In the summer of 2007, seven current members of the Gateway board traveled to Hazard, Kentucky to visit the “Center of Health and Rural Excellence” program at the local Hospital. The model used in Hazard is unlike anything done before. They are a research, teaching, and health promotion institute.
The small, rural Kentucky community of Hazard has developed something special. After observing it in action, the board members from Gateway decided that it had to be replicated in Huron, Perth, Grey, and Bruce Counties. Shortly after their visit, Gwen Deverux, with the help of a PhD Intern, went through all the health statistics for her area, to determine the issues in these rural areas, and where development was most needed. These statistics showed a rate of heart disease and dementia which was alarming for such small rural communities. The presentation of these statistics inspired the board to form Gateway. The original seven board members created Gateway simply because it was the right thing to do – to care about the citizens of Grey, Bruce, Huron, and Perth.
Once they had the statistics illustrating a need for this sort of organization, and making use of word of mouth, they came into some funding and land. These were both donated by families who had been affected by heart disease and have a deep love for their communities. Gateway then began reaching out to Universities and Colleges to develop partnerships in research and recruitment throughout Rural Ontario. Many of these partnerships where already set in place, as part of the Huron County Health Kick. This was an earlier initiative which promoted and recruited new health care workers into Huron County. From the success of the already-established Health Kick, they knew Gateway would have the ability to succeed. It had already been proven that rural areas have the ability to shine when provided with the right attraction.
What is Gateway?
Gateway is a research and teaching organization with the goal of bettering health in Huron, Perth, Bruce, and Grey Counties. Thanks to Health Kick and Gateway, these areas can begin to offer teaching and research opportunities that cannot be offered in other areas. Gateway, as an organization, falls into many categories, and does not seem to fit any one particular model. They offer health care, rural affairs, research, economic development, and more. They are a new and different model, providing a new form of hope in the health care field for rural communities.
Gateway is a Charity. They receive funding from Trillium grants, payments from Huron County, and major donations. The Maclean family donated the land in Seaforth for the future construction of Gateway’s building, and the McCall-McCain family donated half of the startup funding. Gateway began with a budget of just over $1 million for the first five years, which includes funding from the County of Huron. This allowed Gateway to launch with a board of directors, management, marketing, and research relationships with the three colleges and universities.
Current Partners and Relationships
Gateway is currently partnered with Huron County, the Huron Business Development Corporation, Western University, the University of Waterloo, Georgian College, and many local families.
One of the current board members, Craig Hudson, is a respected psychiatrist recruited into Goodrich (Part of Huron County) to practice. Within his practice he discovered that most people simply needed more sleep. From this he developed a new all natural sleep aid made of ground up pumpkin seeds – Zenbev. After working in Huron County for a few years, he decided to bring his manufacturing company into the area as well. As Deverux noted, “Attracting psychiatry into the area is very difficult, but having someone bring their pharmaceutical manufacturing company into the area is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Not only is Gateway recruiting doctors and research into the area, they are attracting business. “Real projects making real differences”
Deverux hopes that more medical professionals will do the same as Hudson: come into the community, fall in love with it, and want to build it. Whether they bring in new practices and physicians or new companies, Deverux sees a bright future for the four counties, both in terms of health care and in terms of economic growth.
Future Growth and Expectations
Within the next 5-10 years the board is expected to grow from seven members to twelve, to develop more partnerships with universities and colleges within Ontario, to increase economic growth and health recruitment into the area, and to hit their $10 million goal for donations and funds.
Once this financial goal is met, they will be able to build their “Centre of Excellence in Rural Health.” Here they will be able to teach students, bring in new research centers, and attract more research studies to the rural setting. With this growth there is the added expectation of the need for more full time staff, for both marketing and management. However, before any of these future needs can be met, the organization must be financially stable.
In addition to health research and funding, Gateway promotes economic development. They wish to recruit health students to the area, hoping they will start up practices. They are hoping to attract all types of medical professionals, from nurses and doctors, to pharmacists and homeopaths. Gateway itself is not as focused on economic development as it is on health improvement. However, with the focus and intent of becoming a self-funding enterprise without need of donations, Gateway is driving development by recruiting new physicians to the area and bringing in consumers. They keep current citizens in the local area, as all their health needs can be meet within these communities.
The University of Waterloo pharmacy program is the only program in Canada to offer a Rural Elective class. The professor teaches this course full time, and works with Gateway on recruitment and research. The hope with this class is that students will be attracted to rural areas, and will want to set up private businesses to support the local communities. The class is currently working, and a number of students have become interested in the area.
Once Gateway meets their objectives of a set research facility and teaching component, Deverux believes that they will become spokespersons for chronic disease management. With more chairs and students speaking and presenting at conferences, Gateway will create more networks of people and organizations working on similar projects. These objectives will help ensure that Gateway becomes self-funding through tuition and research grants.
Gateway is open to everything. They enjoy being in the environment for better health and want to see the improved health of people; not just in these rural communities, but all across Canada.
Gwen Deverux believes that the health statistics for the counties of Huron, Bruce, Perth, and Grey are embarrassing. They are not attractive for the recruitment of incoming doctors, nurses, or other health care professionals. Gateway is beginning to change the outlook for these counties. They are focused on increasing the health and well being of these communities, while simultaneously increasing recruitment. Despite being early in their set up, and growing and changing every year, Gateway is the perfect way to achieve these ends. They are the Gateway to better health, and to better living. In a sense, they are the gateway to everything.
Author and Interviewer: Ami Schimanski, CCEDNet Social Enterprise Intern at the Huron Business Development Corporation
Completed: August 2013