MORGANTOWN West Virginia University is continuously stretching beyond Morgantown and Monongalia County and making a mark in all 55 of the Mountain States counties through ventures in health care, job creation and Extension services.
WVU is a land-grant institution, meaning it aims to lead in research productivity and undergraduate and graduate education and serve as an engine of growth for the states economy, according to the WVU Center for the Future of Land Grant Education. That classification contributes directly to the universitys mission of making an impact in West Virginia.
We belong to the people of this state, WVU President Dr. E. Gordon Gee said, adding that the university is in all 55 counties through health care and the Extension Service. We have taken a much more aggressive role in engaging with all of our various communities.
Gee said education, health care and prosperity are the main pillars of WVUs mission to serve West Virginia and they communicate just how much WVU cares about the state.
I believe that our priority is to create jobs and create jobs directly, Gee said, adding that education goes beyond classes at WVU and into working closely with public school systems across the state to meet educational goals, which has been a priority for him since he returned as president in 2013.
That focus on job creation and the economy comes through programs like WVUs Vantage Ventures, which is aiming to make the state more attractive for startups by building businesses deploying intellectual property across the universitys expansive research platforms while leveraging its untapped pools of science, technology, engineering and business talent.
Im proud of our engagement, Gee said. Im proud of what were doing.
Perhaps one of the most notable and recognizable ways WVU is engaging with communities around West Virginia is through WVU Medicine.
With our health system, were the largest employer in the state, and were the largest economic facilitator in the state, Gee said. With that comes immense responsibility.
WVU Medicine is overseeing 12 hospitals around the state and managing health clinics and hospitals in West Virginia and surrounding states, according to Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and dean of WVU Health Sciences.
We hope to be able to increase the accessibility of people in West Virginia to getting good medical care, he said. Weve greatly expanded our capacity and our skills in the complexity of the care that we can deliver. ... We are able to address any complex need for any person in the state of West Virginia here in the state.
WVU has been on the cutting edge of many areas of health care, accomplishing some procedures and advancements first in the state and country like the first heart transplant in the history of the state and construction of the Mountain States first childrens hospital.
Our goal is that no West Virginian has to leave this state to get good health care, Gee said.
To be of service to patients across the state, WVU Medicine and WVU Health Sciences have to be accessible to the rural population of West Virginia, which creates its own set of challenges.
Part of Health Sciences and part of WVU is were doing a lot of community outreach, he said, using the example of working with a set of varied community and health-care leaders in Harrison County to meet the needs of that area. We are creating pathways that people across the state can access.
That includes working with local food pantries to facilitate delivery in more rural communities and creating a network of practice-based research sites and hospitals to figure out how to best serve rural communities.
One of the areas for which WVU Medicine heard the most need is telemedicine, which WVU has made a main priority, according to Marsh.
We are serving the state both in person and ... were also using telemedicine for the part of the state that can receive the telemedicine signal, he said, adding that the telestroke network has expanded to smaller hospitals in the southern part of the state, and more individuals are being trained there meet area-specific needs.
With telemedicine comes a need for high-speed internet and broadband, and Marsh said WVU is working with legislative leaders to answer that call and further the advancement of telemedicine access and use.
We believe thats another point of what we can do from a lobbying standpoint, is try and connect everybody, he said.
Partnership and collaboration are key, from Marshs standpoint, in making strides for the whole state.
We want to help anybody that we can, he said, adding that working with other universities and community partners is key for touching everyday people especially in rural areas. I think, in general, we have come together nicely and have set a nice foundation for working together in the future.
As part of its role as a land-grant institution, WVU has an Extension Service that provides activities and research-based information to residents and communities throughout the state, according to Sue Day-Perroots, interim dean and director of the WVU Extension Service.
West Virginia has agents in all 55 counties, Day-Perroots said, adding that Extension Service agents have expertise in areas like youth development, agriculture, economic development and healthy living. We have over 70,000 youth that are involved in 4-H and youth development programs.
One of the Extension Services award-winning programs is Energy Express, which focuses on nutrition and summer reading support for low-income children, serving more than 3,000 students each year, she said.
Day-Perroots noted that Extension Service agents were recently given statistics and research on every county information that was gathered at an annual conference this year to further support goals for individual communities in West Virginia.
We looked at educational attainment. We looked at workforce development. We looked at healthy living criteria and gave that to our agents. And part of their plan of work was to look at what programming best fit and best addressed the needs of their communities, she said.
Programs like Dining with Diabetes, youth engagement, Extension Garden Calendar and 4-H all go back to the Extension Service, which Day-Perroots said is the best way to know exactly how WVU can play a role in everyday life.
See the wealth of what is available to everyday citizens, she said.
Perhaps the biggest message WVU leaders want state residents to know is that WVU cares about the overall health and success of the state, according to Gee.
With issues like the opioid epidemic, rural health concerns and social isolation, Marsh believes that WVU Medicine and WVU Health Sciences are there to serve any community in West Virginia and improve quality of life through collaboration and partnership.
We are here to serve the state, Marsh said. We have built the capacity to take care of anybody who has an illness here in the state. ... Our goal is for people to be well, because thats what we want for people that we love.
WVU leadership cares about faculty, staff, alumni and friends, but also the state as a whole, and Gee wants to live up to the pride many feel in the gold and blue.
We want every West Virginian in their hearts and minds to believe that this university is in their lives and serving them, Gee said. Our name is West Virginia University, and we carry that with pride. ... In many ways, the university really represents the pride of the state.
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