary Hart and Dr. Neil MacKinnon, to its current Director, Dr. Dan Derksen - the Center has worked closely with community partners to improve health outcomes and access to quality healthcare, and reduce health disparities.  Attribution for success extends broadly to these leaders, particularly the partners, staff and faculty who have tirelessly committed to the Center’s mission for more than three decades. 

The Center for Rural Health Annual Reports highlight the achievements over previous years, identify challenges and opportunities, and draw on the storied history of the partners dedicated to improve the health of all Arizonans, but especially those living in rural areas.   

An advantage of the Center for Rural Health's location within the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is our ability to use flexible and innovative resources to respond to the needs of rural constituents. In addition to education and research, the Mel Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health places a strong focus on community outreach, practice, and service.