Bashford to lead new Office of Rural Initiatives

Robert Bashford, MD, will assume the role of Associate Dean for Rural Initiatives, leading the UNC School of Medicine’s newly created Office of Rural Initiatives. In this position, he will expand his work to recruit and train the next generation of primary care physicians passionate about serving in rural North Carolina. In addition, he will build multidisciplinary, interprofessional groups to serve in rural underserved settings.

Bashford to lead new Office of Rural Initiatives click to enlarge Robert Bashford, MD

By Jamie Williams,

Since 2013, Robert Bashford, MD, has helped build the Kenan Primary Care Scholars program, training a cohort of skilled, dedicated, future physicians, committed to service in our state’s rural, urban, and underserved areas. With an endowment from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, and additional public and philanthropic support, the program has established itself as a key part of the UNC School of Medicine’s goal of training physicians who will go on to serve in the parts of North Carolina where they are needed the most.

To further that work, the UNC School of Medicine is establishing the Office of Rural Initiatives. Bashford will oversee the Office, under his new title of Associate Dean for Rural Initiatives. He will be transitioning into this role beginning July 1.

“My last nine years have been spent admitting students that truly understand the UNC mission. With huge NIH support we can produce research scientists, specialists and general practice physicians. With arguably the best family practice program in the country, and ample research funding, we have been set to teach translational medicine at UNC,” Bashford said.  “Now, I am absolutely delighted to step into this new role, further the impact of the Kenan’s continued generosity, and reaffirm our commitment to recruiting and training motivated and talented individuals who will go on to provide health care to people in rural and underserved parts of this state.”

With this new position, Bashford will step down from his as Associate Dean for Admissions, a position he has held since 2009.

“Dr. Bashford has dedicated himself to recruiting, training, and mentoring the next generation of physicians committed to practicing in rural parts of North Carolina,” said William Roper, MD, MPH, Dean of the UNC School of Medicine. “As a North Carolinian himself, he takes this mission personally. He has already achieved great successes and, as he begins this new role, we look forward to expanding the impact of these efforts.”

The Kenan Primary Care Scholars program has supported around 30 students since it began in 2013, with the first class now in residency, and the second class recently matching.

The students in the Kenan Primary Care Scholars Program complete the first two years of their medical training in Chapel Hill, before moving to the UNC School of Medicine’s Asheville campus for two years of training. They also complete a six week summer internship in Western North Carolina, working directly with a local physician.

“The Kenan Primary Medical Scholars Program was the brainchild of Thomas S. Kenan III, Trustee and Dr. Richard M. Krasno, Executive Director Emeritus, of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. The person who made the program a tremendous success, and a national model for training and placement of primary care physicians, is Dr. Robert Bashford,” said Doug Zinn, Executive Director of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.

“I have worked with many dedicated, passionate, and patient-centric physicians over the last forty years and Dr. Robert Bashford stands out among them.  He takes his role very seriously and not himself.  His dry and unabashed wit is refreshing and welcomed in the board room and patient’s room alike.”

With the creation of the Office of Rural Initiatives, the program is expanding from Asheville to now include sites in eastern and central parts of the state. Students will be based in Chapel Hill and at the UNC School of Medicine Wilmington Campus, and do clinical training with physicians in the surrounding areas. They will be joined by students from multiple health disciplines to create an interprofessional presence at these sites.

“Dr. Bashford is the highly respected mentor of these young health care providers.  He is in close contact and interacts with them at UNC Medical School and in the rural spaces in which they train and eventually practice.  He is steadfast in his commitment to quality and compassionate healthcare delivery,” said Zinn.

A new Rural Fellows program has also recently launched. The fellowship allows new physicians in rural practice, just out of their primary care training, to receive additional educational opportunities to help ensure they get off to a great start with their careers. Training will help them to become engaged leaders in their communities.

The ultimate goal of all of these efforts, Bashford says, is building an interdisciplinary training program to prepare students from all health care disciplines to serve the underserved in our state.

“Dr. Bashford gets things going,” said Julie Byerley, MD, MPH, UNC School of Medicine’s Vice Dean for Education. “He takes a hands-on approach with all the students and physicians he works with, keeping them inspired and on track.”

As Associate Dean for Admissions, Bashford has been responsible for sorting through the thousands of applications received by the School of Medicine each year, selecting the 180 best and brightest students. He admonishes his interviewers and committee to “look for people on a genuine journey for a life of science and service, who have been involved with efforts that demonstrate to them and us that the field of medicine makes sense for them.”

He has presided over the admission of nearly 1,500 students to the UNC School of Medicine.

“Dr. Bashford has brought passion to the task of assuring that our medical school was comprised of kind, caring and academically accomplished students,” said Katharine Falk, MD, Professor of Medicine, who has served on the Admissions Committee since 1995.

Randee Reid, director of admissions, called Bashford “one of the most caring, compassionate men” she has ever met.

“Working with Dr. Bashford has brought me so much joy,” Ms. Reid said. “I’m so excited for him and just very, very proud. This work is his passion.”

Bashford is famous for his entertaining style and beloved by students. He has delivered the School of Medicine’s commencement address seven times and is selected by students to deliver Pearls Day talks in most years. He has delivered the Whitehead Lecture and also won multiple teaching awards.

After his graduation from NC State, Bashford came to the UNC School of Medicine where he first trained in OB-GYN and later, after a decade of delivering babies, trained again in Psychiatry, with a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry.

“Dr. Bashford is a North Carolina native who has worked his entire life to help the people of this state,” Byerley said. “He has established a large, focused effort centered on recruiting budding physicians to serve in rural areas and I’m excited to see these efforts coalesce in the new Office of Rural Initiatives.”

More information will follow in the coming weeks regarding the call for applicants for the role of Associate Dean for Admissions.

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