Expanded Role for Longtime Rural Health Leader Elevates Approach to Improving Health Care

Photo of Kathleen Quinn, PhD, at rural health conclave

Kathleen Quinn, associate dean for rural health at the University of Missouri, has been named senior program director for health and safety. This joint position between the MU School of Medicine and the MU Office of Extension and Engagement is a collaborative role that demonstrates MU’s innovative approach to community health.

One goal of the position is to solve rural health care challenges, a key aim of the NextGen Precision Health Institute.  

“The shortage of doctors in rural Missouri impacts every corner of the state and can have long-lasting effects,” Quinn said. “By combining research and technology with on-the ground extension programming, MU is positioning itself as leader in how universities can tackle grand challenges.” 

Quinn will provide leadership for the community health engagement and outreach efforts across MU and Missouri. She will focus on forming linkages between rural programs and campus-based resources, such as the Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems’ All Things Missouri data center and the Center for Health Policy’s health care workforce analysis project, to ensure local policymakers have accurate, evidence-based information to address their community’s needs. 

“Dr. Quinn is ideally positioned for this new role,” said Marshall Stewart, vice chancellor of extension and engagement. “She understands that health is woven into every facet of life and she is deeply committed to finding ways to improve health outcomes. Pairing Dr. Quinn’s vital rural health care work with MU Extension’s community engagement model provides new opportunities to improve health care in communities across the state.” 

Quinn has been a leader of the MU School of Medicine’s rural health programs for almost 20 years and through her work has a deep understanding of the challenges many Missourians face in assessing health care.

As a leader of the Rural Scholars Program — aimed at addressing the shortage of rural doctors by providing interested students with mentoring, clinical experience and unique educational opportunities — Quinn established statewide partnerships with organizations, communities and hospital systems.

In 2019, Quinn received a $4.2 million federal grant to expand the Rural Track Pipeline Program. The grant is the largest award for rural medicine in the university’s history.

“Dr. Quinn has an already impressive record of addressing health workforce needs in Missouri,” said Steven Zweig, interim dean at the MU School of Medicine. “We are confident that Dr. Quinn’s dedication and experience will help us develop a comprehensive approach to meeting the community health needs of our state.”

The precision medicine research currently conducted at the MU School of Medicine is part of a bigger initiative to make health care as personalized and effective as possible. With the upcoming opening of the NextGen Precision Health Institute, our researchers and doctors will be able to better understand diseases and conditions as they relate to an individual’s genetics, lifestyle and environment. With that level of understanding, we’ll be able to develop treatment and prevention strategies that not only save and improve lives in Missouri, but also share our findings to help others across the globe.