University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and South Carolina Rural Health Research Center Director Dr. Janice Probst has been named the 2016 Volunteer of the Year by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). Rural health has been the focus of Dr. Probst’s academic career, which began 25 years ago with her dissertation research into the effects of rural hospital closures.
[Photo: Dr. Janice Probst]
Her interest in rural health started early on during her doctoral studies at the Arnold School when she observed that rural populations, and particularly rural persons of color, experience significant disparities in health and access to health care and are markedly under-represented in the worlds of research and advocacy. “Rural health seemed like an appropriate area for someone with a public health mindset to dig in and start working,” Dr. Probst says.
In 2000, she contributed to the establishment of the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center, which she has helped lead ever since. During the past 25 years, Dr. Probst has received numerous grants, authored over a hundred publications and mentored countless students. She’s also picked up several awards for research and teaching excellence, including the Researcher of the Year Award from the South Carolina Rural Health Association, the Outstanding Researcher Award from NRHA, and the South Carolina’s James A. Keith Excellence in Teaching Award.
But still, she has found time and energy to dedicate to NRHA above and beyond her official role in the association as a member. Among her many contributions, some of her volunteer activities for NRHA include: reviewing research abstracts for Annual and Health Equity conferences, assisting with grant development for the assessment of community health workers in rural communities, serving as a member of the Health Equity Council and on the editorial board for the Journal of Rural Health, participating in leading the NRHA Border Health initiative and the preparation of the NRHA’s annual Rural Philanthropy meeting, developing an NRHA policy statement on HIV, and promoting NRHA with students by encouraging their involvement at NRHA sessions.
These are only Dr. Probst’s NRHA volunteer activities and do not include her volunteer work with S.C.-based rural health organizations. And yet, she is still modest about her contributions. “NRHA staff work with a lot of talented, dedicated and hard-working people across a year,” she says. “I’m humbled that they believe my contributions might be worth noting.” Dr. Probst’s colleagues and students, however, believe the award is well-deserved.
“Dr. Probst’s infectious enthusiasm for rural health is effortlessly diffused through her teaching, research, and service,” says Dr. Amy Martin, an associate professor in the College of Dental Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.