Robert Olson is connected to western North Dakota.
“We are determined to reach rural areas,” said Olson, a Williston native and geriatric psychiatrist who directs the residency training program in psychiatry at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS). “The ability to access psychiatrists is in short supply in many areas, quadruply so in rural areas.”
That’s one of the reasons the Williston native and fellow North Dakotan Andrew McLean are using technology to expand psychiatric services in the western part of the state.
Psychiatrists are desperately needed to help combat addiction and psychiatric problems, especially in the oil patch and western North Dakota, they said.
After the North Dakota legislature recently expanded the number of residency slots at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences through the Healthcare Workforce Initiative, the psychiatry residency program, which Olson directs, rose from four to six residents per year. At the same time, the SMHS began training those residents—who are stationed primarily in Fargo—to use telemedicine to reach rural areas and better serve the state.
The initiative is part of the OneUND Strategic Plan Goal 4 Grand Challenges, help rural communities solve their unique health and social problems.