Biomedical Engineering Students Target Healthcare Delivery in Rural Arkansas

Top from left: Isabel Powers Lina Patel; bottom: Heather Mahoney and Karl Schubert.
Photos Submitted

Top from left: Isabel Powers Lina Patel; bottom: Heather Mahoney and Karl Schubert.

As part of a student-driven research project that began in fall 2020, a team of University of Arkansas Biomedical Engineering students created a survey to gather information about Arkansas' rural healthcare delivery system. Now the team is asking the public to take the survey for the group's project, HealthcARe for All.

According to the Arkansas 2010 Census, many counties in central and northwest Arkansas saw growth in rural communities. The survey results are anticipated to enable healthcare providers to better understand and address the level of healthcare insecurity in rural areas. The long-range goal is to enable healthcare providers to develop mobile healthcare initiatives for better access to healthcare in Arkansas.

The student team, supervised by Karl Schubert, professor of practice and associate director for the Data Science Program, included Isabel Powers (Honors College/BMEG), Lina Patel (BMEG), Heather Mahony (BMEG), and Dylan Pledger (Honors College/BMEG). Schubert described the project as an example of students putting their interests and concerns into action.

"They saw a need and decided to address it," Schubert said. "These students used information from Arkansas Children's Hospital to springboard into action something that potentially could benefit the health of all rural and underserved Arkansans."

Senior student participant Isabel Powers reflected on the research activity.

"As an engineering student, I enjoyed the opportunity to participate in this type of research," she said. "It was a lot of hard work but getting to see the steps needed to create a credible survey was good to learn. I am interested in what the results will look like, and I am excited to see what we do with it next. I think this kind of opportunity will help me in the future."

Raj Rao, professor and head of biomedical engineering, said this is the type of research activity that he would like all students to experience.

"This is a perfect example of putting into practice information students learn in the classroom," Rao said. "Learning about activities through lectures and classroom discussions is one thing. Being able to put the knowledge into action is something our department strives to empower students at all levels to do."

Support from several individuals and groups helped the team prepare a strong project and survey. Partners included Laura Gray's U of A Service-Learning Class (Spring 2021); Carol Gattis, the project's U of A Institutional Review Board expert and associate dean emeritus of the Honors College; Timothy Hagen, VA Hospital admissions; Mariah Green, Canopy NWA; and Arkansas Children's Hospital.

The research project is part of the Alpha Research Initiative founded by the university's chapter of the national Biomedical Engineering Society. For more information about the BMES, please visit

To take the survey, it can be found at HealthcARe for All Survey - Win Amazon Gift Card.


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