The Center of Excellence


The Center of Excellence in Rural and Minority Health

The Center of Excellence in Rural and Minority Health was established on the campus of Voorhees College (a Historically Black College) in rural Denmark, South Carolina to focus its activities on improving access to health care services and eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities.  The Center evolved from the premise that in order to make a difference in the lives of rural and minority populations, at least three criteria should be met.  The Center should: 1) be located in a rural community; 2) be linked with HBCU’s and 3) integrate clinical services, health education, behavioral health, and research. 


The mission of the Center is to improve the accessibility to quality health care for African-Americans and other minorities and eliminate disparities that have plagued this vulnerable population for decades.    


The Center is composed of three major components:  Clinical Services; Educational Services; and Research.  All three components are essential for changes to occur.

Clinical Services:  Clinical services is one of the primary functions of the Center and greatly reduces the need for emergency and in-patient care.  The scope of services includes a comprehensive array of services such as primary and preventive clinical care, podiatry, dentistry, prenatal care, pediatrics, and pharmacy services.  Provisions are made to offer extended hour services, specialty care, and home based care.  These services have been funded by a grant from the Bureau of Primary Health Care. 

Educational Services:  Educational Services are another primary function of the Center.  The Center serves as an interdisciplinary training site for health career students of the partner institutions.  Practical application of the health care training in the rural setting will help students and residents gain exposure to and sensitivity of the unique challenges and opportunities.  The Center works to develop a faculty that will adequately meet the needs of the community and allow for expansion of new programs and experiences.  The education component supports increased collaboration among the partners that will provide:  Health care opportunities for minority and disadvantaged students; exchange programs for students and faculty; and a greater understanding of minority health issues in a rural setting. 

The health education component of the Center provides basic health guidelines through seminars, health fairs, brochures and the internet.  Health information highlights the six targeted disease areas (Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Immunizations and Infant and maternal Mortality) and will be expanded to include over 190 of the most common health problems. 

Research:  Another vital component of the Center is Research.  A minority focused research center has been established for the primary purpose of the collecting and analyzing data, serving as a valuable resource to policy makers, health care administrators, planners, providers, educators, and advocates.  This Center conducts and disseminates policy relevant to research on issues of state and national significance in the areas of health care access and racial and ethnic health disparities.  Individual projects include, but are not limited to, collection and analysis of new data, secondary analysis of existing data comparative case studies and evaluation of demonstration projects.  

In order to be successful, the Center reaches out into the community and creates a seamless partnership that invites participation and trust.  The community of “faith” is extremely important in addressing the health issues, especially in African-American communities.  This component allows for the collaboration with churches and other faith-based organizations in the community and provides health education, information, and screenings.  


The Center of Excellence has developed one major goal and five objectives for operation. 

Goal:  To eliminate health disparities and improve accessibility to quality health care for minorities in rural South Carolina.


  1. To establish a Center of Excellence in Rural and Minority Health. 
  2. To engage in strategic planning and resource development for center activities.
  3. To explore research, clinical and educational opportunities for students and faculty.
  4. To disseminate data and information on health promotions and disease prevention.
  5. To evaluate the Center and develop indicators and standards for performance. 


Voorhees College, located in rural Bamberg County, is surrounded by a community that has been designated as “distressed.”  High unemployment, low educational attainment, high drop out rate, high teen pregnancy, and other risk factors characterize many of the counties in the State of South Carolina that are rural. The South Carolina Department of Environmental Control reports the following data in six targeted areas:

Infant Mortality:  The death rate of black infants in more than twice the death rate of white infants.  (13.6 per 1,000 lives births in black –vs- 5.5 in whites)

Neonatal Mortality:  The rate of neonatal death among black infants is 2.83 times the death rate among whites. (9.7 per 1,000 in blacks –vs- 3.4 in whites. 

Low Birthweight:  Blacks infants are nearly twice as likely as white infants to be born at a low birthweight. (13.2 in black infants –vs- 7.0 in white infants.)

Heart Diseases:  The risk of death due to heart disease among blacks is 1.4 times the risk among whites.  However, the risk in black males is 1.7 times the risk of black females.  (284.6 per 100,000 in black males –vs- 166.8 in black females.  The rate is 214.4 per 100,000 in white males and 102.3 in white females.)

StrokeThe risk of death due to stoke among blacks is twice the risk among whites.  The risk for black males is 2.3 times that of white males.  (85.2 per 100,000 for black males –vs-36.9 for white males.

Cancer:  The rate of the death due to cancer among blacks is 1.4 times the rate among whites.  The 5-year survival rate for cancer in blacks is about 42% compared to 58% for whites. Lung, prostate, and colon/rectum are the three leading sites of cancer in black males.  Breast, lung, and colon/rectum are the three leading sites of cancer in black females.  The risk of death due to prostate cancer among blacks is 2.54 times the risk among whites.  Esophageal cancer risk is among black males is 4.66 times the risk among white males, and the risk among black females is 3.5 the risk of white females. 

Diabetes:  The risk of death due to diabetes among black males is more than twice that of white males (30.83 per 100,000 –vs- 14.16).  The risk in black females is 3.46 times that of white females (37.43 –vs- 10.81)

HIV/AIDS:   AIDS is the third leading cause of death among black males and fifth leading cause among black females, and does not rank among the top ten causes of death for whites in South Carolina.  The AIDS incidence rate among blacks is greater than seven times the rate of whites. 

Clearly, the Center of Excellence in Rural and Minority Health plays a vital role in the Denmark, Bamberg, and surrounding communities.  For additional information on the Center or services provided, call (803) 780-1349.