New ‘first of its kind’ partnership aiming to improve rural healthcare

New ‘first of its kind’ partnership aiming to improve rural healthcare

New 'first of its kind' partnership aiming to improve rural healthcare

A new partnership with a healthcare system and school district in central Minnesota is working to improve rural medical care and create healthier communities.

Made official this fall, Princeton Public Schools now has a medical advisor — his name is Jeremy Peterson and he’s been a doctor with M Health Fairview in Princeton for more than a decade.

“This is, as far as we know, the first of its kind partnership in the state, we’re kind of writing the rules as we go along,” Peterson said about his new role.

While he said they’re still figuring out the finer details, Peterson is no stranger to the school district. From being on the sidelines for football games to offering guidance through the pandemic, Peterson has been supporting the district for years.

Peterson said for the people of Princeton and surrounding communities, access to healthcare in the rural areas is, “extremely difficult.” His hopes are by connecting with the district by directly helping the younger generations, healthier communities will emerge and thrive for years to come.

“To be able to do things where you can go outside of [the healthcare setting] actually will improve our access, because we’re going to have hopefully [fewer] people having to come in and access the health care here because we’ve already taken care of it out in the community,” Peterson said.

Superintendent for Princeton Public Schools Ben Barton says on top of his full confidence in his nursing staff, Peterson’s presence will be key in the district’s, and community’s, future.

“A school district, [in] any community, really serves as the whole heartbeat of that community and it’s just been a great partnership,” Barton said about the new medical advisor role.

“There’s lots of different medical and health needs and challenges that we have in our school district. And we need to have advisement from a doctor and a medical professional,” Barton added.

Another benefit the two say comes from the partnership is the medical career-building opportunities for students in the schools. Peterson also said health systems working with school districts is not new but feels making it official like he and Princeton schools did is unique and says could be beneficial for others. 

“Partnering with the school, the amount of lives you touch is countless,” Peterson said.