Gov. Bill Lee, Ballad Health applaud ETSU designation by Trump administration as national rural research center

Center for Rural Health and Research at ETSU joins six major universities, including University of North Carolina, University of Kentucky and University of South Carolina, as designation establishes the region as a national research contributor for rural America

Johnson City, Tennessee, Aug. 27, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- One year ago, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and leaders from throughout the Appalachian Highlands joined East Tennessee State University President Dr. Brian Noland and Ballad Health Chairman and CEO Alan Levine, to announce the partnership creating the new Center for Rural Health and Research at ETSU.  

With a $15 million commitment by Ballad Health over the next 10 years – the largest gift in the history of the university – Gov. Lee provided additional matching state support of $8.5 million over the same time period for the purpose of establishing ETSU as a national leader in rural health research. The goal of the partnership is to position ETSU to contribute to solving some of the problems throughout rural America – an area comprising almost 90% of the geography of the United States.

This week, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, announced it has designated ETSU among seven leading institutions in the country to study issues impacting rural America. Combined with a nearly $3 million grant, the designation is a major recognition of the national role ETSU is set to play in identifying and solving these problems.

“When I proposed to support the creation of the Center for Rural Health and Research at ETSU, I did so because of the strong foundation of the partnership between Ballad Health and ETSU, and because, as I said then, I believed this partnership would lead to more investment into Northeast Tennessee,” Gov. Lee said. “This exciting announcement and national designation of ETSU as a rural research center follows another exciting announcement of the creation of the Ballad Health Strong Brain Institute/Center for Trauma Informed Care at ETSU and a partnership between ETSU and Harvard Medical School to study rural health economics. 

“I applaud the vision that created this partnership between ETSU, Ballad Health and the state of Tennessee and look forward to many other exciting announcements to come. I congratulate the faculty who worked hard to secure this grant and designation, and I encourage ETSU to continue expanding the center’s impact throughout Tennessee and the nation.” 

Levine joined the governor in applauding the efforts of ETSU to seek and receive the designation.

“In just one short year, we went from a startup center to now having ETSU being recognized as one of seven high-power universities studying relevant policies that impact the entire nation,” Levine said. “That ETSU is the only non-land grant university to be included among the partners says a lot about how the Trump administration views our region and our ability to help solve some of America’s most pressing problems.” 

Levine pointed to other elements of the partnership that helped lead to this particular grant, including the creation of an addiction medicine fellowship program in partnership with the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine and the joint creation of the ETSU/Ballad Health outpatient addiction treatment center.  Ballad Health has also announced the creation of a new treatment program for women who are pregnant or parenting women, their children and families as the women work on their substance use disorder. This initiative has drawn praise from the State of Tennessee. 

Combined, these efforts place ETSU at the epicenter of learning and sharing knowledge about the impact of childhood trauma on the behavioral development of children, the issues of addiction and the economic impact of these challenges on communities.   

“When you look at all the efforts we have begun over the last two years, the combined effect has drawn attention to our region as a national leader in helping solve problems,” Levine said. “We applaud the governor for recognizing the impact our region can have nationally, and for not merely talking about it, but also investing in us. ETSU and Ballad Health will not let Tennessee down.”

More information about Ballad Health and ETSU is available at




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