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National Center for Rural Health Professions welcomes new associate director

Brianna “Bri” Sheppard, PhD, MA

The National Center for Rural Health professions welcomed A. Brianna “Bri” Sheppard, PhD, MA, as the new associate director on May 16. This key leadership role will be involved with student research and education as well as program and grant development and expansion.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Sheppard is joining our team,” says Hana Hinkle, PhD, director of the National Center for Rural Health Professions. “She brings with her a wealth of experience and expertise in critical areas of need in rural communities.”

Dr. Sheppard is a native of rural Buchanan County, Virginia. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and Master of Arts and doctoral degrees in psychology at East Tennessee State University. She completed postdoctoral training at the Center for Pain Research at the University of Pittsburgh prior to joining the West Virginia University Institute for Community and Rural Health where she started as a program coordinator and served as assistant director prior to her role as associate director for research at the WVU Health Affairs Institute. At WVU, she served as a principal investigator, led several federal and state research and implementation projects as part of interdisciplinary teams focused on enhancing rural health care access and workforce development, increasing direct services for substance use disorder in rural communities, addressing SUD-related stigma through public health education and outreach, and serving as evaluation for the West Virginia Area Health Education Center and Rural Health Initiative programs.

As co-director of community engagement and outreach for the West Virginia Clinical & Translational Science Institute, she also worked as part of a team to build clinician and community-based research capacity across the state through mentoring, dissemination and program support for Project ECHO and the WV Practice-Based Research Network. As an adjunct assistant professor for the WVU School of Public Health and WV AHEC faculty affiliate she developed rural-health focused courses and seminars and served as a mentor and advisor for undergraduate and graduate students dedicated to serving rural communities. She currently serves as president for the Appalachian Translational Research Network. She has several peer-reviewed publications as well as local, state and national presentations that cover diverse topics that emphasize the role of motivation in health-related behaviors, recruitment and retention of health workforce in rural and underserved areas, health-related social needs, increasing access to the continuum of care for individuals with addiction, and Appalachian culture.