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Arizona Telemedicine Program Wins High Honors At National Meeting of the U.S. Distance Learning Association

The U.S. Distance Learning Association honored the Arizona Telemedicine Program with two of the association’s most prestigious awards, at its national meeting on May 10 in St. Louis.

The Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) was honored with a 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning. In addition, ATP co-founder and former state senator Robert “Bob” Burns was the recipient of the USDLA Annual Eagle Award, given annually to a public figure who has achieved national recognition for his or her commitment to furthering the goals of distance learning.

“I’m really honored to have been selected for this award but I’m just one of many who makes what happens at the Arizona Telemedicine Program possible,” Mr. Burns said. “I was the appropriations chairman in the Arizona House of Representatives when this idea was presented at a conference in Scottsdale and I thought it was something that Arizona should look into.  With the help of our staff in the Legislature and the budget analyst for the university system, Mr. Jon Lee, we put together a pilot program to get this off the ground.

“Dr. Ron Weinstein has put together a great team of individuals that has taken this program from a small eight sites at the beginning to over 160-170 sites statewide in the state of Arizona now,” Mr. Burns said. “It was just a little push from me to get it started. The team is what took it to the top.”

Janet Major, ATP associate director for distance learning and outreach, said the USDLA “has been a valuable resource for us over the last 20 years.

“The United States Distance Learning Association every year recognizes the best of the best,” Ms. Major added, “and it is a wonderful honor for us to be recognized as the best of the best, because we absolutely have the best team we could ever hope for, behind the scenes, working very hard, to produce excellent distance learning programming, which we can offer to people all over Arizona, and across the United States.

These honors follow the 2013 induction of Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, co-founder and director of ATP, into the USDLA Hall of Fame.

“We are deeply honored to be recognized by the U.S. Distance Learning Association for our innovations and consistently high-quality programs that we deliver over the Arizona Telemedicine network,” Dr. Weinstein said.

Since 1996, the ATP (http://telemedicine.arizona.edu/), based at the University of Arizona, has provided distance-learning opportunities to enhance the knowledge and clinical problem-solving skills of physicians and other health-care professionals, while improving the delivery of health care for people in rural Arizona.

ATP’s distance learning program provides “virtual grand rounds” in which providers in multiple locations can share best-practices updates via video-conferencing. Other offerings include continuing medical education lectures for physicians and other professionals; and virtual support groups for cancer survivors.

The ATP began to expand the broadcast arc of the University of Arizona Health Sciences in 1998, by distributing all medical programming originating in Tucson to the entire state. ATP now shares expertise with member sites almost anywhere in Arizona, sharing advances in neuroscience, integrative medicine, psychiatry and other specialties that otherwise would be limited to urban practice.

ATP also offers telemedicine training sessions – accredited by the American Telemedicine Association – on how to develop a telemedicine program.

The Arizona Telemedicine Program also takes great pride in offering education on demand. In response to annual surveys, ATP produces a variety of statewide events, including emergency preparedness drills, interactive clinical simulations and STEM career fairs to help prepare the workforce of the future.

In 2009, the Arizona Telemedicine Program opened the T-Health Institute – a “Classroom of the Future” – on the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix campus. This state-of-the-art distance-learning classroom has facilitated a wide variety of interactive classes for students in disciplines ranging from medicine, nursing, public health and law, as well as special events like the 2015 Arizona SciTech Festival, which featured eight mayors from around Arizona who introduced STEM events taking place throughout the state. 

Also in 2009, ATP established the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC), which expands ATP’s ability to serve as a resource center to a geographic area serving five western states: Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.  This area also includes the Four Corners region, home to the Navajo Nation.

“What we do with distance learning is of great value to this state, both in terms of keeping our health-care workforce at the leading edge, and contributing to the economic development of rural Arizona,” Dr. Weinstein said. “Our mission is constantly developing to keep up with new technology and new trends in health care. We consider it a privilege to support outstanding educational and clinical projects at a distance. ”

About the Author

Jane Erikson's picture

Jane Erikson joined the staff of the Arizona Telemedicine Program in April 2013. She was already familiar with the program, as she previously wrote about the program during her nearly 20 years of covering health care for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. Jane has lived in Arizona most of her life and is a graduate of the University of Arizona.


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