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School of Medicine Columbia

Bennett named Volunteer of the Year by National Rural Health Association

School of Medicine Columbia faculty member earns recognition for leadership and dedication in rural healthcare field.

University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia’s Kevin Bennett, Ph.D., was recently recognized for his work and leadership in rural healthcare policy and programs with the National Rural Health Association’s (NRHA) Volunteer of the Year Award. Bennett, who has also been named president-elect of the organization for the 2024 calendar year, was presented his award at the NRHA’s annual conference in San Diego this May.

Dr. Kevin Bennett holding an award.
Dr. Kevin Bennett was named the NRHA's Volunteer of the Year at the organization's 2023 conference in May.

Bennett, who is the Director of both the Research Center for Transforming Health and the Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare within the School of Medicine, is highly involved with the NRHA through the Rural Health Policy Congress, which is the policy-making body of the organization, the Government Affairs Committee, and the Journal of Rural Health.

Bennett holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a master’s degree from James Madison University, and he completed his Ph.D. work at the University of South Carolina in 2004. His research agenda focuses upon care delivery for vulnerable and underserved populations, particularly if they are also rural residents. In particular his research focuses upon such disparities in access to healthcare services, quality of care delivery, and alternative delivery models to meet the needs of rural residents.

In its press release announcing its 2023 award winners, the NRHA noted that Bennett “has been integral in helping staff improve the Rural Health Fellows program and research track at NRHA’s Annual Rural Health Conference.” Bennett’s passion for rural health and the NRHA date back to his days as a Ph.D. student studying at USC.

“I was surprised when I received the news of this award - as someone who doesn't actively seek recognition, it was an unexpected honor,” Bennett says. “I've been working with the NRHA since 2002, when my professor, the late Dr. Michael Samuels, brought me to my first meeting. Since then, I have sought out ways to help the organization advocate for policy that will improve healthcare delivery and outcomes for our rural communities, and I’m glad that I have been able to contribute in this way.”

In 2024 Bennett will step into a new leadership role with the NRHA as president of the organization, and chair of the board of trustees. He looks forward to the opportunity to continue to advocate for rural healthcare in our communities in South Carolina and across the United States.

“My challenge ahead, as president of the NRHA in 2024, will be to continue to elevate rural in the national conversation,” he says. “I hope to continue, with the NRHA, to make the case that our rural communities' strength, resiliency, creativity and compassion are exemplary models for urban and suburban areas to learn from, follow and support.”

The NRHA is a nonprofit organization working to improve the health and well-being of rural Americans and provide leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education and research. 

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