S.C. Rep. Murrell Smith Jr. received the Medical University of South Carolina Healthy Communities Award on Monday at a gathering at Palmetto Health Tuomey.
According to a news release, Smith was honored for his role in "securing state funding …
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According to a news release, Smith was honored for his role in "securing state funding dedicated to the expansion of telehealth services across the state to deliver care to those who need it the most, regardless of where they live."
According the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, telehealth is "the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration."
Luminaries from MUSC traveled to Sumter to present the award, including CEO and Vice President for Medical Affairs Dr. Patrick J. Cawley, President Dr. David J. Cole and MUSC Center for Telehealth Director Dr. James Elligott. Also on hand were Palmetto Health Tuomey Chief Operating Officer Michelle Logan-Owens, Smith's wife and parents and a large contingent of the staff of the hospital.
Elligott credited Smith for supporting telehealth in the General Assembly when the topic first appeared on the legislative agenda. With the aid of state funding, MUSC has been able to form a statewide telehealth alliance in all of South Carolina, he added.
"When telehealth first appeared in the Legislature in 2013, Smith was a champion," Elligott said. "This is a moment we want to take just to say, 'Thank you.'"
Telehealth will transform the delivery of health care in South Carolina, he said.
"You were there at the beginning," Cole told Smith.
"We now see the fruits of that investment," he said. "Thank you for helping us."
In accepting the award, Smith said he was grateful to be able to receive the award in Sumter, where he could be among his friends and colleagues who have been involved in health care.
He thanked the members of the local medical community for their work.
"You are the ones who have been on the front lines of health care," Smith said. "I want to thank you for what you do."
Smith said that when he first was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives, the U.S. Supreme Court had recently ruled that states could refuse to accept the expanded Medicaid. Then-Gov. Nikki Haley made it clear she would not accept the expanded Medicaid.
"The one thing we did was realize South Carolina can't just say, 'No.'" he said. "We needed to have a discussion about improving health care in South Carolina."
He said he was especially concerned about inequities in health care access in the state and intrigued by the possibility telemedicine could help address that.
"I am proud of the work we have done, and it has been a team effort," he said.
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