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Learning Healthcare Network to Connect Greater Minnesota

The health disparity between rural and urban Minnesotans continues to grow. To bridge this gap, University researchers are working to develop a learning healthcare network to address the lack of access to research and education in greater Minnesota.

Provider-based research networks have been used successfully in many U.S. states and across Canada. The Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, for example, supports a research network of family physicians throughout the state to promote and conduct family medicine research and education. The Masonic Cancer Center leads the Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network which aims to improve cancer outcomes for all Minnesotans through greater access to clinical trials in prevention and treatment.

“We will leverage lessons from these existing networks and expand to include different rural practices, healthcare providers, and patients,” said Catherine McCarty, PhD, MPH, associate dean for research in the Medical School, Duluth campus.

McCarty describes the network as an affiliation dedicated to improving the quality of healthcare. The learning healthcare network will offer an organizational structure to link practicing rural clinicians for research and education, and enhance the skills of network members.

McCarty and colleagues from the Medical School, College of Pharmacy, School of Public Health, School of Nursing, and Clinical and Translational Science Institute are working with rural communities to direct research and clinical questions, and educational needs.

The learning healthcare network will initially encompass up to 20 rural sites associated with the Rural Medical Scholars Program, Summer Internship in Medicine, Rural Physician Associate Program, in addition to Native American clinics and community representatives over time. This initiative supports the University’s Medical School Duluth campus mission to serve the needs of rural Minnesota and Native American communities; as well as the University’s land-grant mission to collaborate in advancing the knowledge benefiting local communities, the state, and the world.


This initiative received funding from the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs BOLD Ideas Grant program which supports interdisciplinary teams seeking to tackle the “wicked problems” inhibiting the health and wellbeing of our communities.

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