Combined Medical-Psychological Services to Help Residents of Rural Missouri

By National Psychologist Editor
March 1, 1998 - Last updated: May 31, 2011

St. Louis–The dean of the Health Sciences Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia regrets that he didn’t listen to two psychologists several years ago when they advised him to start a health science psychology department to serve the rural areas of central Missouri.

Better late than never. Lester Bryant, M.D., Sc.D., a thoracic surgeon professionally and the current medical school dean, plans to have a Department of Clinical Health Psychology in operation by July 1.

The Health Sciences Center serves a 27-county catchment area sufficiently distant from St. Louis to accommodate the rural population centered a two-hour jaunt from St. Louis.

The dean, a strong-willed, determined individual, initially resisted creating a new department until he spoke with the chair of the university’s psychology department. He found that the department considered its mission teaching students about research and conducting training germane to that mission.

Thus, he eventually relented to the advice given him years earlier by Robert Frank, Ph.D., a former professor now at the Florida State University Health Sciences Center, and Danny Wedding, Ph.D.

The impending birth of the new department reflects a growth of opportunities for psychologists willing to settle in sparsely population sections of the country. Bryant recognizes that it is not within psychiatry’s culture to locate in nonurban areas, something psychologists have long argued particularly when lobbying for prescription privileges.

Bryant notes he is already operational with primary care physician offices in Macon, Moberly, Fayette, Elkin, and other towns of 5,000-10,000 in his 27-county expanse. He wants clinical psychologists to work side by side with primary care physicians in the satellite centers, and expects services to be vastly improved as a result.

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