Ann Blackford


College: Medicine

Holmes Selected for 2014 National Rural Health Fellowship

Published: Dec 18, 2013


HAZARD, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2013) – Gretchen Norling Holmes, assistant director of research at the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) in Hazard, has been selected by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) as a 2014 Rural Health Fellow.


Following the completion of a competitive review process, Holmes was one of 15 fellows selected from across the nation to participate in a yearlong, intensive program aimed at developing leaders who can articulate a clear and compelling vision for rural America.


“We are very pleased to announce this new class of fellows as this program enters its eighth year. Once again, this class represents various levels of rural health expertise,” NRHA CEO Alan Morgan said. “With the successes achieved by the previous classes, we look forward to continuing the tradition of building rural health care leaders through this valuable program.”


Holmes, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication from New York University and a doctorate (PhD) in health communication from UK. She is currently the principle investigator on several research projects at UK CERH focusing on health communication and health disparities in rural populations.  She holds an adjunct assistant professor appointment with the Department of Communication at the UK College of Communication and Information and is a lecturer for the UK College of Medicine.


Throughout her career, Holmes has focused her research on interpersonal health communication, particularly patient-provider communication, as well as cancer communication and prevention.  She has publications in Health Communication, Psycho-oncology, Cancer Control, and other top journals. She has presented her research at national and international conventions.


While teaching at the University of Memphis, Holmes co-created, produced, wrote and was the on-air talent for “Let’s Talk Health,” a joint project with the department of nursing, created to address health disparities and health literacy issues in the Memphis and surrounding rural area. The health communication radio spots were designed to provide patients and providers with techniques that would improve communication by encouraging providers to speak in plain language and teaching patients to ask questions when they don’t understand.

Holmes said her previous work has led to her interest in health literacy.


“Research indicates more than half the population has trouble with basic math skills making it difficult for many to understand medication dosing directions.  This issue gains even more significance when we consider the complexities of our rapidly changing health care environment that require consumers to navigate increasingly sophisticated health information,” said Holmes.

“We need to do more research to find out the most effective methods to improve health literacy and then get the information and programs into our communities.  Helping providers and patients to become better health care partners is also critical, particularly in rural populations where we often see a higher prevalence of chronic disease and limited access to health care."


“It is truly an honor to be selected as one of the 2014 NRHA fellows.  I believe it will increase my knowledge, ability, and awareness, which will allow me to elevate my work here at the Center and beyond,” said Holmes.


“We are pleased to have a member of our team from the UK CERH as an NRHA Fellow. I am confident that Dr. Holmes’ communication expertise and passion for rural health will be a wonderful complement to the fellowship as they work to develop a strong voice for rural health,” said Fran Feltner, director of the UK CERH.


Formerly of Midland, Mich., Holmes currently resides in London, Ky,. with her husband, Ronald Holmes.


The mission of the UK CERH is to improve the health of rural Kentucky through education, research, service, and community engagement. Based in Hazard, a coal mining town of about 6,000 people, the UK CERH employs approximately 180 people across the Commonwealth, including counties in eastern and western Kentucky and along the southern border. With a presence in nearly two-thirds of Kentucky’s 120 counties, including the Delta and Appalachia regions, the Center has a long history of award-winning programs and innovative collaborations between academic, community, and government groups. For more information about UK CERH visit


NRHA is a nonprofit organization working to improve the health and wellbeing of rural Americans and providing leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education and research. The NRHA membership is made up of more than 21,000 diverse individuals and organizations, all of whom share the common bond of an interest in rural health.  For more information about NRHA visit


Media Contact: Beth Bowling,, 606-439-3557, ext. 83545

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