PharmD student Kara Graves, center, is the first recipient of the Lyle L. Vandenberg Rural Health Scholarship, awarded to students in the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, School of Nursing, or School of Pharmacy, who demonstrate a commitment to improving healthcare access and reducing disparities in small towns and rural communities.
New rural health scholarship honors School of Pharmacy alumnus and pharmacist Lyle Vandenberg
In partnership with the American Medical Association Foundation (AMAF) and the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, Brian Vandenberg, Homeward general counsel and chief administrative officer, has established a new rural health scholarship. The Lyle L. Vandenberg Rural Health Scholarship will be awarded annually to students in the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, School of Nursing, or School of Pharmacy, who demonstrate a commitment to improving healthcare access and reducing disparities in small towns and rural communities.
The inaugural Lyle L. Vandenberg Rural Health Scholarship recipient is Kara Graves, a third-year PharmD student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy. Graves was raised in a small northern Wisconsin town with fewer than 1,000 residents. Through her upbringing, Graves recognized that pharmacists are often the most accessible and trusted healthcare professionals in rural areas. This recognition ignited her passion to become a pharmacist and help communities like the one she grew up in.
“I have already found so much happiness and fulfillment in providing care and resources to disadvantaged and rural patients, and I look forward to making an even greater impact once I begin practicing under my license,” said Kara Graves, Doctor of Pharmacy candidate in the Class of 2024.
This spring, Graves will begin the year-long Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience-Residency Track (APPE-RT) program at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wis. Graves will apply for residency in December 2023, and begin her residency program upon graduation in spring 2024. She plans to continue supporting rural communities throughout her career.
The rural health scholarship honors Brian Vandenberg’s late father Lyle Vandenberg, a UW–Madison School of Pharmacy alumnus and community pharmacist who spent over four decades serving Wisconsin residents before passing away in November 2021.
A lifelong resident of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Lyle Vandenberg operated retail pharmacies and provided pharmacy services to community hospitals, assisted living, and nursing facilities throughout northeast Wisconsin. Upon returning to Kaukauna in 1960 following graduation from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and United States Army service, Lyle Vandenberg began his career as a registered pharmacist at Look Drug Stores, Inc., which he eventually purchased and then expanded to bring pharmacy services to long-term care facilities in Kaukauna and neighboring rural communities and intravenous therapies to patients in their homes. Kaukauna is a small town located approximately 100 miles north of Milwaukee.
In recognition of the late Lyle Vandenberg’s unwavering commitment to delivering personalized care as a pharmacist in Kaukauna and neighboring rural communities, the Vandenberg Health Equity Fund and the University of Wisconsin–Madison will offer scholarships to medical, nursing, and pharmacy students who are likewise committed to providing care in rural areas. The scholarship recognizes the role geographic diversity plays in population health outcomes.
“As a community pharmacist, my dad encountered the unique healthcare challenges faced by many residents living in small towns and rural communities,” said Brian Vandenberg, son of Lyle Vandenberg. “He was ahead of his time, bringing new care models to communities to meet their needs in collaboration with physicians, nurses, and other providers. It is gratifying to establish the Lyle L. Vandenberg Rural Health Scholarship in partnership with his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the American Medical Association Foundation, as it marries our mission at Homeward to rearchitect the delivery of health and care in partnership with communities everywhere, starting in rural America, and honors my father, who was deeply connected to the local communities where he lived and served.”
Rural communities face complex healthcare challenges, including increasing hospital closures, physician shortages, and limited access to high-quality care. As a result, those living in rural communities have a 23% higher mortality rate, due to an overall lack of access to care. Rural communities also have one-half as many primary care physicians and one-eighth as many specialists as urban areas on a per capita basis, further emphasizing the need for healthcare professionals in a variety of fields, including pharmacy and nursing.
“We are proud to partner with Brian, and the American Medical Association Foundation’s Vandenberg Health Equity Fund to honor UW alumnus Lyle Vandenberg, celebrating his legacy as a community pharmacist who dedicated his life to providing quality care to small towns and rural communities throughout Wisconsin,” said Jill Watson, AVP for development with the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association. “Through this scholarship, we can provide more University of Wisconsin–Madison students the opportunity to shape the future of how healthcare is delivered in rural communities.”
The Lyle L. Vandenberg Rural Health Scholarship is made possible by Brian Vandenberg and the Vandenberg Health Equity Fund, established through the AMAF Physicians of Tomorrow Scholarship Program. To date, the Vandenberg Health Equity Fund has committed more than $700,000 to award scholarships for outstanding medical students who share a common goal of advancing health equity in historically marginalized and minority populations. The addition of the rural health scholarship acknowledges the critical importance of improving health equity across geographically diverse areas alongside those living in marginalized populations and supporting health professionals of various fields, training, and experience. Lyle L. Vandenberg Rural Health Scholarships awarded to medical school students will be underwritten by the Vandenberg Health Equity Fund at the AMAF.