Director of UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health named Kentucky Health Policy Champion for her work in rural health care

Fran Feltner

Fran Feltner, director of the University of Kentucky‘s Center for Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, has been named a Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion for her “trailblazing” work to improve rural health care in the state.

The award is given by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky to recognize Kentucky individuals and organizations engaged in improving the health of their communities and/or the state through policy change.

“Dr. Feltner has been a guiding light for health care in rural Kentucky for many years, and has pushed the rural agenda in ways that few academicians are willing to do,” said former state health commissioner Robert Slaton, a former member of the foundation’s Community Advisory Council, in nominating Feltner for the award.

Feltner has longstanding relationships with the people who live in rural communities, and a deep understanding of the health, social and economic challenges many rural residents face. She also has led numerous research studies on rural health disparities, Slaton added. “Such circumstances often require a new trail to be blazed and that is where strong and passionate leaders like Dr. Feltner rise to the challenge.”

A recognized expert, Feltner often testifies on rural-health issues at the state and national levels, said Ernie L. Scott, director of the Kentucky Office of Rural Health. “She leads by example, challenging others to continue addressing health inequities and ensuring those who are disproportionately vulnerable to Covid-19 are at the center of all that we do,” Scott said.

Melissa Slone, research interdisciplinary director at the Center for Excellence in Rural Health, elaborated on Feltner’s work during the coronavirus pandemic in a letter supporting the nomination: “Dr. Feltner has spent countless hours serving on committees and participating in trainings to ensure that resources were in place to meet the needs of Kentuckians and that people were informed about the resources and how to access them.”

Slone also recognized Feltner’s leadership in the Kentucky Homeplace community health worker program, which provides health, social, and environmental services to those most in need in rural Kentucky. “One service at the heart of the KHP model is empowerment,” Slone said. “Helping an individual gain knowledge and confidence to take charge of their own health is an investment upon which a dollar figure can never be placed.”

Felnter has worked in rural health for 45 years, serving as a nurse in clinical and hospital settings and providing community education, among other roles. is a member of the foundation’s Community Advisory Council. She received her doctorate in nursing practice from UK, and a master’s degree in advanced-practice rural public-health nursing administration from Eastern Kentucky University.

Feltner is now eligible for the Gil Friedell Health Policy Champion Award, which comes with $5,000 for a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner’s choice. The winner will be announced later this month. Nominations for Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion Awards are accepted at any time. See details on the foundation’s website.

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