Research Highlights

Highlights from recently published and ongoing research projects at UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC.

UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC is committed to being the collaborative leader and primary source of information on rural health in Western North Carolina. Our academic health center's many interprofessional research initiatives involve faculty, residents, health sciences learners, and academic and community partners. Primary areas of research include healthcare workforce development and resiliency, academic medicine, clinical research, and practice transformation to improve patient, community, and population health.

We invite you to explore some of our recent research in the highlights below. You can review more of our scholarly activity on our publications and presentations pages.

Rural Primary Care Pipeline

An interdisciplinary team of researchers, public health professionals, and physicians conducted a literature review of more than one hundred articles exploring the factors that help cultivate, recruit, and retain rural primary care physicians.

This narrative review led to the development of a theoretical model that was published in Academic Medicine in January 2018. [read more]

Physician Scope of Practice

Qualitative research is being conducted to understand family medicine residents’ expectations, employer needs, and physician scope of practice. The collaborative research team has developed a conceptual framework to explain how personal, environmental, workplace, and population factors influence desired and actual scope of practice, which is associated with physician burnout. 

Preliminary data from a comparative study of MAHEC family medicine residency programs in Asheville and Hendersonville, NC indicate that residents in both programs desire a broader scope of practice than is currently provided by their rural preceptors. [read more]

Community-Based Participatory Research

Researchers at UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC supported clinicians and community partners in the development of new women’s health screening tools and processes that combined eight different health screenings, including one for intimate partner violence, into a single patient-centered screening instrument.

Since implementation in fall of 2017, thousands of female patients have been screened across MAHEC’s six practices using the new screening tools and processes, and screening rates have increased on all measures. [read more]

Clinical Practice Innovation

Prescribing (“waivered”) and non-prescribing physicians and residents in primary care practice were surveyed to measure their perceived readiness to prescribe buprenorphine for their patients with opioid use disorders.

The study found that physicians who felt prepared identified having access to an inter-professional team and individual conversations with other prescribers as most helpful. [read more]


Medical Education

UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC researchers and medical educators from across the state surveyed nearly 3,000 North Carolina community preceptors to assess their teaching experience. Their responses were compared to those obtained from similar studies conducted in 2005 and 2011 to assess trends over time.

Researchers found that satisfaction and likelihood to continue precepting remained consistently high over time. However, several negative trends emerged including an increased perpception of negative impacts on patient flow, work hours, and income. [read more]


Substance Use Treatment in Pregnancy

In 2017, UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC researchers interviewed patients and providers from a comprehensive perinatal substance use treatment program that serves women from across Western North Carolina. Qualitative analysis revealed common themes in patients’ and providers' experiences.

Preliminary findings have been used to guide clinical practice changes and community outreach efforts to better support women in the program. [read more]