Nicole Carritt has been appointed as the first director of rural health initiatives at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

In the new role, Carritt, who holds a master's of public health degree from UNMC, will work with UNMC's rural partners to enhance the university's impact across the state. She also will help oversee and implement UNMC's Rural Health 2030 Plan, which details how UNMC, its partners, and rural Nebraskans can together shape a new vision for a healthy rural future.

Recruiting and retaining young health professionals, especially those with rural roots who may want to return to their own communities, is also one of the goals.

Improving health throughout the state of Nebraska is at the core of UNMC's mission, said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. “Nikki's experience and commitment to rural health is long standing, and she is the perfect person to work with our partners across the state to sustain UNMC as a nationwide leader in rural health,” Dr. Gold said.

Efforts already underway include the enhancement of UNMC's rural health pathway programs, such as the Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP) and Public Health Early Admissions Student Track (PHEAST), Carritt said.

“Our charge is looking not just at what the health care needs are today to make rural Nebraska healthy,” she said. “It's having a clear understanding of what changes are ahead, what the health landscape might look like in 2030, and how can we prepare and adjust our system to meet that. We're developing not just the next 'health care' leaders for rural communities, we're developing the next leaders for rural communities.”

A product of a rural upbringing in Pisgah, in western Iowa, Carritt’s work with UNMC's Area Health Education Centers has given her s good sense of what rural Nebraskans expect from their medical university.

"This new position will enable me to work with our partners across the state, allows us to be committed to be in those communities more frequently. With our partners, we'll make sure that we're aware of what their needs are, and we will adjust as necessary to meet their needs -- not just today, but well into the future.

"This new position gives me an opportunity to help UNMC leadership take the good work that's been happening already across the state and elevate it to the next level," she said.