Advance with MUSC Health

Healthy Me - Healthy SC with David Sudduth and Kapri Kreps Rhodes

Advance With MUSC Health
April 13, 2022
David Sudduth and Kapri Kreps Rhodes.

Improving health care access and rural and underserved populations across South Carolina is a priority of MUSC Health. A new program called Healthy Me – Healthy SC launched in 2019 to address these issues and has already succeeded in bringing health care services to more South Carolinians.

Healthy Me – Healthy SC is now planning to extend its reach even further. On this episode of Advance with MUSC Health, Kapri Kreps Rhodes and David Sudduth, director and executive director of Healthy Me – Healthy SC, join the show to discuss these new developments and share a bit more about this innovative program.

"We've taken the approach to be very intentional about going into these communities and being good listeners, being good partners and looking to collaborate with people who are already doing good work in these communities. But I think the thing at the end of the day – representing both Clemson University and MUSC – it gives us the opportunity to really deliver resources that maybe some of these other groups may not be able to provide."
– David Suddeth, MBA

Topics covered in this show

  • Healthy Me - Healthy SC launched in 2019 to improve health care access and rural and underserved populations across South Carolina.
  • The program is a partnership between MUSC and Clemson University, and makes use of Clemson's Health Extension network, which is already modeled on providing food access, health and wellness to citizens across the state. It also provides extension agents for all of the 46 counties in the state of South Carolina.
  • As opposed to traditional "brick and mortar" hospitals, Healthy Me - Healthy SC is largely a mobile service that brings healthcare, educational resources and connection to local health partners to populations that might not otherwise have access.
  • Healthy Me - Healthy SC has four main initiatives so far: Women and Children's Health, Cancer Prevention, Chronic Disease and Preventative Healthcare, and Mental and Behavioral Health.
  • Pop-up clinics and health fairs give direct access to healthcare under the initiatives. For example, in St. Stephen's, a temporary clinic is set up in a local high school six times per year where medical students provide glucose and blood pressure screenings for diabetes and hypertension prevention and education.
  • Health clinics and fairs also partner with FoodShare to provide boxes full of fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need.
  • Other similar programs include a mobile mammography unit out of the Hollings Cancer Center, the HPV mobile vaccination program, the Boeing Center for Children's Wellness which provides health resources to local schools, the Mother's Milk Bank which collects and provides breastmilk, and group therapy for chronic pain sufferers who use opioids.
  • With COVID-19, access to both testing and vaccination became a priority. The pandemic not only further illuminated healthcare disparities across the state, it also illuminated a major lack of broadband access in many of these communities.
  • Healthy Me - Healthy SC hopes to offer oral health services in the future. They also hope to tend to the aging and elderly populations in the future as well.
  • The program's most recent project is expanding healthcare access into the Peedee region, where community health needs assessments will be conducted to determine what resources are needed most.


Erin Spain [00:00:04] Welcome to Advance with MUSC Health. I'm your host, Erin Spain. This show's mission is to help you find ways to preserve and optimize your health and get the care you need to live well. Improving health care access and rural and underserved populations across South Carolina is a priority of MUSC Health. A new program called Healthy Me - Healthy SC launched in 2019 to address these issues and has already succeeded in bringing health care services to more South Carolinians. Now Healthy Me - Healthy SC plans to extend its reach even further. Here to discuss these new developments and tell us a bit more about this program are the director, Kapri Kreps Rhodes, and executive director, David Sudduth. Welcome to the show

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:00:52] Thanks for having us.

David Sudduth [00:00:53] Thank you, Erin.

Erin Spain [00:00:54] Explain the program to me. The underlying mission and vision.

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:00:57] We know that we need to bring health care to the people who need it. And Healthy Me - Healthy SC is an initiative that does that. It brings access, preventative health, resources, and a lot of education to those folks in rural and underserved parts of the state that don't have easy access to a hospital in a metro area. I like to explain Healthy Me as sort of like an umbrella. So there's this overarching mission. It's a joint partnership between MUSC and Clemson University. And then there are various programs that roll up within that umbrella that is Healthy Me - Healthy SC and various focus areas.

David Sudduth [00:01:36] Kapri is exactly right. So what's happened is traditionally hospitals and health systems have expected individuals to come to them. What we're going to have to do now is go meet people where they are and find a way to connect them to resources. If you look at the state of South Carolina, most of the conversation around economic prosperity and around wealth and around success is really centered in the Charleston/Columbia/Greenville metro areas. And those areas really are growing tremendously, doing a lot of great things. But it really creates this divide, if you will, between these more affluent, successful areas and the rural communities. And really, what we've seen with COVID-19 and the pandemic over the last two years, this divide and lack of access and lack of equity -- as we're talking about health in particular -- that divide has only really gotten a lot wider.

Erin Spain [00:02:35] So there's this partnership between MUSC and Clemson University. They also have a very extensive extension service where they''e already out in the communities reaching these folks. Just tell me, how does that play into this partnership?

David Sudduth [00:02:48] Well, it's interesting. The Clemson Health Extension, which is a division, if you will, of the traditional cooperative extension, which is the agricultural-based program at Clemson University. And all land grant universities have that in common. Kapri and I often refer to the Clemson Health Extension as the secret sauce in a lot of what we do in our programs. And the reason really is twofold. One is they have those extension agents for all of the 46 counties in the state of South Carolina. But they also have, as a part of their mission, this desire to improve health, which is traditionally connected to agriculture and fresh fruits and vegetables and health and wellness.

Erin Spain [00:03:36] So today there really are these four focus areas. Tell me about those four areas and where they're at and what's happening right now.

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:03:46] Clemson Health Extension is a key component to all of this, and a lot of the work that they do is tied to chronic disease prevention, which is one of our four focus areas. So the hypertension and diabetes education that they can provide to folks. Also with regards to chronic disease, Healthy Me - Healthy SC funds the MUSC Cares Clinic that takes place in St. Stephen's. So that's a clinic that runs six times per year every other month. It's run by medical students, and they set up at the high school there, and they're able to offer folks glucose screenings, blood pressure screenings, access to other community partners. And then they work there with the low country food bank to get folks fresh produce. So the people come, they get screened. There's follow up there because it's consistent throughout the year, and then they also get to take food home with them. We took that model and we're replicating it across the state and doing health fairs in other parts of the state and specifically starting out in the pilot counties.

[00:04:43] There's also a cancer prevention work, so there's a large mobile mammography unit out of the Hollings Cancer Center, and that unit is able to go and meet women where they're at to provide them with mammographies right on the unit as well as cervical screenings. And if there is a finding, they then help them get to a brick and mortar facility for followup. And then there's an HPV mobile vaccination unit that goes around and partners with schools, various organizations to help specifically adolescent girls get HPV vaccine. Our vaccination rate for HPV is very low in South Carolina, and they're doing a lot of work with communities. They're now starting to do some town halls and just realizing that there's stigma around the HPV vaccine, but really working with communities to create better understanding around cervical cancer and the vaccine and how vital it is to help prevent that.

[00:05:34] And then within women's and children's health, the Boeing Center for Children's Wellness. So that's getting into schools, working with leadership and teachers to provide students with various resources, and the school has a checklist that they can follow to get points throughout the year. And then there's the milk depots across the state for Mothers Milk Bank, which is the milk bank for the state of South Carolina, but happens to sit at MUSC. And that's growing and expanding. And then there's been breastfeeding education as well.

[00:06:01] And then within the realm of our fourth area, which is mental and behavioral health, there's the pain program. It's a three week intensive program for folks that can come. Typically, that's tied to opioid use for folks who have chronic pain and may struggle with opioid use. And they work with PT and OT and mental health counselors, psychologists. It's a group-based therapy, and I've sat in on some of the sessions. It's really powerful, and that program shows great success in helping folks to get back on track and manage their pain. And then in this past year, we also created an innovation grant for Healthy Me - Healthy SC and had various programs apply, and the program that we selected happened to be within the category of mental health as well as helping children, and that's the tele PCOT program. And what that program does is it partners with parents across the state of children who are typically on the spectrum and have some behavioral issues, and they're able to work directly with parents using telehealth to really help families of those children, and they're seeing some good results.

Erin Spain [00:07:07] So what has the feedback been like and what have you seen so far regarding the impact this program has had on closing some of these community health gaps.

David Sudduth [00:07:16] As most people realize, our health indicators--we didn't get here overnight. We've unfortunately been kind of trending downward for several years. And so it's going to take some time for us to be able to start changing some of these trends and trajectories. But I will say, you know, talking about the health fairs in particular, the thing that's really unique about the health fairs is it's given us an opportunity not only to see and meet individuals in these communities and be able to have conversations with them and obviously introduce programs that we're leading. But it's also providing a great opportunity to connect with other partners and organizations that are doing work already in these communities. So we've intentionally taken the approach to be very intentional about going into these communities and being good listeners. Being good partners and looking to collaborate with people who are already doing good work in these communities. But I think the thing at the end of the day, representing both Clemson University and MUSC, it gives us the opportunity to really deliver resources that maybe some of these other groups may not be able to provide. And so we want to come in and be collaborative. We want to be good neighbors. We want to work together and figure out how to provide resources. But at the end of the day, too, it's really important to figure out a way to create something that's sustainable long-term because we don't want to just pop into a community, provide some resources and then say, you know, we'll see you in six months.

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:09:03] As an example, we have a health fair coming up. There's going to be the opportunity for blood pressure checks, blood glucose checks, but then there's also going to be the free clinic there, an access health program. There's various opportunities for folks to enroll in access to primary care. And to just right there, they'll see what their blood glucose, what their blood pressure looks like and then be able to get connected to primary care resources or to a program that can help them. There's going to be HPV vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines, and other education stations. And then we're also partnering with Food Share, a program that provides folks with produce. If they're somebody that's on EFNEP dollars, that box that's worth 40 dollars for food, if they want to enroll in the program, they can get produce consistently every month, let's say, for five bucks for the box. So in addition to getting a box while they're there, they can also enroll in the program. So it's really about syncing up community members with the resources that exist as opposed to just having a one time event, providing some screenings and then leaving.

Erin Spain [00:10:04] What have you seen so far regarding some success stories or feedback that you've heard since the programs began?

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:10:12] So there's been various success stories with regards to Mother's Milk Bank. There's been women that have donated thousands upon thousands of ounces of breast milk, which is just amazing, and it helps babies in the NICU. There have been folks who have lowered A1C, lowered their blood pressure, and what I think it's really important to note is that the retention rate of the programs is extremely high. It's above 85 percent for folks that are enrolling in these education classes, which some of them take place over the course of 12 weeks and they are able to retain folks. I would say when we're in communities doing health fairs, people are just so grateful that we're there and it's really wonderful just to see the impact that's being had and just how happy folks are that their community is being serviced.

David Sudduth [00:10:58] Yeah, I agree with Kapri. From an organizational standpoint, we've gotten really good feedback from small groups in these rural communities, just thankful that we're willing to not only recognize the hard work they're already putting in, but we'll include them in health fairs in trying to be inclusive and include them in solutions for the communities. Just on a personal level, we met a 90 year old African-American lady in Blackville who got to the health fair two hours before it started, mainly because she wanted to make sure she got a food box, which just underscored not only importance of fresh fruits and vegetables in those communities, but the fact that oftentimes we take that for granted. And I did make her one promise that it wouldn't be the last time she saw us. So we're looking forward to going back to Blackville at some point.

Erin Spain [00:11:52] How did COVID impact your efforts? Pros, cons, good, and bad.

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:11:58] Healthy Me - Healthy SC worked with MUSC and Clemson University to put together a COVID-19 testing and vaccination team, so that team is comprised of folks who clinically are out of Clemson Rural Health at Clemson University, and in terms of having access to the community and like setting up events, Clemson Health Extension is who really is vital in planning the events. And then MUSC is who provides the supplies and the infrastructure for all of this. And so it was about bringing together all of these folks to be able to have a van that the vials, the supplies all get put in and then the team drives out into these rural and underserved areas to be able to provide those folks with testing and vaccination.

David Sudduth [00:12:48] I think really from a quality of life standpoint, it really validated for us that we were doing the kind of work we needed to be doing, and we were really trying to reach areas that traditionally have not been attended to in the right way. I will say the one item over and over that has come up during COVID and then going forward will continue to be an issue is lack of broadband access in many of these communities because from a state budgeting standpoint, if there ever was a year where funds are available to try to address this infrastructure shortness, this is the year that I'm hoping we can make giant leaps forward in addressing the lack of broadband access in these communities.

Erin Spain [00:13:34] What do you see on the horizon in terms of expansion? What can we expect?

David Sudduth [00:13:38] There's lots of opportunities to expand. We have ten programs currently under the Healthy Me - Healthy SC umbrella. All those programs are currently growing, so we want to grow those programs out and make even more of an impact. But I will say from the standpoint of increasing the comprehensive nature of the programming we provide, a couple of things have really risen to the top. One is the need for additional oral health services throughout the state. MUSC is the only dental school in the state of South Carolina. And so I think we have a responsibility to help address that. From a chronic disease standpoint, it's been proven over and over that lack of oral health or poor oral health is a significant contributing factor. So we want to make sure we add some additional oral health services there. And then overwhelmingly, the demographics of the health fair participants is older. And both Clemson University and MUSC both have a lot of research taking place for a kind of aging in place, if you will, addressing aging issues. And so there's a lot of opportunities, I think, to join forces on all those issues, not only to do some additional research, but hopefully to continue to provide some programming which will benefit the aging population in our state.

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:15:02] Yeah, so when we're talking about expansion, a big focus that we've had is getting into the Peedee region this year and going into next year, and we're going to be working with the different leaders for the MUSC hospitals that are in that region, the different divisions, and specifically looking at the community health needs assessment that each of them have created, that each community has created to say, you know, these are the pain points in this county, in this area. Like what resources are needed? What programs that already exist within Healthy Me can we get into these communities to help the folks that need it. And we're looking at expanding health fairs as well. I also wanted to mention, I think oftentimes Healthy Me - Healthy SC and David and I really act as connectors. There's so much work being done across the state and community health, and we often like scratch our heads and laugh because we meet leaders of different organizations that we had have never heard of and we get connected to when we realize that sometimes we're doing the same work and it complements each other, and then we work on partnering. It's about being collaborative and it's about just doing what needs to get done to help the folks that need it in the state. But I think it's important to note that there's so many pockets of great work that is being done, but there is a need to bring everyone together collectively.

David Sudduth [00:16:23] In a lot of cases, we're more than happy to lead, but we're also more than happy when we just need to be a good partner. We're more than happy to step in and fill a void wherever we need to.

Erin Spain [00:16:36] What do you both do to optimize your health and live well?

David Sudduth [00:16:38] My wife and I walk a lot. I love to play golf. And I think the one thing that personally I've learned from the pandemic is the importance of work-life balance. That's one of the things I'm really proud about from MUSC is MUSC really stresses the importance of work-life balance, and I always feel supported. That's extremely important to be able to hit the ground every day, stay focused and make a difference.

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:17:04] Really big on healthy eating. I'd say that's number one. I love to go on walks. Getting outside is really important, getting fresh air, and I have a wonderful two-year-old son, so just chasing after him and getting outside with him definitely gets me exercise.

Erin Spain [00:17:17] Well, thank you both for coming on the show and explaining the program and what's been happening and the impact that it's having on communities across South Carolina. I appreciate your time.

Kapri Kreps Rhodes [00:17:27] Thanks for having us, Erin.

David Sudduth [00:17:29] Thank you, Erin. We really enjoyed it.

Erin Spain [00:17:35] For more information on this podcast, check out