CARBONDALE – Eric Hargan, former acting secretary and deputy secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and current CEO of The Hargan Group, visited the SIU on Friday.
Hargan joined the advisory board of the SIU Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy, which is dedicated to improving the social determinants of health in rural and underserved populations in Illinois.
Hargan spoke with local high school students at the College of Agricultural, Life and Physical Sciences FFA Career Day. He also met the staff of the Faculty of Medicine and the students and professors of the Faculty of Law of the SIU, including Dr Sameer Vohra, founding chair of the Department of Population Science and Policy.
Vohra explained that the department is working to promote better rural health outcomes.
Hargan is no stranger to the challenges of rural health in southern Illinois. He grew up in Mounds but was born in Cape Girardeau because the nearest hospital, located in Cairo, had stopped offering maternity and delivery services.
“My mom worked at the Cairo hospital, but my family goes back five generations (in southern Illinois),” Hargan said.
He added that Doc Hargan used a horse and a buggy to see patients in southern Illinois in the 1800s. According to family stories, Dr. Hargan even used a rowboat to cross the river to see patients in. Kentucky.
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“One of the great things about my recent tenure at HHS is that I was able to bring out rural health and rural health outcomes,” Hargan said. “One in six Americans lives in a rural area. “
Rural areas present some health challenges beyond the obvious geographic boundaries.
“It comes down to two things. One is technology. The other is the workforce, ”Hargan said.
Health care providers have responded to the pandemic by expanding telehealth services. The problem is that many rural communities and people living in those communities do not have access to the technology needed to access telehealth.
The human side of the equation is the workforce. This includes shortages of healthcare workers, as well as the lack of specialized care. Hargan said part of the problem is retaining employees in all positions, right down to medical technicians, home health care and people in health care support roles.
“It’s important that people have a lot more access. The question is ‘How to do this task for the years to come?’ Hargan said. “They not only need access to doctors, but also to food. It is a dilemma.
He brings more than 25 years of public health, policy, regulatory reform and health innovation experience to the Department of Population Science and Policy.
He received a BA cum laude from Harvard University and his JD from Columbia University Law School.
For more information on the Department of Population Science and Policy, visit https://www.siumed.edu/popscipolicy.