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NKU Professor Awarded Fellowship to Improve Rural Minorities' Health Care

Northern Kentucky University associate professor Dr. Jitana Benton-Lee received the Culture of Health Leaders fellowship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the first faculty member at NKU to be awarded the honor.

Benton-Lee teaches in the doctor of nursing practice and master of science in nursing programs at NKU.

The fellowship comes with $95,000 in funding to support her project focused on improving health care perceptions and initiatives for rural minorities in Kentucky. Throughout the three-year program, she will develop inclusive health care promotion and practices to educate communities on the health risk factors they face, such as diabetes and heart disease.

"Kentucky ranks as the worst state in preventable hospitalizations. When you drill deeper into these unchallenged health disparities, studies indicate rural minorities lag even further," said Dr. Benton-Lee. "These are often overlooked. This opportunity allows me to focus on my passions for community-based health promotion and prevention."

Benton-Lee joins a diverse group of 40 national leaders working towards more just and equitable communities. The RJWF's executive leadership training and resources will also help her develop more inclusive health care education and create a health care inclusivity micro-credential in the university's College of Health & Human Services.

"With more diverse people making the United States home, understanding a patient's needs and culture is becoming a hurdle. Intercultural development is not something you always see in education," said Dr. Benton-Lee. "This evolution has left many health professionals feeling underprepared. My goal is to ensure students learn about and activate equitable health environments."

Benton-Lee has received numerous accolades for her publications on patient-driven inclusive health care. She has also received recognition for her community impact, including the Emerging Nurse Leader from the Kentucky Organization of Nurse Leaders.

Dr. Benton-Lee earned her doctor of nursing practice and B.S. from NKU, her master of science in nursing/master of health administration from the University of Phoenix, her MBA from Sullivan University and her B.S. in nursing from Eastern Kentucky University.

-Staff report

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